When the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions meet on Sunday with the NFC North division title, and potentially home field advantage in the playoffs on the line, it continues a rivalry between the two franchises that dates back to the 1930s.
As you likely know, before the franchise moved to Detroit, the modern day Lions originated in the 1930 NFL season as the Portsmouth Spartans, based in the small, southern Ohio town of Portsmouth. The Spartans existed for four seasons, before making the move to Detroit. During that time the Packers and Spartans met six times. The Packers came out ahead overall against the Spartans, with three wins, two losses and a tie. However, the Spartans claimed victory in what might be the most memorable game of the series.
In 1932, the Packers had won the last three NFL championships, and claimed a hard fought 15-10 victory over the Spartans in the first of two clashes between the teams in early October in Green Bay. The two teams met again on December 4 in Portsmouth. In what has since been billed as the “Iron Man Game,” the Spartans elected to play only 11 players in the game – the same 11 on offense as on defense – with the result a resounding 19-0 victory for the Spartans.
The result of the Iron Man Game eliminated the Packers from contention for their fourth straight NFL Championship, and propelled the Spartans to a tie for first place with the Chicago Bears (which, itself, is an interesting piece of NFL history, as it led to the first ever NFL “playoff” game…. but more on that in another post).
The site of that Iron Man Game was Spartan Municipal Stadium in Portsmouth, and it still stands today. Recognized as an Ohio Historical Site, the stadium still hosts high school football games, semi-pro football games, and concerts.