Friday, Detroit Lions' owner William Clay Ford made a surprise on-field appearance at training camp perhaps indicating an intensified desire to win, but its still who's seen and heard from more rarely that should continue to frustrate fans.
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press wrote on the elder Ford's visit, also explaining that his son, Bill Ford Jr. has been deliberately staying out of the spotlight in order to allow his father, still passionate about the team and winning at 88 years old, to remain mostly in control of Lions' related affairs.
Why? Ford Jr. will become the man in complete charge one day sooner rather than later, and thus should be starting the process of taking the reigns from his father both publicly and privately. Fans have seen this type of shift within Detroit's other first family, as Christopher Ilitch has begun speaking for his father, aged Detroit Red Wings' and Detroit Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch. Sure, Ilitch's fire still burns in all his business matters, but that doesn't stop his son from helping with decision making, statement releases and other matters.
If not now for the Ford's, when will this power transfer completely occur? That's been part of the problem with the Lions recently, as Ford Jr. has acted as the leader and spokesman at select times (like when Matt Millen needed to be fired), while apparently continuing to defer to others at different moments. This creates a certain confusion within the chain of command and worries about Ford Jr.'s true interest level and commitment to the team.
Fans have heard plenty about Ford Jr. but still understand little. The bright yet aloof leader of Ford Motor Company has varied interests, but apparently still loves and cares for the Lions, the second family business, incredibly. Still, it's hard for the casual fan to grasp that when they hear and see so little from Ford Jr. himself in the press. The only time he's publicly visible is when there's an organizational crisis or a need for a secondary statement, which sends the wrong message.
There was hope that the watershed moment for Ford Jr.'s increased public involvement would be his handling of Millen's situation in 2008, but since, he's continued to represent nothing more than an occasional spokesman and empty suit. No longer should that be good enough for fans, who should hunger to know the man set to take over their football team is completely invested in the brand. The entire Ford family should be smart enough to know that the only way they can grasp this is if Ford Jr. becomes a bigger public fixture. Robert Kraft's son doesn't stray far from his father's side at games, which lends a certain level of comfort. Ford Jr. should take note of this slick public relations move.
2013 might be put up or shut up time for the Lions, but it also should be the same for the entire Ford family, as well. Despite signs of life and care from the elder Ford, fans need to demand more from Ford Jr., who continues to represent the future as every day passes. Like it or not, that fact isn't changing.
Ford Jr.'s own personal approach to the other family business should, however.
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