'He had to be there': Lions fan honors late father by bringing his ashes, jersey to playoff game

Posted at 11:27 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 23:41:51-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Come Sunday, Ford Field will be absolutely packed with eager fans excited to see yet another playoff game. Nearly every seat will be full, except for one that’s being reserved for a very special fan.

“It was the best sports atmosphere I had ever been in, and I've been to thousands of games," Detroit Lions fan Megan Stefanski said. "It was amazing.”

Sunday’s win against the Los Angeles Rams will be a day Stefanski never forgets. The die-hard Lions fans hasn’t missed a game in 10 years, driving five hours from her home in the Upper Peninsula. It's a tradition passed down from her dad.

“In '94, my mom surprised him for Father's Day with season tickets, and that’s when it started,” Stefanski said.

For the next 25 years, her father Donnie became passionately known as "Yooperman," making the long drive every week. He never missed a home game at Ford Field until he died suddenly in 2019.

“There are millions of people who lost a parent who were also huge fans and that made them fans," Stefanski said. "So, I feel like it’s something we can all relate to.”

Yooperman was never able to witness a playoff game at Ford Field, but Megan kept his season tickets. And for the first Lions playoff game ever at Ford Field, she knew only one person was meant to sit in his seat.

“That's why I made the decision to take his jersey and his ashes and his hat to sit in his seat because I felt like he had to be there,” Stefanski said.

The Lions nail-biting win made it even better.

“I feel like it was a full-circle moment," Stefanski said. "I wish he could have saw it in person, but it made me feel great, and that's why I decided he’s got to go back this week.”

The Yooperman’s hat and jersey will be in the stands again this Sunday and Megan will be too. She knows how special this moment would be for her father and how special it now is for her.

"He'd just be ecstatic," Stefanski said of her father. "His whole life, he’s waited for this moment, so I'm going to enjoy it for him.”