After Tyler Fernengel’s BMX jaunt through a post-apocalyptic Silverdome went viral earlier this week, we quickly found ourselves falling down the YouTube rabbit hole, seeking out vintage Silverdome clips and basking in the glory of the dome’s heyday.
When Detroiters think of December 21, 1997, aka the date of the Lions’ regular season finale against the New York Jets, a number of memories undoubtedly spring to the forefront.
Most prominently, it’s likely best known as the Barry Sanders Game, as he dashed his way toward becoming just the third player in NFL history to garner at least 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. And no doubt, it was a glorious moment:
On the other hand, one of the beautiful things about YouTube is the power of magnifying the under-the-radar moments; the clips that otherwise would have been silently swept under the rug of history.
With the Silverdome on our mind this week, we thought no other clip may better summarize the polarizing dome’s stance within the Detroit sporting community. At it’s worst, the Silverdome was imperfect, flawed, and literally deflated. At it’s best, it offered one of the greatest home field advantages in American sports.
On this particularly night, it was Jets quarterback Neil O’Donnell feeling the wrath. With 13 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a playoff spot reserved for the winner, the dome unleashed its fury. With the Lions protecting a three-point lead, a full house eager to witness history induced one of the stranger moments in NFL history.
After O’Donnell pulled himself from the line of scrimmage, unable to communicate a playcall over the raucous audience, NFL officials were forced to gather and plead with the hometown crowd to piper down for the benefit of the Jets. At the time, NFL rules dictated that a home team may be at risk of incurring a delay of game penalty for an overly boisterous crowd (we’re not kidding). The threat of such punishment led to a bizarre scene in which the Lions’ defensive front was forced to wave the crowd down in hopes of somewhat tempering their hometown fans.
The resulting admonishment from the lead official resembled an elementary school teacher trying in vain to retain control of their classroom during the fifth consecutive day of inside recess.
“We’ve asked for the coach’s assistance in getting quiet so that we can get a play in.”
Only in the Silverdome.