Quick, Lions fans—which word does not belong in this list: dejected, depressed, despondent, disconsolate, dispirited, downbeat, downcast, ecstatic, gloomy, grim, mirthless or miserable?
Of course, you correctly chose “ecstatic.” But I do this to illustrate a point.
For more than 40 years of being a rabid Lions fan, I have been mostly dejected, depressed, despondent and so on, over the persistent and sometimes dramatic failures of the Detroit Lions—a laughing-stock bottom-dwelling team for all but a few of those years.
So dreadful, pitiable and laughable have been the Lions over those 40 years that, between my oldest brother (a fellow diehard Lions fan who I will call “M”) and myself, we have produced enough Lions jokes and gags to fill a 30-city standup comedy tour.
For instance, M and I might rehash an old joke like:
“Hey M, did you hear that Lansing wants to get a pro football team?”
“Oh yeah? Shoot! Now Detroit will want one!”
Or, during halftime of a game in which the Lions are already down 24 points, I might make a smart-aleck remark to M, like:
“Hey M, they’ve got the 12-14 year old girls Punt, Pass and Kick final coming up at half time. Maybe we should alert the Lions’ scouting department.”
Or we would have fun naming a Division II college football team that the Lions might have a chance to beat:
“Hey M, if the Lions played Albany State, they’d have a good shot to win—the Golden Rams would probably only be favored by a TD or so.”
This was bitter mirth, of course. This preemptive mockery was a survival technique.
We’d mock and laugh at our own poor, wretched Lions before others—like late night comedians—got the chance. Our raucous laughter rang with echoes of yearning and sadness.
But now I am suddenly ecstatic, because the Lions are 10-5 and headed for the playoffs. I am laughing now, not at the Lions, but from joy.
So I appeal to you, Lions Nation, for help. I am ensnared in an existential morass.
My very identity as a Lions fan for so long has been to expect—and finally, even to embrace—failure. But now I am a fan of a legitimately good team.
How do I reconcile the identity of that miserable Lions fan (who suffered a recent 0-16 season) with the identity of the new, ecstatic Lions fan (whose double-digit-win team is heading to the playoffs)?