Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Detroit Lions.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
This is the Lions' year! Although they've said that every year since, what, 1950? Oh wait, it was 1957. I'm sorry that I besmirched your team. And if you're asking me why I'm already being so mean to the Lions, well, I'm a Bears fan, and I can't talk [stuff] about the Packers. The Lions are always our out -- the whipping boys for the NFC North.
Matthew Stafford is pretty good ...
As I mentioned in the Packers deal, only Green Bay is allowed to have great quarterbacks. But Matthew Stafforddoes deserve some praise. His best season came in 2011, when he threw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns. He had 4,967 the following year and has reached at least 4,000 passing yards in six consecutive seasons. I know 4,000-yard passing seasons are now as commonplace as "Fast and the Furious" movies, but that's still pretty impressive.
It's impossible to watch this video right here (jump to the four-minute mark) without Stafford becoming one of your favorite players in the league. He was a freaking rookie when this happened. Insane.
... But enjoy him now, because he's going to retire early
Stafford has played eight seasons -- which, for a Lions star, is like the equivalent of 20 years spent somewhere else, because Detroit's best seem to always retire early. Barry Sanders? Retired early. Megatron? Retired early. Mike Williams? Well, he was just bad at NFL football. But one of the most noted Lions traditions is having their best players retire early.
Don't ever talk about ...
Stafford was mic'd up in a playoff game at Dallas when the Cowboys were flagged for pass interference, but the flag was picked up. And yeah, I don't blame Stafford for being irate here. If the situations had been reversed, I'm certain it wouldn't have been overturned. So here we get to see Stafford keeping it at 100. And let's be honest, Stafford might be the best mic'd up player ever.
Also don't ever talk about ...
The bizarro perfect season
The Lions have the dubious distinction of doing something that no other NFL team has ever done. They've gone winless in a 16-game regular season. Let's call it the Bizarro Perfect Season. I mean, statistically, that's just as hard as it would be to win 16 games in a season. Not even last year's Cleveland Browns could go a whole season without at least winning one. So you know it's tough.
Yeah, it seems negative. But I'd own that if I were a Lions fan. In fact, I'd go so far as to have a banner for it and everything. Pop champagne when the last winless team each year wins a game. Make it an event.
The franchise's best
Barry Sanders. Duh. And to be a Lions fan means that you have to be on board with Barry Sanders being the best running back of all time.
There is a pretty healthy discussion about who should be considered the best. Walter Payton. Jim Brown. Barry. Emmitt Smith. Just kidding: Nobody puts Emmitt in this category. But the case for Sanders is pretty compelling. He led the NFL in rushing four times, including with 2,053 rushing yards in 1997. He was on the cusp of being the NFL's all-time leading rusher before his abrupt retirement.
Ah, enough with the words. Just watch the video:
I'm tempted to say Ndamukong Suh. He had 10 sacks during his first season to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. I mean, he was good. I don't want to take that away from him. But he was never the difference maker the Lions had envisioned. The only time I really saw Suh in the news was when he kicked somebody in the groin or stomped on some dude's leg. The Lions have never had a consistently great defense. Suh could have been one of the linchpins of a nasty Lions D year in and year out, but it never quite worked out. (Yeah, the unit was nice in 2014, but that was the aberration.) And new Lions guard T.J. Lang called Suh a "nut job" -- but only in a good way. So yes, I'll stick with it: Suh.
Not given enough credit
Megatron. Which seems ridic. But I'm serious. When Calvin Johnson retired, we got all of those thinkpieces about whether he was truly a Hall of Fame-caliber receiver and whatnot. Are you [expletive] kidding me? Megatron was one of the best receivers of his generation. He's a guy you talk about as an answer to the question, "Who's the No. 2 receiver in the modern era, behind Jerry Rice?"
His 2011 and 2012 seasons were Lion-gendary. (It's a thing, pass it on.) He had 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011, and then 1,964 yards the next year. That's right. Nearly 2,000 receiving yards.
You would look pretty great in a Herman Moore No. 84. He's one of the most overlooked superstar receivers of the 1990s. Moore had this stretch in the mid-1990s that was rather unbelievable, even by '90s standards. He led the NFL with 123 receptions for 1,686 yards and 14 touchdowns, which started a run of three seasons with at least 100 receptions.
These new uniforms are sweet
I love the new uniforms; the away uniforms are especially clean. The Lions had become a victim of that disturbing trend where teams added unnecessary black to their uniforms. I mean, stop with that garbage. Not every team needs a black version of its uniform. Nor does every team need a uniform with black accents. The Lions must have felt that extra black was going to make Joey Harrington better or something. Didn't work. But this look is great!
Closing fun fact
I grew up going to multipurpose stadiums (of which Oakland's current home is going to be the last), but the thought of the Lions playing in Tiger Stadium -- which the team called home from 1938 to 1974 -- is so dang cool. And the Pontiac Silverdome -- their home before moving into their current digs at Ford Field -- hosted WrestleMania III.
Here are some things to consider when you're picking a team. Will you be considered a bandwagon fan? Of the Lions? Absolutely not. Do they have a chance of winning, ever? This is the NFL. Everybody has a chance. And you do have Matthew Stafford -- I mean, before he retires early like other Lions greats. The color scheme is pretty cool, too. Which might be one of the lamest reasons to root for a team. Or is it one of the best?
But yeah, I'm coming up empty on this one. Because it's tough. Even my friend Goldbaum had a tough time when I asked him why the hell he was a Lions fan. He had no idea. One thing: With the Lions, you'll get a few years of suffering under your belt before you can become a full-fledged fan. I mean, you want to have to earn it. And the Lions are probably going to make you earn it. But it will be a fun ride.