Detroit Lions fans are a unique bunch.
They unfailingly support a team that seems to do little other than failing. It's one thing to support a team like the Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Ravens, etc. Those are hardcore fans who frequently get rewarded for their loyalty.
Lions fans are still waiting for their Super Bowl ship to come in, and they'll continue to wait for as long as necessary because being a Lions fan means having patience.
That said, Lions fans rarely exhibit actual patience. Hope springs eternal in Motown, whether warranted or not, and from that hope springs rage when the team doesn't measure up to expectations—which is more often than not, partially because expectations are usually too high.
By the end of the season, fans "can't do it anymore" and threaten to quit. And then something magical happens that brings all Lions fans together in disagreement and renews faith in the team a few months after all hope was lost, beginning the cycle anew.
That event is at the core of the biggest way you know you're a Lions fan:
Playoffs? Nevermind those, the Lions need to start scouting for their next franchise savior!
The NFL draft is more exciting when your team has a top-10 pick, and the Lions frequently do. And because they always come into the draft with lots of question marks, the draft is almost always a time to fill a huge need with an extremely talented player.
Of course, it rarely works out that way, but that doesn't stop people from getting excited about it.
To Lions fans, mock drafts tend to be more exciting in February than the Super Bowl is. The Lions aren't in the postseason, and more often than not, the game is between two teams that Lions fans a) hate or b) could care less about.
If there's nobody to root against in the postseason, it usually isn't worth it—at least not as much as the Senior Bowl is.
You all know the one.
This person is a Lions fan, technically, but he has become so jaded over the years that the first sign of adversity is enough for him to throw his hands up and quit—and try to bring everyone else with him.
And I'm not talking about going down 21-0 in the first quarter. That's frustrating to anyone.
No, to this guy, an incomplete pass or an opposing first down during the first game of the season results in the No. 1 overall draft pick in next year's draft and "FIRE EVERYONE." There is no in-between.
To an extent, this fan is to be pitied. What you're seeing is little more than a defense mechanism built up over years of losing. Mentally, he quashes any possibility of success so that the actual act of losing hurts less. It's kind of sad, really.
That doesn't make it any less obnoxious when you're trying to enjoy a game, though.
Don't be ashamed. Probably more people than just you own those No. 3 Joey Harrington jerseys. Probably.
The nature of high draft picks is that expectations are sky-high for them, so everyone goes out to buy their jerseys. But the nature of draft busts is that they leave the team after a couple of seasons, and by that point, fans have turned on them for betraying their expectations.
In the case of the Lions, there are lots of both high draft picks and busts, so there are still a fair number of Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike/Roy Williams, Kevin Smith and even Ernie Sims jerseys floating around Ford Field (and probably your closet).
The sight of the numbers alone bring back awful memories of disappointment, confusion, anger and maybe a hint of the excitement that came with that player's initial arrival.
Look upon them with shame in retrospect, but they are a part of Lions history like anything else. That said, they are a great way to prove you supported the team even during its worst years.
You know they're meaningless. The 2008 season was cold, hard proof of it.
But still, wins in Detroit mean something. Maybe it's because you're a believer in momentum, or you buy into the "changing the culture of losing" narrative. There is certainly some rationale to either of those.
But more than anything, it's about not losing. You're just tired of seeing the Lions lose in any context, so there's a part of you that gets happy about even a preseason win. You know deep down that the win doesn't mean a thing.
But hey, regardless of how it counts in the record books, anything beats a loss.
What is this about, anyway?
It can be before a Lions-Bears game, after one, during one, just a random week in the season or during the offseason. It can be in the middle of the postseason that neither team is in. But Chicago Bears fans seem absolutely obsessed with the Lions.
On this very article, there is about a 95 percent chance that a Bears fan will comment something with the goal of riling up Lions fans despite this being a Lions-centric article on a Lions-centric board.
Does this go both ways? I don't know. I don't frequent the comment boxes on Bears articles. Maybe it's league-wide, or maybe it's particularly unique to certain rivalries. Either way, from the perspective of a longtime Lions columnist, it seems like Bears fans care almost as much about what the Lions do as Lions fans do.
Obviously, they want different outcomes in Lions games than Lions fans do. They tend to be very vocal about that preference, usually with a statement about the Lions' overall capabilities (spoiler: the general consensus among them is that the Lions are bad at football).
Trash talk comes with the territory of any rivalry, but for some reason, it's Bears fans who seem the most interested in it. I have no theories as to why and will accept theories—either from Bears fans themselves or anyone else who wishes to posit one.
I don't need to explain this to you because I added a picture of Matt Millen (smiling, no less! Look at how smug he is), and you are therefore already angry.
This is the guy responsible for that closet full of jerseys belonging to 30-year-old former NFL players we talked about earlier as well as eight or more (depending on how long you believe his influence lingered) years of lost football in Detroit.
And he's still being employed—as a football analyst.
That would be like if I single-handedly drove Merrill Lynch into bankruptcy in less than a decade, and after leaving that job, you decided to hire me as your financial advisor.
One of the ways to cope with an NFL postseason that the Lions don't get to participate in is to develop a rooting interest in a secondary team.
This is usually (at least in my experience) an AFC team in order to minimize the amount of conflict involved, and it has to be a team that is usually in the playoffs. It's not quite the same rush as if the Lions themselves were actually in the playoffs, but having a rooting interest always makes it a little more fun.
And it isn't as though Lions fans have had many opportunities to actually participate in the postseason, so they end up having to find a proxy. It's a sad fact of life.
At this point, you've heard it all. There's nothing anyone can say to you about how bad the Lions are that you haven't already heard.
For that matter, there's probably nothing anyone can say that you haven't actually thought yourself. In a weird way, you're immune to it.
People think bringing up the 0-16 season will hurt you? Please. You lived it. Nothing they can say will match the 21 months you spent waiting for a Lions victory.
You aren't bothered by what people say about the Lions because there's no denying the Lions have been a historically bad football team. You might wince a bit, but you're past it now.
The Lions may not have the historical winning pedigree some teams do, but there's always this year—or the next. Whichever looks brighter right now.
In retrospect, this game didn't even really mean anything. It was the difference between 6-10 and 7-9.
But it was the opening game of the season, and it was against a division rival. It deprived Calvin Johnson of an epic game-winning touchdown.
And you're reminded of it every time an official goes under the hood to review a catch/drop ruling, especially if it happened in the end zone.
And the commentators, every time, ask if the receiver "completed the process." And you want them to stop it because why is that even a thing?
It was a bad rule at the time, and every time it comes up, you're reminded of how bad it was. And that brings you to, "Well, that wouldn't have been a catch for the Lions." There's no way to get away from it.
Maybe this isn't just Lions fans.
Barry Sanders was one of those talents who transcended his own team. He was the favorite player of people who could have cared less about the Lions. He won the Madden Cover vote (as you can see here), so obviously his appeal goes beyond just Detroit.
But despite the fact that Sanders has been retired for well over a decade, he remains one of the greatest and certainly most memorable players ever to play the game.
And those in Detroit speak of him like a legend. Because of his early retirement, we have no idea what the tail end of his career would have looked like. And that just adds to his legend, one that Lions fans will never stop telling.