SideLion reader interview: Detroit Lions fandom is like a Michigan highway

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: A Detroit Lions fan cheers during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 07: A Detroit Lions fan cheers during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

In an interview with SideLion Report reader James Rice, he shares his thoughts on the season, the history, and the potholes of his die-hard Detroit Lions fandom.

Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time at this site is probably familiar with James Rice by now. In my two and a half years writing all things Detroit Lions here, James has stood out as one of the most active members of this online community, chiming in on dozens of articles with insight and optimism.

For a while, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a reader interview format for one of my posts, so once I got around to it, James immediately came to mind as the first choice. Him being a Lions fan for over 50 years (probably closer to 60 if I do the math), I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to go beyond the comments section and have a full chat with Mr. Rice about the team, the regime, and his five-plus decades of fandom.

Here are some of the highlights from our recent conversation, which lasted over an hour and probably could have easily gone another two or three:

On Expectations vs Reality …

What were your expectations for the team at the very beginning of the season vs where they’re at right now?

James Rice: To be perfectly honest, I would’ve expected…I was hoping for ten wins. I really was. I still think they have a good chance.

Ten wins?

James: Ehh, I’m gonna have to tone that back a little. I think this was one tough schedule; six games against the NFC North (now 0-3 in them), and there’s no better defenses anywhere … except the way Detroit’s been playing.

It’s like, they’re going to compete until the end in every game but at some point…

James: I honestly still think nine wins is possible*, it’s whether they get that spark from somebody besides Stafford. You know, they expect it from Stafford. When he provides it, they expect it from him anyway, so I don’t think…

It can’t come from him.

James: Still, when people tell me this is the ‘Same Old Lions’ team…no it isn’t. It’s not. You can tell. And I can’t put my finger on something, I can’t give you the description of why the only thing I can do is tell you this is not the ‘Same Old Lions’. And I’ve got faith in them to pull something out of this season.

And having seen so many seasons, you’re as good of an authority as any to convince us of that.

James: (Laughter) Well, I’ve been wrong many times also!! I’m certainly not going to get into a fistfight or bet any money on it! (more laughing).

My Two Cents …

In the few weeks that passed since our conversation, the Lions’ season prospects took a clear and steep dive. At the very end of October, an optimist would say that they had weathered that month’s storm without capsizing and were in a position to make a move in November.

On the other hand, watching an inexcusably poor defense and a typically below-average run game through the first two months, plenty of others were starting to wonder whether yet another promising start to a Lions season was already sliding away.

Of course, then the Oakland game happened, delivering another gut punch on the final play. It didn’t even take another game day for the next blow, as we found out Saturday night that Stafford was injured (well, more injured), and the next morning may as well have been the official white flag to wave 2019 away.

*Interview took place before Matthew Stafford’s back injury.