Pain from losing NFC Championship should fuel Lions

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This was Larry Bird stealing the pass from Isiah Thomas in the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals.

This was the Detroit Red Wings getting swept by the New Jersey Devils in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. And it was boxer Joe Louis losing to Max Schmeling by knock out in a 1936 heavyweight boxing match.

These were all devastating sports moments that sent our city into shock, just as Sunday’s 34-31 shocking NFC championship loss by the Lions did. But all three stunners had happy endings.

All three came back better and won championships. The Detroit Lions shall do the same.

Many in this town continue to mourn that stunning loss to the 49ers. Fans had dreams of Vegas in their minds as the Lions roared to a 17-point half time lead only to watch it slip away.

The Lions win with grit. The Lions win by being salty. Their future features pain that shall fuel them.

Many champions in pro sports carry pain or skeletons they’d rather forget onto the path of glory.

The Lions have that pain. This was the most devastating loss in Detroit sports history and there are one of two ways for this story to go. The Lions could never let go and come crashing to Earth. Or they could remember the sting and allow it to motivate them to greatness.

Let me tell you how the other stunners turned out. The Pistons rebounded by making three straight NBA Finals, winning titles in 1989 and 1990. The Red Wings rebounded by winning Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. And again in 2002 and 2008.

Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round of their rematch in 1939.

“If we don’t have the same hunger and the same work, which is a whole other thing once we get to the offseason, then we have no shot of getting back here,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “I don’t care how much better we get, or we add, or what…it’s irrelevant.”

My guess is the Lions turn to the same grit that got them to the NFC championship game. Things seem to be falling in place for this organization. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson announced he is coming back after turning down head coaching opportunities. Seventeen of 22 starters return to a 12-5 team that won two playoff games.

This is the brightest their future has ever looked if the Lions keep that hunger up.

That shall happen. You know the old saying. No pain. No gain.

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For more from the author Terry Foster, check him out on Twitter here: @terryfosterdet

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Original Photo Credit: © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK