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The evolution of the Detroit Lions fan

Taking a look at how the Detroit Lions fan has evolved.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It's quite simple to me. The Detroit Lions are and have always been a big part of my life. So much so that I've formulated my entire writing career around them. I know what this team means to me. It's about friends and family. It's sharing unbelievable moments of jubilation and harrowing moments of disappointment. It's embedded into your life and likely always will be.

There's just something about this team. I've grown up a Pistons, Red Wings and Tigers fan and yet none of those teams can evoke the type of emotion I feel when I watch the Lions. It's like climbing a mountain. Sometimes you reach a plateau and you know you're safe. Other times your falling down and hitting every rock along the way. Only the Lions can make or break a week for me.

At 30 years old, I have an understanding of what it was like to grow up as a fan in my generation. I've also seen elders in my family warn me of the heartbreak that I may someday feel, heartbreak they have already succumb to. But today I want to dig a little deeper. I want to find out what the Lion mean to every generation ahead and behind me. So I took to Twitter to find Lions fans that fit four different demographics: the teens, the young adults, the adults, and the lifers. Here's what I uncovered.

Kraig Shelby: 46 years old

POD: What does it mean to be a Lions fan?

Kraig: "At this point in my life, it's about history. Friends who are Bears or Packers fans don't understand why I would continue to root for a team that seemingly never has a chance. I'm loyal, perhaps to a fault. Why would i quit now? I've invested too much time, money and energy pulling for Silver and Honolulu Blue to turn my back on them now. Besides, if I quit now, they'd win a playoff game and then i'd feel real stupid"

POD: What is your favorite Lions moment?

Kraig: "Typing this makes me realize how sad this is...beating Dallas in the playoffs in '91. I was 21, we beat Dallas, and I thought this was it, it was all happening...I was a believer."

POD: What got you into the Lions?

Kraig: "Growing up, that's the only team that was on TV. So, I suppose I can blame CBS for that."

POD: How has being a Lions fan changed over the years?

Kraig: "I've learned to be happy for the individual moments and realize that things like the playoffs and winning in the playoffs (or winning in GB) just aren't going to happen for this team. I've become a realist. I see the look of hope in my children's eyes when we watch a game, and they still have that child's belief that this time it will be different. I know better. I know to savor the moments of Billy, Barry, Calvin and whomever comes next. I've learned to never expect a win. Ever. I've learned to be cynical, and to doubt every move by every coach and GM, no matter the background. I still root for them, still proudly wear the gear and take the abuse, but i didn't name my son Calvin, I named him Brady. So... yeah."

Doug Stanley: 34 years old

POD: What does being a Lions fan mean to you?

Doug: "It's a team that has struggled, like the city I guess. It's at times a very one-sided love affair. I buy the merchandise. I watch the games. I get the autographs. But the product on the field is generally average at best (with a few bright spots here and there). At times people think I'm crazy rooting for the "same Ol Lions" but to me, what am I supposed to do? Root for another team? I'd rather suffer than just be a bandwagoner or root for a team I have no connection to."

POD: What's your favorite Lions moment?

Doug: "I think for me, it's the Matthew Stafford mic'd up game. I can watch that video today and still get chills. What he did during that game, with the injury he had sustained was awesome. Such a cool moment."

POD: What got you into the Lions?

Doug: "I had always been a Red Wings fan, and a college football fan, but the Lions were a distant third. I moved to New York and a buddy of mine, who's a die hard Giants fan, sort of drew me back to the NFL. Also, around that time there were some glimmers of hope that the roster and franchise were starting to come around."

POD: How has being a Lions fan changed over the years?

Doug: "It's been an up and down experience. I always buy in to the hype and the hope, and each year it seems to not materialize. It was nice having some game changers on the team, and nationally marketable personalities (Stafford, Suh, Johnson) though. I think I am again optimistic after the Bob Quinn hire. I was just so disillusioned with the same old regime under Mayhew. But I do think brighter days are ahead."

Antwan Carroll: 23 years old

POD: What does being a Lions fan mean to you?

Antwan: "Being a Lions fan to me is all about support and loyalty. It takes a lot to support a team that has constantly let you down over the years. It's easy to root for a team like the Patriots for example because they have always been winners. Your loyalty and support really is tested when you have to root for a losing team your whole life."

POD: What's your favorite Lions moment?

Antwan: "My favorite Lions moment has to be our win at Lambeau this past year. It's a place we haven't won at since before I was born, and when I did witness a win there for the first time that made me really happy. "

POD: What got you into the Lions?

Antwan: "What got me into the Lions is being from Michigan I always support the hometown teams just like the Pistons and Tigers. Once I was old enough and got into football back in 2003 they were automatically my favorite team."

POD: How has being a Lions fan changed over the years?

Antwan: "Being a Lions fan over the years has actually gotten stronger since day one. After going through all the losing seasons its made me appreciate or will make me appreciate a playoff season where we win a playoff game or the Super Bowl. All the years of frustration will actually pay off once we are holding up a Lombardi trophy."

Mitchell Slagh: 19 years old

POD: What does being a Lions fan mean to you?

Mitchell: "One thing I have discovered is that being a Lions fan is definitely not for the faint at heart, but it blows my mind how much passion and support there is for a team that has not been historically good. (I know about the success of the '50's, but my dad wasn't even born in the '50's, so I certainly haven't experienced it.) I don't know about fan bases for other teams, but the amount of people that year after year keep coming back is something that I always noticed."

POD: What is your favorite Lions moment?

Mitchell: "My favorite moment is when they beat the Packers on Thanksgiving in 2013, it was the first time I saw them win on Thanksgiving."

POD: What got you into the Lions?

Mitchell: "Everyone that I know. Be it my dad, uncles, brother, and cousins all root for the Lions, so it wasn't a big stretch that I would like them."

POD: How has being a Lions fan changed over the years?

Mitchell: "As a Lions fan, I always plan for the possibility of disappointment. If something crazy were to happen in the early part of my Lions fanhood, it would be complete devastating. As I've gotten older, maybe I have become a little more numb to bad events, like the Rodgers hail mary for instance. When they called the penalty giving them a free play, I hoped that it wouldn't hurt us, but deep down I felt that something bad was coming. So we all know what happened, and the only reaction I could muster afterwards was looking at the ground and then I sighed and turned off the TV, because I anticipated the worst and the worst is what happened."


What's correlation between these generations? Sure it's that the Lions will hurt you and you feel pain and the occasional heartbreak. But to me, the underlying theme is all about what makes being a fan of this team so great. It's loyalty. Anyone can be a Patriots or a Packers fan; it's easy to pick the winning team. But these fans choose to stick with the Lions. Because like I mentioned earlier, it's all about family.

But it's also about the community and the state of Michigan and it says a lot about us. We will always stick around and we will always fight through the pain of a loss and celebrate the happiness of a win. Because deep down every Lions fan knows their day in the sun will come and they don't want to miss it for the world.

What do you think Lions fans? What are some of your thoughts on today's piece? How would you ave answered these questions? Be sure to leave your comments below or come and chat with me on Twitter @POD_Payton.

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