With the anticipation of the upcoming NFL season finally starting to settle into my bones, I've started to perform my yearly ritual of slaughtering three pigs and throwing a virgin off of my roof, trying to appease the Football Gods so that they may, for once, show mercy on my Detroit Lions.
You see, every year most fans of the Detroit Lions tend to prepare for the season in different ways. Some of them spend nights drinking alone, watching old videos of Barry Sanders on Youtube as they quietly weep over their laptops. Some of us just sign up for various blogs for other teams in the NFC North, and immediately start writing dissertations on message boards about topics such as why Jay Cutler is soft, why nobody wants to live in Wisconsin, or how poetic it was that the roof fell in on the Metrodome as it was also metaphorically falling in on Brett Favre's dignity.
By the end of the preseason, we somehow use a sort of groupthink to convince ourselves that our preseason record, whatever it may be, is indicative of good things to come.
"Most Super Bowl teams don't win preseason games anyways, so we're just as good as the Patriots! It's fact! We're going to the Super Bowl, baby!"
"We just went 4-0 in the preseason! We're going to Disney World!" (Don't forget that the year we went 0-16 is also the year that we went 4-0 in the preseason.)
Usually, by the third week of the season, all hope is dashed across the pavement like a deleted scene from the movie Children of Men. We then spend the next 12 weeks hibernating, only coming out of our man-caves for a few select occasions:
- To try to get Dave Dombrowski fired from the Tigers
- To react as Michigan State loses to a MAC or C-USA team, ruining any run they had at the Big 10 Championship
- To tell Ohio State fans that they and their entire state sucks
- To check our calendar and see how long it is until the NFL draft, avoiding any standings or reports that may indicate that teams like the Bengals, Browns or Raiders are better than the Lions.
Then the season ends and we watch someone else win the Super Bowl.
It's been that way since the Super Bowl was invented.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
I'd love to tell you that some day that will change, but I'm old enough to know better. Expecting to see the Lions in the Super Bowl is like going to the bar, seeing Olivia Wilde, and thinking that suddenly she wants sweaty fat guys. The suspension of disbelief is too great. Even Michael Bay wouldn't write that script.
It's just as well. I figure that if the Lions did win the Super Bowl, the majority of our fans would have no reason to go on living; they'd wander off into the cornfields like James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams. We cling to this dream with cold, sweaty hands. Any honest prediction of the timeline of the night when the Lions win the Super Bowl would be a lie if it didn't include openly weeping, starting a bar fight with anyone who says that Matthew Stafford is a "China doll," and immediately walking into traffic as we realize that there's nowhere to go but down.
And that's fine. If you really think about it, we Lions fans aren't united by our celebration. We're united by the ritual, by the shared experience of agony. We all loathe Matt Millen. We still don't understand why Barry left when he did, and we scorn the curse of Bobby Lane while silently wondering if maybe it holds water.
That's who we are. It's what makes us Lions fans.
So, when the Lions falter and don't live up to your expectations this year, don't fret. Just rejoice in the experience, because it's something that most other franchises' fans can't appreciate. I mean, who wants to be a Patriots fan, anyways?
(Note: This article is strictly conjecture, because THIS IS THE YEAR WE WIN THE SUPER BOWL! WOOO! Eh, who am I kidding? See you at the draft.)