So what do I get out of being a fan of this team? What makes me tune in to a game that I inevitably know will end in disaster? Why do I cheer for the Lions when in this day and age I can connect with the fanbase of any team, anywhere in the world? Other people do it, you don't need to be from Green Bay to be a Packers fan, or from Texas to be a Cowboys fan, why can't I choose some other team? Heck I never even played football as a kid, I was homeschooled (a horrible excuse really) and darn good at soccer (which is still my first love), still am.
I think its because I'm from Michigan (the Thumb region) and I know how long we've been down. We've seen as the fanbases of other teams get to experience something magical and we want the same thing. The fairy tale seasons that closed out John Elway's career, the Cinderella story of Tom Brady, the blue collar work ethic of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But notice how it has to be football?
Its great when the Red Wings lay claim to the Stanley Cup and all, and yeah it was cool when the Pistons won the finals, but how come it sort of feels hollow? If you enjoy these sports then yeah its cool, but there is something about football (baseball as well, but I leave it out for simplicity's sake).
The gridiron is where gods descend to earth and do battle. Who doesn't sit in awe of players like Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, and... well that Packers guy whatshisname... Here on this field of combat step forward heroes from the most unexpected places. Mortal men who become heroes through persistence and effort, mixing together with gods and monsters (obligatory derogatory Suh reference). There are torturous Odysseys, the rise and fall of remarkable individuals, sirens, forces of nature and eternal glory to be won. There is something primal and mythic about football. Look at the NBA, it is a sport, but does anybody really relate to the players? Does it mean as much to people when LeBron James wins glory for himself? How about when Elway rides off into the sunset? See the difference?
I think it does something for people to partake as fans of stories of triumph and tragedy as they unfold before us. There can be something powerful about watching a person react to personal hardship and tragedy in a manner that deserves respect. The quiet humility of a Barry Sanders. The decency of a Kurt Warner. There is something to watching other people fight their way through overwhelming odds that gives others strength in life. I think we in Michigan have always been on the outside looking in as other people partook of the modern myths and allegories that play out on the gridiron every Sunday in the months that make up the NFL season. I think we here just want to for once, watch as something special unfolds in our town.
I think that is why I am a Detroit Lions fan.