Sunday, December 28, 2008

Being a Lions Fan

Hi. My name is Julayne, and I'm a . . . Lions fan. Like an alcoholic irresistibly drawn to drink, I'm perennially enticed by the wretched football games played by the hapless Detroit Lions.

There must be something wrong with a fan who keeps going back to the kind of misery that the Detroit Lions consistently heap upon their fans. We haven't had a decent season since the days Barry Sanders graced the Honolulu blue and silver, and the Lions are one of the few NFL teams never to have played in a Super Bowl, let alone won one. I could quote more of the statistical morass that defines the Lions, but I'll desist. The fact remains that despite how awful the Lions are, I'm still a fan of the team. One has to wonder why.

It may be the old root-for-the-underdog mentality that defines America's rags-to-riches character. The problem with that is that the Lions have been all rags and no riches. Maybe it's because I've always been drawn to mournful things like gray, rainy days and music in minor keys. There's a certain piteousness about the Lions that makes you want to wallow with them in some sort of depressive mud puddle. But the Lions won't even feel properly sorry for themselves. There is an indefatigable optimism about even their worst games that has them looking hopefully to next week and causes them to celebrate their first downs as if they were touchdowns.

Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment. After all, I'm also a fan of the Detroit Tigers and the Michigan Wolverines, both of whom had disastrous seasons this year. The 2008 Tigers looked more like the 2003 Tigers (who lost more than 100 games) than the 2006 Tigers (who made the World Series). Michigan is not playing in a college bowl game this year for the first time in over thirty years. It's definitely not a good year to be a sports fan in southeastern Michigan. But I keep coming back.

Maybe it's genetic. My dad has been a Lions fan all his life, so perhaps I inherited it from him. But even he gets discouraged and sometimes threatens to start following a different team just so he can say his team can win a game once in a while. Yet I have a difficult time even joking about such a thing, despite the suggestions of my Packer-fan husband. There's something about being a Lions fan and remaining a Lions fan that I can't seem to get away from.

I guess what I need to do is stop analyzing it, accept the cold, hard reality that I'm a fan of a terrible team and leave it at that. Enjoy the flash-in-the-pan bright spots and the occasional first downs and revel in the fact that one way into the NFL Hall of Fame is to be the only 0-16 team ever to have donned NFL jerseys.

Whatever else the Lions might be, they are my football team, for better or for worse. Even though it's been mostly for worse, I'll keep rooting for them. After all, there's always next year.