Ford Jr. adds to Lions-Bears rivalry

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Whoops.

Joking or not, if you’re Detroit Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr., that’s pretty much what you have to be thinking this morning. Yes, he was probably caught up in the moment Tuesday night when he referred to the Chicago Bears as those “same bunch of thugs” during a charity dinner in Detroit.

And yes, there is a good chance Ford Jr. was actually joking when he said it -- something a Lions spokesman clarified soon after Ford Jr. was done speaking Tuesday evening at a public question-and-answer session, although he didn’t take questions from the media afterward.

Even if he was being 100 percent facetious Tuesday night, his description of Chicago came, quite literally, out of nowhere. He wasn’t led into the statement by the questioner, Dan Miller. He was simply asked about the very intense, very loud atmosphere in Ford Field this past Sunday when the Lions and Bears played.

And Ford Jr. started off on a path of describing the crowd, explaining how “alive” the crowd was. Then he called the Bears “those same bunch of thugs” the Lions played two years ago on Monday Night Football in Chicago.

Yes, the crowd laughed. And yes, Ford Jr. almost had to know he was playing to a partisan Detroit crowd considering the dinner was honoring Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson. So yes, the chances he was making a joke are quite high.

But it was just such an odd statement, especially coming from the Detroit Lions, who employ defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, he of the $100,000 fine already this season. Ford Jr. loves his Lions and spent a good portion of the Q&A session Tuesday discussing the passion he has for the team he grew up with.

He is clearly a fan. There’s no question about that. He’s a fan with considerable more power than most, of course, considering the role he has with the organization, and perhaps it was his fandom coming out Tuesday night about the Bears.

Part of that is good for the NFL. Rivalries are great. Outlandish statements are fun. Sports can always use more characters and owners with personality and the willingness to mix it up. If this is what it was, then great. Let's bring that more often.

Everyone makes gaffes occasionally when they speak. It often it happens like this, in an off-the-cuff statement in the middle of a relaxed atmosphere. It doesn’t make it any less interesting, though -- especially since Detroit isn’t done with Chicago this season.

The Lions face Chicago on Nov. 10 at Soldier Field. If you think this won’t be brought up then -- or that the Bears won’t use this as some sort of motivation -- then you’re probably just joking on yourself.