The Detroit Fandom Experience and Why The Lions Have Built Something Bigger Than Sports

The Detroit Fandom Experience and Why The Lions Have Built Something Bigger Than Sports

As a 20-year-old Detroit sports enthusiast, I can confidently say this Sunday is the biggest game of my life. The Detroit Lions actually have a shot to punch their ticket to the super bowl. 

As a 20-year-old Detroit sports enthusiast, I can confidently say this Sunday is the biggest game of my life. The Detroit Lions actually have a shot to punch their ticket to the super bowl. 

This year has been the season of all seasons, and to see the way the Detroit community has come together is amazing. It is clear the Lions aren’t just a football team winning games, but are a part of something much bigger.

At the moment, it’s good to be a Lions fan, but not too long ago, us Detroit fans were in an endless losing pit. 

In order to gain the big picture, I must take you along the journey of Detroit sports fandom the past years.

Growing up in Metro Detroit, most people root for the Pistons, Tigers, Red Wings, and Lions. All long, storied franchises with deep history in the Detroit area and between their respected leagues. Besides the Lions owning the longest playoff drought in all of sports until now, Detroit has primarily been a top sports city.

Detroit gained the nickname “Hockeytown” as the Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cups and are home to some of the greatest players of all time. The Pistons had the 1980s Bad Boys era, as well as a 2004 championship team. And the Detroit Tigers have seen struggles but earned 4 World Series championships in its history. 

The thing is, growing up in the 2010s, I kept hearing about these so-called “successful franchises”, but I didn’t see any success. Before these playoffs, 2016 was the last time a Detroit team won a playoff game. I could give you the spiel on each teams mistake after mistake and constant disappointment, but to keep it short and simple; It hasn’t just been a few bad years, it has been torture. 

Before the newfound success, that torture was highlighted by the “cursed” Lions franchise.

As a kid going to Ford Field throughout my childhood, the “Same Old Lions” mantra haunted me. And even through consistent disappointment, robbery from officials, or hall of fame players retiring early including my all-time favorite player Calvin Johnson, I never believed in the same old Lions curse… but I sure did question it.

The Lions have practically been the joke of the NFL since their 1957 pre-super bowl championship. It can be difficult for an outsider to understand, but the only conversation surrounding the Lions in Michigan was pure negativity. People made their same old Lions jokes, old timers talking through their Lions PTSD; any subject surrounding the Lions was gonna be a rollercoaster.

 But on June 23, 2020, the Brand New Lions arrived. Sheila Ford Hemp took over ownership for her mother Martha Ford, and the new regime arrived. A regime that has now broken the curse.

For the first time in the franchise’s history, the right people were put in place, and the wheels started turning. Brad Holmes was hired as the general manager and never looked back. Holmes had a vision of how he wanted to build the team, and he did it his way from the start. The Lions eventually got the perfect fit in head coach Dan Campbell

From the second he walked into the practice facility, Dan Campbell set the tone. His opening first press conference filled with kicking people in the teeth and biting off kneecaps gave fans a good understanding of the storm that was brewing. 

From that first day in Allen Park, Campbell made the promise of his guys taking on the identity of the city.

The national media was quick to make opinions and barely gave Campbell a shot, especially because it was the Lions. The head coach was laughed at and called a clown for his opening press conference remarks, but he didn’t smile back. Campbell wanted that message instilled because he saw the same vision Brad Holmes saw. The two man tandem knew if they could build a winning football team in Detroit, the whole city was going to buy in.

On the roster building side of things, Holmes took over a team lead by Matthew Stafford and a few floating pieces, and turned it into a tremendous roster. Using his vision, Holmes formulated a strong offensive line as the core, then worked his way out. The thing with Holmes is, he is always going to go after the guys that he knew would fit into the Lions locker room, and there is no reason not to trust him. And no, the Lions are far from a perfect team, but it is hard to overlook the work Holmes has done.

The Stafford trade was the ultimate win-win scenario. After getting Goff and tons of draft capital, Holmes built the team from the draft. Even while getting bashed by the media for having an untraditional draft style, he wasn’t sorry for going after the talent he knew was going to fit.

Holmes is now considered one of the more well respected front office officials in the league. In three draft classes, the Lions have drafted cornerstone pieces in Amon-ra St.Brown, Penei Sewell, Aiden Hutchinson, Jahymir Gibbs, Sam Laporta, and plenty more studs.

3-13-1 to 9-8 to 12-5: The Brad Holmes way.

In the span of three seasons Detroit has gone from the place where careers go to die, to a place of opportunity. Players want to play for Detroit, and it was shown with key free agent additions including C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Cam Sutton, and David Montgomery.

Sure, the Lions fanbase has always wanted a winner, but the real Detroit sports fans were always proud to be Lions fans. No matter the curse, no matter the same old Lions, that is our team. We all want to wear Detroit loud and proud across our chest because it is our home and us fans are better for the struggles we have sustained.

“To those fans who have kept faith, you deserve this! To the doubters, stay off our train – it’s too late for you!” Dan Campbell said.

For the first time in my life, the Detroit community has gotten behind their team, and turned this into something bigger than sports. Whether it was the ski mask takeover in the beginning of the year, or Gmac Cash dropping the Detroit theme song in “Lions won again”, It has actually been fun to be a Lions fan.

Brad Holmes started as a PR assistant for the Rams, and worked his way up to where he is now. Dan Campbell was a backup blocking tight end in the NFL. Both of these guys have embraced the underdog mindset, and they now represent the Detroit underdog mentality.

The Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers had their moments, but for the first time in most people’s lifetime, it’s now the Lions moment. This Lions team has been so much damn fun to watch every single week. 

Even with a loss on Sunday, this team will live in Detroit history, but with a win, the Lions have the chance to make one of the greatest stories in the history of sports. 

To Top