Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Monkey On My Back

If I did not reside in Southeastern Michigan and I did not have the benefit of knowing so many people who faithfully follow Ford’s football fiasco, I would probably have a very different perception of what a fan of the Detroit Lions actually is. I would probably picture a morbidly obese man in his mid-forties with an overabundance of body hair and an under-abundance of teeth that can still manage to protrude out of his diseased gums. He would possess the IQ of the road kill he routinely supplements his vitamin-free diet with and would avoid sobriety with the same resourcefulness and tenacity with which he avoids debtors and personal hygiene products. Judging by his incredible tolerance for pain and misery, he must thrive on agony and I would suspect that he built his fetish for excruciation through years of participation in sado-masochism and other deviant sexual practices. He would be a brute, not far removed from the race of Neanderthals, and lacking all of the evolutionary refinements that would make him a contributing member of a civilized society. Now, however true this description may be in my case, it would be patently false in regards to the thousands of people in the Motor City who unfailingly fill the seats at Ford Field and tune into 16 televised football games a year to cheer on a team that has emerged victorious in only one post-season game in almost fifty years.

The Lions fans I know are for the most part fairly rational and intelligent people. With the exception of the spectacularly inept football team they choose to root for, as a rule they appear to live normal, productive lives. Yet every August without fail, they start watching the birth of the new season with anticipation and hope. They shrug off pre-season disappointments as the natural aberrations of team selection and not as the foreshadowing omens of impending disaster that they invariably are. They get caught up in the euphoria of the early season victories and loudly proclaim them as the dawning of the Detroit football dynasty, a proclamation made with the fanatical fervor of an ardent ecclesiastic convinced that the visions in his eyes are nothing less than the incontrovertible evidence of the second coming of Christ. Then everything just goes to hell.

It starts off with a few key injuries and then is exacerbated by play calling that defies logic. By mid-season, the fans have had their faith shaken to its foundation and the realization that they are about to be subjected to very same humiliation that they have been privy to for over half a century. Feeling disillusioned and betrayed, they revolt, chanting for the head of the quarterback and making sure that the coaches feel the heat of their ire. By Thanksgiving, by which time the Lions’ hopes of a playoff birth have almost completely dissipated, the fans are in open revolt. If this critical holiday game is lost, the Lions will not again enjoy a home field advantage for the rest of the season as Ford Field will prove more hostile than any stadium they could possibly encounter on the road. Once the holiday shopping season is in full swing, resignation has set in and the fans have set their hopes on the next year, realizing that the last few games are little more than an audition to see which of the guys on the second string have what it takes to start the following September. It’s a vicious circle and one that has played itself out for almost half a century. By the looks of things today, it could very well continue on for another fifty years.

So why do they do it? Why do they shell out good money and invest so much emotional capital into a team that almost never produces even a hint of the prowess required to emerge from sixteen games as an organization to be reckoned with in the post season? As a Lions fan myself, I can’t even begin to answer that question. I can’t even explain why I watch them at all considering I only became a fan in 2001, when the Lions only won 2 games the entire year. I got sucked into it after they opened the season with 9 straight losses and looked poised to finished the year completely winless. I started watching them because if they were going to make history, I wanted to see it. They disappointed me then too, winning the first game I had watched all the way through since 1987. Since 2001, I have watched pretty much every game they have played. I’m even playing with the idea of buying season tickets next year instead of finding an alternative, far less painful means of wiling away my Sundays, such as regularly attending church or signing up for a series of sixteen straight barbed wire enemas.


Blogger Sacto Ritch said...

The Lions sound a lot like your fantasy football team! Matt is beating you for Christ's sake!
I sadly am a transplanted Lions fan and have been for years.In fact I've been a Lions fan since I was a kid. I envy you only having paid attention since 01.
Imagine the humiliation of being the only person in NorCal to sport Lions gear. Having to say to every laughing football fan "Wait till next year". Sure I could jump on the Raider's bandwagon, or have some wine and cheese with the 49ers fans, but DAMMIT I won't!
Someday the Lions will win it all and DAMMIT I'm gonna be there with my grand kids on my lap cheering them on while wearing my pink #5 Garcia jersey. A guy can dare to dream. In the meantime, GO WINGS and DEEE-TROIT BASKETBALL!


7:03 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

AND GO TIGE.....wait a minute. I forgot they suck too. Ritch, my man, when the Lions win the superbowl, we're going to go see them live, that is as long as we're not to drunk or too preoccupied feeling up strippers.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Sacto Ritch said...

Are you ever gonna let me live down that stripper episode? Or were they street vendors? Kinda hazy that.


11:23 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

No, and they were street vendors. MALE street vendors.

10:30 PM  

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