Finally, something to celebrate: Detroit Lions fans only 11th among whiniest NFL fan bases

Detroit Free Press

Still weary from the consecutive timeout penalty? Or the draw plays on second-and-long? Or the third-and-4 defense with a defensive back 7 yards off the receiver?

No?

Good for you. The turkey did its job.

If you’re wondering, mine was roasted and smoked. Not the same turkey, but one roasted and one smoked. Don’t worry, I didn’t cook. I was at the Detroit Lions game. The host of the gathering did all the work. I’m still enjoying my brother’s effort and will indulge in turkey for the third time in two days when this column is finished.

So, anyway, the Lions, and their loss to the Bears, and Dan Campbell’s shaky game management down the stretch, and questionable play-calling throughout, and the frustration so many felt watching not just another loss — they are 0-10-1; who is counting? — but a recent pattern of coaching decisions that suggest Campbell’s learning curve is as steep as it is for his rookie linemen.

This is disconcerting. It’s also early. Campbell hasn’t had a full season yet.

Besides, there is turkey left, and probably dressing, and maybe mashed potatoes and gravy and, if you’re especially lucky, macaroni and cheese and cranberry salad.

Dig in then. You’ll thank yourself for the diversion.

[ Why the Lions’ chances of winning don’t look good over final 6 games ]

When you do, ponder this: While the Lions may have the worst team in the NFL and possibly the worst franchise in the league the last several decades, you — YOU — are part of a fan base that ranks 11th on the complaining scale.

In other words, history gives you every reason to be the most miserable fan in America. Yet you are not, at least according to a survey that ranks fan bases by whining.

The website mibets.com conducted a survey wherein 2,000 NFL fans were questioned to find out which team had the biggest complainers. So, take this with a grain of salt.

Still, let’s just say for argument that Lions fans aren’t the whiniest group in the country. Isn’t that reason to be thankful? Even prideful?

All you had to do was look at Ford Field on Thursday. It was nearly full. True, some seats were occupied by Chicago Bears’ fans. But most seats were filled by people supporting the hometown team.

Which leads me to the No. 1 complaint I hear. And that is: Why do fans keep going to games?

Usually, this complaint comes from other Lions fans, who think no-shows are the surest way to get the Ford family to sell or to bring on some other kind of change. Such revolutionary talk is understandable, and it sounds good on talk radio or in an email.

MORE FROM WINDSOR: Forget another Lions loss, Dan Campbell is losing the benefit of the doubt

And if you’re at your wit’s end — and I’m guessing you are after the Thanksgiving debacle — then the thought of a boycott helps alleviate frustration. Yet such nuance wasn’t reflected in the survey. Though don’t blame the surveyors.

How could they know Lions fans occasionally turn on each other? How could they understand the combination of resentment, malaise and hope that fights within the Lions fan’s subconscious?

They couldn’t.

Instead, the survey ranked complaints based on more common fan frustrations:  the refs or the quarterback or the coach.

According to the survey, Lions fans are most likely to complain about their coach. (Thanksgiving would be exhibit A.) After that? They gripe about bad calls.

Obviously, almost every fan base complains about their coach at some point during their fandom. Not everyone gets Bill Belichick, though it shouldn’t be surprising that the survey ranked New England as having the second-most whiny fan base in the league.

The first?

The Dallas Cowboys, of course. A franchise that has an outsized opinion of itself, a fan base that likes itself even more than that. I can say this because I’m kind of a Texan, and my father was (wholly) a Texan, as was my grandfather.

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It’s also true that once a fan base has success, it gets used to that success. This explains New England, where six Super Bowls in less than 20 years aren’t enough.

Which is to say that entitlement can make for a whiny fan. Think: Alabama. (I’m part Alabaman, too.)

Around here, the expectation is there is no expectation. There is hope, sure. But that’s different. Hope doesn’t lead to complaining. It leads to supporting and filling a stadium year after year despite all the losing.

I’d call that mental fortitude. No wonder Lions fans only ranked 11th despite the franchise’s soggy modern history.

For while the loss to Chicago on Thursday may be seen as embarrassing, especially for NFL fans around the country, for Lions fans it felt almost inevitable. And resignation doesn’t lead to complaining much, either.

So, pat yourself on the back for not being the biggest complainers in the NFL. And for showing up to love a team that hasn’t loved you back in 60 years.

That’s what the region showed the country on Thanksgiving: Lions fans are true believers. You don’t need a survey to confirm it.

Contact Shawn Windsor: swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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