It is that time of year again where Lions fans eat healthy portions of cornbread and go into the season as optimistic as they will be all year. Being a Lions fan my whole life I have observed the emotional roller coaster of being a fan like all the others. Especially in the Matt Millen era. A man that probably has less football knowledge than the acne on my butt, than he does in his head.
With the season a couple weeks away I thought that I would give you my thoughts on the stages of being a Lions fan for every season. These are tried and true stages felt by every Lions fan every single season from the end of the last, through the draft, free agent signings, pre-season, and on through the next season.
Off-season and Draft
1. Overjoyed-This may be the best Lions fans feel throughout the year other than after pre-season. The NFL Draft is the Lions Super Bowl. We always have a top 10-15 draft pick so we know that we are probably going to get a decent player in it. Of course this is typically when Millen isn't the GM. Although we have gotten tons of WRs under Millen, as well as several busts, the typical feeling among fans for the draft is excitement.
This is also the case for most FA signings in the off season. We get some guy who used to be sweet and pay him more than everyone else to join the leagues worst franchise. Lions fans believe that this player will get the same production here as they have the rest of their careers. We also like to sign over-hyped linemen who were only good because the guy next to him was a pro-bowler where he played before.
2. Excitement and Anticipation-After the draft many will either say we got some great talent, or the completely disgruntled fans will complain about reaching for a guy a round early. The majority of cornbread fans will start to absorb all the ridiculous articles put out by Tom Killer Kowalski and actually believe he has a clue as to what he is talking about. Reports about QBs looking incredible in camp, rookies looking like they will be superstars, and the lines looking like they are on the same page. The hype machine perpetrated by the team to reporters that are too spineless to form their own opinions begins to captivate fans for the preseason.
3. Blind Optimism-Although the starters only play a couple series in these game we typically see a good showing from the offense. Maybe a little from the defense, but the offense almost always looks good. Fans have been blessed with a different offense about every 2 years so the excitement about seeing what the new scheme will be like is always ready for fans to jump back on the bandwagon if they hadn't already in the off-season. Surely this is going to be the year it clicks with the players we have because our coach in this 2nd or 3rd year (usually the year they get fired) has finally got "his guys" for "his system".
4. Pre-hysteria-Typically the Lions do well in the pre-season. They like to win those pre-season games and get everyone hyped up. Although the starters rarely play, we get to see our draft picks take the field for most of the game and fans automatically give them complete immunity. Any offensive skill player that was drafted is going to be a complete superstar after a good game. RB, WR, etc. Break a 40 yard run? Beast. Make a TD catch or a spectacular catch? Beast. Get a sack, or light someone up with a big hit? Beast.
First half of season
5. Complete Hysteria-After a successful pre-season and a winning record after the first 4 games typically, Lions fans have gone out of their minds with blind hysteria. Playoff talk starts. Super Bowl posts begin to show up. Lions fans believe that this team is great. Their defense has gotten some lucky bounces, and the offense is tearing up teams that just aren't into regular season form yet. The coach is a god.
6. Still Optimistic-At the midway point of the season we start to see what teams are for real. Well sort of. The Lions probably have a winning record, or are .500 at this point. Fans aren't as convinced that they are an elite team, but they are certainly a playoffs team only having to win 3-4 more games the rest of the way to make the playoffs. This is a no-brainer.
The Second Half of the Season
7. Worried-After a decent first half the Lions decide that winning is no longer an option although they are still mathematically eligible to make the playoffs. Fans are starting to not like the team as much as they did earlier. The felling of "here we go again" sinks in. The switch is about to be flipped.
8. Rage-Now the Lions are clearly not a playoff team. The hysteria, blind optimism, etc. has worn off. Fans have begun to start talking crazy in the complete opposite direction. Ford needs to sell the team. Fire the coach. We need a new QB. The defense is the worst in the league. We have no pass rush. We have no running game. The dream is over.
End of Season
9. Apathy-After watching the Liedowns suck it up over the last half most fans get to this point. After the fury of the lost season has worn off about Week 13, fans begin to just not care anymore. The adage "Same shit, different year" begins to be the primary focus. Many fans actually just watch the games to laugh at the horrible team. Since we no longer care, at least we can get a good chuckle every week watching them get destroyed by real teams. Capped off recently by a complete beat down at Lambeau Field to end the misery.
After all of that the emotional roller coaster start again as fans circle back around to stage 1. What a great thing it is being a Lions fan.