Detroit Lions: The Most Enduring Fans in the NFL

James ThomlisonContributor IApril 4, 2011

Which one of us hasn't been right there?
Which one of us hasn't been right there?

It is a question posed on an almost annual basis. We see lists, polls, surveys and debates about who the best fans in the NFL are. To be honest, the reality is that it is such a popular topic of discussion because it is one that cannot be cemented with a definitive answer. 

After all, who am I to tell a Steelers fan that his blood is any less black and yellow than mine is Honolulu blue and silver? Is my Lions tattoo more meaningful than the Seahawks tattoo on any particular one of the 67,000 people that show up at 800 Occidental Ave S. in Seattle every Sunday? 

Of course not. To insinuate or argue otherwise is nothing more than a homer-ish, biased and unjustifiable pride for our home team other than, well, they’re our home team.

I will not, however, listen to a single person tell me about how they’re a more "enduring" fan base. No way, no how. Cleveland Browns are an awful organization? Sorry, I’m too busy admiring their 24 playoff appearances and nine division titles to make that joke. 

Took the Buccaneers forever to be good? Again, that shiny Lombardi Trophy is distracting me from making comparisons. Never made the playoffs, Houston Texans? Aw, poor you and your whole nine years in the league. I have a simple message for anyone who thinks that they have felt the pain or had their eyes closed and shook their lowered heads in the same way that we have.

Try it.

Try sitting through 16 miserable Sundays in a row while doing everything in your power to not throw something valuable or, more accessibly, something breakable, while witnessing your team make history. The wrong kind of history.

Try being the only non-expansion team to never play in a Super Bowl.

Try watching someone who is arguably one of the most electrifying and productive players in NFL history simply walk away in his prime because his passion and love for the game couldn’t outmatch the weight or burden of the direction he felt the organization continued to go, and how he couldn’t get behind it.

Try dealing with for the most part every garbage draft pick, trade and free agent signing by the worst GM in NFL history for almost a decade, and subsequently sitting through each and every game that was a direct result of said genius’ decisions.

Try finally getting a franchise quarterback and watching him go down in the first quarter of the first game of an optimistic season and follow it up with your team being robbed of a victory because of a rule that requires you to have a PhD in psychology and a law degree from Harvard to try and comprehend.

In fact, try listening to a Chicago fan gloat after that one.

Here’s one for you, try seeing your team seemingly get things headed in the right direction after fifty years of utter futility only to watch that progress haltered by a “could the timing being any worse?” CBA dispute that may shut everyone and everything down indefinitely.

For that matter, just try 50 years of futility.

Try it.

Better fans? Sure, whatever you say. More dedicated fan base? Fine, stake your claim.  Most "enduring," most patient, most I-cannot-believe-that-just-happened? Not a chance. Detroit Lions fans, without question, stand atop of that mountain, championship belt held high. How proud we are of that is certainly debatable but it is without question something that we own and that endears us to the city of Detroit and to each other.

We are the ones who have to constantly listen to the easiest joke in the bar, or the office or at any other job. We are the ones who tell someone that we’re a Lions fan and can instantly see it on their face. We are the ones who "endure" endless ridicule and national mockery. That is us. To quote the popular and heavily-debated Chrysler commercial, “we run generations deep,” only for us it’s with confusion, bewilderment and disappointment.

And we will continue to hear and see other fans looking through the eyes of their own lack of understanding, or the eyes of their respective teams’ favorite announcers and reporters; the ones who ask the same questions each and every Wednesday in the conference calls because they can’t be bothered to do any actual research on our team or find out what our coaches and players have said as recently as two or five days prior.

The same ones who might catch a nugget here or there from Kevin Seifert or even Mike Florio but never do enough of their due diligence to actually know anything about our team.

Yes, Stafford has potential. Yup, Suh’s a freak of nature. No, Schwartz doesn’t talk about league business or injuries. Congratulations, stellar journalism there.

But it’s okay. Finally and maybe unfortunately, there are enough people looking. NFL Network is looking. Peter King is looking. NFL on Sirius is and has been looking. Perhaps most importantly, the other team is now looking. Your team is looking.

They can hear us now. I’ve spent the better part of 30 years screaming for my team to get an ounce of attention, and now I ironically wish they were the world's best kept secret. They aren’t, though. Not anymore. We're coming.

Is there a "Honolulu blue and silver" lining? I think so. I don’t care how happy you are as a Steelers, Patriots, Colts, Cowboys or Giants fan that won a Super Bowl or two, or three or six.

They call Detroit “Hockey Town." Well, let the Lions play in—dare I say, even win—a few meaningful games and we will see exactly how much of a backseat term that really is. I can appreciate what we have, I really can; Michigan, State, Red Wings, Tigers, Pistons, etc. However, I say enjoy it while you can, die-hards of those teams.

This is Football Town, this is Lions town, and we will see it soon enough. It is what gravitates us towards one another as a family, a Lions family. It is why we see each other in a Lions shirt or wearing a Lions hat and nothing has to be said; we understand. We get it. 

We are bound to one another by location, by heritage and by history. And when we do finally see it, the payoff and the feeling for fans will be 10 times greater than anything seen before. To anyone not 100 percent a part of the culture that is being a Detroit Lions fans, I promise you the culmination of reward for us will be unmatched.

Think you can throw a parade, New Orleans? We’ll see.

So please, stop treating us like the homeless guy you feel bad for or the red headed stepchild you wish you could have saved or adopted. Stop acting like you have some need to be nice to us because to you we’re the ugly kitten of the litter.

Stop telling us that you are “not a Lions fan but I am rooting for you guys and hoping your team does better,” especially you division foes. You don’t do that for anyone else. No other teams do that for anyone else. We will gladly welcome and appreciate any out of town fans who happen to like and possibly even follow us, even if we’re your second or third team.

Other than that, we don’t need your pity. We don’t need your condescending well-wishes or patronization. We don’t need your help. We’ve been here long enough. We’ve been through more than you could even begin to fathom. We’ve got this.

Enduring.  That’s who we are. That’s our story. This is the motor city, and this is what we …put up with.

Try it.