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HomeBuisnessDetroit Lions fans talk about a team and a city rising from...

Detroit Lions fans talk about a team and a city rising from the ashes Pi News

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Detroit Lions fans have suffered for years. Now they are one of the most noteworthy teams in the NFL.

Despite their 34-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, their success has stunned the city and new fans have flocked to their ranks.

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“I’m speechless; I don’t even know what to say about it,” said Darius Ashley before the game. “It’s amazing; it’s a huge event for the city. Once we get to the Super Bowl, I think the city will shut down and we’ll be partying for weeks.”

A tall boy in two gray shirts and a black hat is standing next to his mother in a blue hat and blue shirt
Bruce and Darice Ashley have become Detroit Lions fans since the beginning of this season. The Ashleys, who moved to Detroit from San Diego seven years ago, were initially ridiculed for choosing to root for the Lions. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Ashley and her son Bruce have lived in Detroit for seven years, moving there from San Diego. Although they did not embrace the team until the beginning of this season.

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“Everybody said, ‘You’re stupid; this team is bad. I don’t know why you follow them,” Ashley said. “I’m from Michigan now, so I’m a Detroit Lions fan. They said, “You will lose.”

“But look at us now.”

But when you ask the fans who have supported the team through many obstacles in its history, it means more.

“You hear people say, ‘Those old Lions,'” said Aundrea Birch, who has supported the team since moving to Detroit in 1988, before the game.

“It’s not ‘the same old Lions.’ It’s a tough team and it’s a tough town. We need that for the town.”

Couple wearing blue sports jerseys and blue and white face paint under black jackets
Edward and Aundrea Birch have been Detroit Lions fans for many years. Aundrea said this Lions team is different from previous unsuccessful teams. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

When you consider what Detroit has been through over the past 16 years, it’s no wonder he feels that way.

The auto industry crashed in 2008, with Detroit’s Big Three suffering massive losses. That year, the Lions became the first team to lose 16 games in a season.

The team came up three more games short of the NFL playoffs before this season’s deep run, losing in the first week of the postseason in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

Meanwhile, the city filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history in 2013.

It was low enough to reach the city.

Ultimately, Detroit will rise from the ashes and investment will breathe new life into the city and its residents.

But as the city rebounded, the Lions continued to flounder.

Between the 2016 playoff appearance and the start of the 2021 season, when Dan Campbell was hired as the team’s head coach, the Lions failed to make the playoffs until this season, with an overall record of 23-40-1.

But none of that matters if you ask lifelong fan Dino Piccinini.

“History is meaningless,” he said before the game.

“It’s a new team, it’s a new era. Great coaching, great new players, it’s time.”

Fans hold up signs
Detroit Lions fans before the 2024 NFC wild card game against the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field. (David Reginek/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters Connect)

Indeed, Campbell’s arrival was the beginning of a cultural shift.

The Lions suddenly became a tougher, rougher team. In Campbell’s first season at the helm, they went 3-13-1, but posted a 9-8 record in 2022, just missing the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks.

This year they won the NFC North Division with a 12-5 record and came within three points of going to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

“People have been dreaming about this for a lifetime,” Birch said before the game.

“We’re just at the tipping point and it could happen.”

Before the game, Birch said the Super Bowl win would be a long-standing tribute to the city, which her husband, Edward, said the 2024 NFL draft will be held in Detroit means Detroit is becoming a football hotbed.

But even though the Lions didn’t make it to the Super Bowl this year, their fans remain the same.

Three women wearing blue sports memorabilia and a woman on the right wearing a blue afro wig
Haley Reed, Jaeda Young and Dee Evans, left to right, have been supporting the Detroit Lions for years. Evans said Detroit sports teams always support their fans, regardless of how their teams play. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

“Win or lose, Detroit has the best fans,” said Dee Evans, who has been pregame for the past 10 years. “Whether their teams win or lose, their fans support them.

“This is the heart of Detroit.”

#AllGrit indeed.

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