On Being a Detroit Lions Fan(atic)

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Lions Fans are an odd bunch; fiercely passionate yet with the emotional stability of Jell-o. Maybe years of disappointment have led us to that point? Bryce Rossler looks at why we are who we are…

Before I begin, I’d like to state that this article is not intended to indoctrinate any newly-christened Lions fans, nor is it an invitation to hop on the bandwagon. Hell, at this point, I doubt there are many prospective fans clamoring to jump aboard. After all, this is a team that was compared by some – myself included – to the mythical ’07 Giants squad, and now they finds their playoff hopes in the balance. After two heartbreaking defeats at the hands of NFC playoff teams in consecutive weeks, the hype and Stafford MVP chatter now seems like echoes of yesteryear. At least that’s how it seems to us. And by ‘us,’ I mean the Detroit faithful, an unwavering and dedicated, albeit obnoxious fanbase.

Part of the reason I enjoy writing for this outfit is because it was never intended to be a journalistic publication, at least in the classical sense whereby objectivity is the golden standard. Chris has very much maintained a ‘by the fans, for the fans’ approach to both the site and the podcast, and I believe that’s contributed highly to our rise in popularity. That’s not to say we have no integrity or are fundamentally incapable of objectivity here, but we aren’t paid writers who just happened to be assigned to write for this team. We’re Lions fans first and foremost. And who doesn’t like a good homer?

Despite the anxiety and frustration that defined Monday evening, I found myself appreciative of this newly-realized aspect of our little family here at DLP. And I’m not one who appreciates much, as evidenced by the fact that I’m neither a steady nor reliable contributor here. This gig has been a blessing for me, and I regret not doing enough to reflect that. This epiphany was sparked by the tension on Twitter during and after the game, both between fellow Lions fans and fans of other teams. Followers of all sorts of Lions coverage accounts were taking shots at beat writers and the people who run the accounts, some of who responded in kind. It was pointed out by somebody, that the infighting and the complaining – which stemmed from grievances about the officiating, which I personally thought was fucking egregious – “wasn’t a good look for Lions fans.” And they’re right. But, they failed to mention the part that this is who we fucking are.

Not a bunch of homer crybabies, as the Cowboys bandwagon would have you believe. Rather, we are fans. Many people forget that the word ‘fan,’ which has become the most commonly used term for a follower of a team, is a contraction of fanatic. And that’s what we are: an unabashed, unapologetic group of fanatical diehards. At times we’re obnoxious, incapable of objectivity and downright insufferable. But, no matter what, we show out for our team and nobody can take that away from us. I saw some people on Twitter accuse the fanbase of being mercurial. That one week we believe we’re the team to beat, and the next, we believe we’re gonna miss the playoffs and think we should fire our coach. And, to some degree, that’s certainly true.

But, what people don’t realize is this: as Lions fans, all we have is the moment. Until recently, being a Detroit fan was a very grim prospect. For a very long time, there was no end in sight. It’s said that suffering is the human condition, yet people always endure. So, this brings up the fundamental question: how do you go on? For us, “There’s always next year,” wasn’t an option, because we knew next year was gonna suck, too. The only way we were able to wake up Sunday after Sunday after Sunday and prepare ourselves for a sure beat down was to take it one Sunday at a time. The prospect of enduring it for years was too daunting, so we have conditioned ourselves to anticipate the worst and live in the moment. This may seem like Freudian psychobabble bullshit about the coping mechanisms of the fans of a perennial loser, and perhaps it is, but dammit if it isn’t the truth.

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After all the letdowns, how does one emotionally prepare for what would be the ultimate letdown? The Lions, 9-4 and poised to win their first division title since 1993 (when I was just months old), lose out to cede the NFC North to the Packers by losing to them in the final game of the regular season, and potentially miss the playoffs entirely, despite a markedly better season than last year. Because that nightmare is imminent, and a 42-21 loss to the Cowboys isn’t exactly reassuring.

So, what do we do? We tell ourselves that the officiating made the final score of a loss seem more lopsided than it actually was. Perhaps we’re lying to ourselves, but doesn’t three no calls on three scoring plays seem to suggest just that, especially taking into consideration what seems like years of the NFL screwing the Lions? Some call it cynicism, others call it conspiracy theories to compensate for years of mediocrity, but there’s an undeniable precedent that exists for this type of thing.

I’m rooting for the Lions this coming Sunday, just like I do every other Sunday. Some fans have predetermined that the refs will screw us so the NFL can profit off a Green Bay victory, and that very well could be the case. It would be crushing to lose to the Packers at home, especially if it means missing out on the playoffs. But, here’s what we all know: the Lions have had a good season. We’ve found out a lot about this team, particularly about Stafford and Bob Quinn. We’ve overachieved in a year before which many pundits predicted us to have a losing record. We don’t have a very talented roster, but the franchise is on the upswing. We aren’t resigned to losing to Green Bay and missing the playoffs, but we’re not exactly Super Bowl favorites, either.

For such a long time we’ve run on blood pressure medication, repression, and wisps of hope. But this season feels different, because it is different. The Lions have gotten better, and should continue to get better. Even if we lose out and miss the playoffs, there is hope. Real hope. No matter what – this team, this fanbase, this city will endure. We always have, and we always will. It really is Detroit vs. Everybody.

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