How My Grandfather Made Me A Detroit Lions Fan

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Brandon “The Temp” Talks About How His Grandfather Helped Him Become A Detroit Lions Fan.

This is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to write in my entire life. Doing so on Fathers’ Day makes it even more difficult, but in an odd way, it makes it easier as well. Trying to get such a jumble of thoughts and feelings out when everything is so fresh… Well, it’s like nothing I’ve ever done before.

On Wednesday, June 13th my grandpa Robert Knapp passed away at 83 years old due to kidney cancer. Like any family tragedy, it’s something that takes time and reflection to understand and come to grips with. Sometimes, you never understand it.

This particular death is particularly meaningful to me – my grandpa is the reason I am a Detroit Lions fan. He was a fan of the team since he was young, and when we went to Lions games he would always tell me and my father, “I remember listening to the Lions winning their final championship in 1957.” He loved this team more than anything. Ever since I was young, I always saw my grandpa rocking a Lions hat, shirt, coat, anything. He just loved everything about the team, even at the worst of times for the team. When we would watch games with him we would always discuss how he should be coaching the team.

He remembered listening to Bobby Layne, the quarterback who helped the Lions win it all in 1957, cheered loudly when Barry Sanders would make defenders miss left and right, screamed at Dan Orlovsky for getting a safety during their 0-16 season, and was amazed at what Calvin Johnson could do in triple coverage.

He would watch the NFL Combine, write down players names and their stats, and when the NFL draft came around, he would go back to his list and put check marks next to the player’s name if we drafted them and compare them to the other players in the same position. He would record every game and re-watch it the next day or sometime during the next week to see if there was anything that he missed when it was played live. A bad call, a missed call, a bad decision, whatever it was, he wanted to understand what happened.

He would watch every NFL show possible and always tell us how the Lions never got any media attention and that they didn’t get any respect. He would talk about how the newspapers wouldn’t talk highly about them, sometimes not even mention them at all. He loved this team and he wanted to know everything about them that season. All of this good research and knowledge without internet.

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The Origins Of How I Fell in Love With Football And The Lions

Growing up I wasn’t into football that much. Basketball, baseball, and hockey were my favorite sports. The only time I would watch the Lions would be at Thanksgiving when we would go over to my grandparents’ house. I remember my dad asking my grandpa why he puts himself through the misery of being a Lions fans when they always lose and never have won. My grandpa just said, “because I love them.”

So my father went on to realize he couldn’t be like my grandfather and watch the team for over 40 years (at the time), with no success. He wanted to cheer for a team that could at least win a championship. That is when he decided to cheer for a different team and that happened to be the New England Patriots. Now he didn’t jump on the bandwagon a few years back, our family grew up watching Michigan football and he liked Tom Brady, so he decided when the Patriots were in Super Bowl 36 against the St. Louis Rams that he would be a Patriots fan and they won that game.

As any young kid, you want to like the same things as your parents and so hearing my father talk about how the Lions were “losers” and “never going to win” and yes, I am not joking with you, seeing the Patriots logo and color scheme, I joined my dad and became a Patriots fan at age six.

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When I first became a fan of the Patriots I would always laugh at how bad the Lions were and was glad that they weren’t my team. As I got older though, things changed in my mind. While I still do love the Patriots, they were slowly taking a backseat to Detroit. My ex-stepdad was a diehard fan like my grandpa, and now seeing them every week and hearing him talk about them, gave me two outlets of Lions info. It wasn’t only during Thanksgiving, it was for half of the NFL regular season when I would be over at my mom’s house.

While my ex-stepdad did help me become a Lions fan as well, my grandpa pushed it further. I became a fan of the team in 2008 – of all years – the famous 0-16 season for those of you who didn’t know. While it was the hardest thing to cheer for, it was fun. Sure they weren’t winning, but they were my hometown team. They were the team that represented this state and these people and I wanted to be a part of that.

While I was a fan in 2008, I didn’t start following and paying attention, reading articles, watching videos and getting more in-depth until 2010. Around that time was when I could talk to my grandpa about the team and know what I was talking about. While I was only 15 and still didn’t know much, I knew enough where we could talk about it for a long time. It made me WANT to know more about the team and BE that person to come to when it came to the Lions. My grandpa knew a lot about the players, staff, and front office.

He would know where people went to college, what team they used to play for, how many receiving yards they had last year, etc. He knew this team like the back of his hand. He was the most die-hard fan I have ever met, and I wanted to be just like him. That is what got me into sports journalism as a career.

I wanted to be the person people came to for information about not just the Lions, but any sports. I still love reading about breaking news and telling my friends and family about it to just see or hear their reaction. I love being the one they hear the news from first, and like any journalist, I feel a small sense of failure when I’m not the first one to break them the news. While I decided to switch to journalism, that same stance is still in me. I want to be the most informed person about whoever I cover, I want the latest updates and news. That is why I went to school to become a journalist. My grandpa helped me find my stitch without even trying and I can’t thank him enough for it.

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How One Thing Can Complete My Life

When I was growing up, I was able to sadly see the Detroit Tigers struggle in two world series, and the Lions fall flat in the first round of the playoffs, but I also grew up watching the Detroit Pistons winning the championship in 2004, and the Detroit Red Wings winning the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. I could only remember and care about the Pistons championship and the Red Wings in 2008 because that came after I started watching sports and caring about those teams.

While I still love those teams, the Lions took over as my number one team in Detroit. My siblings would always tell my dad, “dad, you know if the Lions ever make the Super Bowl you have to take grandpa to that game, no matter where it is.” My dad promised to do that, but sadly, during his long life, he never saw them win the big one. Sure he heard them win championships before they were in the NFL, and while that was something, it wasn’t as good as winning the Super Bowl.

It kills me to think that during the 61 years that followed that championship he never saw them win it all. While the streak isn’t like the Chicago Cubs (108 years), it is over the halfway point and there could be a chance that I don’t see a championship won by this team and I am turning 23 in two months. This team just winning one championship, one victory, one game would just mean so much to not only me, but my family, the city of Detroit, and the state of Michigan. After decades of agony and defeat, we would finally have our moment in the spotlight.

After years of no media coverage, nobody caring about what this team does, everybody underestimating them, nobody predicting them to be a true contender, we can say “we are the champs!” and while winning the Super Bowl in 2018 would be bittersweet for our family, I just know that WHEN the Lions win the Super Bowl, I will break down and cry tears of joy, but also sadness because my grandpa never got to experience what it was like to see his favorite team win it all.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.