The Journey of the Detroit Lions Fan


Every now and again I like to put journalism to the side and just be myself, crazy Detroit Lions fan Mike Payton. Thinking about the 2015 season that’s right around the corner, I find it particularly hard to not be insanely exited about the Lions chances this year. I can’t help but look back at the journey that Lions fans and I have gone through to get to 2015. Today I want to jump into that a little. I’ll start with something that we all hate.

This was the number one song in America the last time the Lions beat the Packers in Wisconsin. I hate it, you hate it, we all hate it. The saddest thing is Macaulay Culkin is 35 years old now and I can honestly say I remember Home Alone more than I remember this game. I was six years old at the time and the only thing I cared about was listening to my MC Hammer cassette tape and pretending to be Isiah Thomas in my driveway.

It’s been a long journey to this 2015 match up. In that time, I’ve graduated from high school, went to college, lived in three different states, married my high school sweetheart and started covering the Lions. As I approach my 30th birthday which is conveniently the day before the Lions play the Packers in Green Bay, I can’t help but wonder if the football gods will give me a nice birthday present this year. Let’s all hope so, although I can’t help but think it will happen.

Your First Game

No matter how old or how young you are, there’s a very good chance you remember the first time you went to a Lions game. For me it was November 15th 1998. Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears at the Pontiac Silverdome. I vividly remember getting to Silverdome with my step-dad and walking through the parking lot full of tailgating fans. I remember some guy selling Lions towels and calling them cry towels. I remember being in absolute awe of how large the Silverdome was. Barry Sanders ran for 114 yards on 24 carries that day, but it was Full back Tommy Vardell that won the day by scoring three touchdowns. The Lions went on to win 26-3.

I was hooked from that point on and have had the pleasure of attending many more Lions games including the win over the Chargers in 2011 that clinched the teams first playoff spot in 10 years and the infamous Matthew Stafford sneak attack game against the Cowboys in 2013.

0-16 and everything that came with it

What a crazy time to be a Lions fan. The decade of despair gave Lions fans all the disappointment they could handle. Whether it was the 6-2 start that turned into 7-9 in 2007 or of course the 0-16 season of 2008, everyone was somber yet full of hope every football season.

I’ve tried to block out the 0-16 season from my memory, but I can’t help but remember the Lions getting dominated by the Titans on Thanksgiving day. That’s the only game I can’t get out of my mind. What did anyone expect was going to happen when the undefeated team faced the team that hadn’t won a game yet? I don’t think anyone thought that the Titans defensive coordinator at that game would be the Lions head coach the very next year.

This era also brought the Fire Millen movement. If you’re not a Lions fan, you can’t understand how big this was. It was actually kind of cool and cruel seeing fans unite to get a man fired. But it had to be done. What’s even crazier is that once Millen was dismissed, you would have thought it was the fall of the Berlin wall part 2 in Detroit.

I guess my invite for that funeral got lost in the mail. I’ll never forget my roommate banging on my door to wake me up in the morning to let me know Millen got fired. How can you forget that stuff.

Restore the Roar era

The Lions were all about changing the franchise after Millen was fired. Lions fans were left to wonder who would quarterback this team and more importantly, who would coach this team. The Lions didn’t have much luck in they’re search and let’s face it, Jim Schwartz walked into a situation that nobody wanted any part of. The Lions drafted Matthew Stafford and things didn’t look to promising right away as he dealt with injuries early in his career.

The Lions managed to fluke their way back into the playoffs in 2011 and muffed the rest of the Schwartz era by missing the playoffs the next two years. The one thing you have to agree on with Jim Schwartz is that he changed the culture of the Detroit Lions. In this time the Lions went from a team that was expected to lose, to a team that was expected to win. Granted they didn’t always get those expected wins which is kind of the foot note on Schwartz tenure in Detroit.

2015 and beyond

It’s a whole new world in Detroit these days. The Lions went through another culture change they may be the most important change this franchise has ever made. This team expects to win and expects to win now. They’ve changed the way they draft and develop talent, they’ve recently changed the way they spend their money and most importantly they changed their way of thinking all around.

The Lions are no longer the immature kids on the block that can’t stay out of trouble, their the adult version of that kid who now lectures inner city youth on the weekend and tells them how dumb their mistakes were. This team wants to win a championship and knows they can. You really get the sense that they aren’t just saying it anymore when you talk to them. They’re pissed off about last season and they hear everything that everyone is saying about them.

I’m not saying this team wins a Super Bowl this year, but I am saying if there were ever a season to make that happen, it’s 2015. How sweet would it be?

Mike Payton is an Editor at SideLion Report. He is from Holland, Michigan by way of Warren, Michigan. He considers himself to be obsessed with the Detroit Lions. Mike’s work has been featured on ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio and Mike is also a weekly contributor on It is what is with Sean Baligian on ESPN 96.1 and a contributor for The Holland Sentinel. Follow Mike Payton on Twitter@SLR_Mike

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