I believe in the Detroit Lions.
This is often not something someone will readily admit. To be a Lions’ fan is to be in a chronic state of despair and disappointment.
The Lions won three championships during the 1950’s when sock hops, jute boxes and malt shops were all at their zenith. The championship teams were led by a plucky quarterback who often played exceptional on Sunday afternoon despite a hangover that would incapacitate a horse. Bobby Layne embodied the grit and valor of those 1950’s teams, even if Saturday nights were spent carousing with his good friend and drinking buddy—Mickey Mantle.
Following the team’s last championship in 1957, the Lions traded their star quarterback to the, then woeful, Pittsburgh Steelers. The trade angered Bobby and legend has it that he put a curse on the franchise saying that “Detroit will not win again for 50 years.” Now I have never been one to believe in sports curses. I believe it is often used as an excuse to explain away bad play and ineptitude on and off the field, however being a Lions’ fan has often made me rethink this logic.
The Lions had the most dynamic and electrifying running back in the history of the NFL. Barry Sanders meandered his way through tackles the same way Mikhail Baryshnikov glided across the stage. At the top of his game Barry called it quits and never looked back. He cited the Lions inability to field a winning team as the reason for his premature retirement.
As great as Barry was on the field, he may have been a better soothsayer. Since his departure, the Lions have had one winning season and suffered the humiliation of being the only team to go winless through a 16-game season.
I have often wondered what it is like for fans of other teams. Are they excited on Sunday mornings? For me excitement takes a back seat to anxiety. Football Sundays are often filled with the feeling of knowing that something will go wrong in the game. It is just a matter of when.
Still, I stick it out with them. The colors of my wedding were Honolulu Blue and Silver. Despite now living in Florida, I regularly sport a Lions cap and t-shirt. The quizzical looks I get from people are often quite comical. I can almost read their minds, “How can he be a fan of THEM?”
I believe that the Detroit Lions have the best fans in sports. Teams with winning traditions are often said to have great fans. But to truly appreciate football, to truly be a fan, one has to root for a perennial loser.
People have always asked me why I never switched allegiances. For me, it is just not an option. A loyal fan must stick it out with his or her team through the best and the worst days, even when the worst greatly outweighs the best.
I believe in the Detroit Lions. I believe they will make it to a Super Bowl in my lifetime.
I believe in loyalty.
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