Commiserating with Detroit Lions fans on long flight home: ‘I’m tired of being a Lions fan’

Detroit Free Press

DFW AIRPORT, Texas — The Delta terminal on Monday morning is like a therapist office for Detroit Lions fans, and the couch at Gate E17 in Dallas-Fort Worth’s International Airport was particularly full this week.

“I’m tired of being a Lions fan, I ain’t gonna lie,” one man in a gray Lions hoodie said to friends as he waited for his flight to Detroit. “This shit gets ridiculous.”

The Lions fell to 1-5 with Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, their third straight since seducing their fan base into believing something might be brewing this fall by splitting games against the Philadelphia Eagles (who are good) and Washington Commanders (who are not) to start the year.

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They have the worst record in the NFL, would own the first pick in the 2023 draft if the season stopped today, and still may occupy that spot two-and-a-half months from now when the regular season comes to its merciful end.

Yes, the Lions still have 11 games to play, but their season is over again before Halloween. Just four NFL teams that started 1-5 have made the playoffs since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970: The 2020 Washington Football Team that finished 7-9; the 2018 Indianapolis Colts with Andrew Luck at quarterback, the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals.

For the Lions, neither Luck nor luck is walking through that door.

On Sunday, the Lions played one half of smart, fundamentally sound football against the best defensive team in the NFL. They led, 6-3, when they left the locker room for the start of the second half, then saw their wheels come predictably off.

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Jared Goff threw an interception on the third play of the third quarter. Jamaal Williams lost a fumble on the goal line to start the fourth. Goff followed with another interception and two lost fumbles. And Dak Prescott took two kneel-down snaps in his return from thumb surgery to end the game.

It was an avalanche of turnovers and an embarrassing ending that Lions fans were still living down Monday morning.

As I boarded my 7:35 a.m. flight to Detroit, a pilot standing on the jet bridge said to one Honolulu blue-clad fan in front of me, “Sorry you got to lick your wounds and head back home.”

On the plane, fans spent the boarding process commiserating with each other across the aisle.

“They need a quarterback,” one fan said loud enough for the plane to hear.

“They need a lot,” said another.

“Reality is starting to set in about this year.”

One man feigned a “Let’s Go Lions” chant that was met with the kind ofself-deprecating laughter only Lions fans can appreciate.

Ron Crachiola, the Lions superfan better known as “Crackman,” watched Sunday’s game with a Cowboys super fan from near the end zone where Williams fumbled. When he left the stadium, Crachiola told me Monday that Cowboys fans consoled him by telling him how hard the Lions played.

He knew they meant well, but even one of the most fervent Lions fans on the planet said he wished he didn’t have to settle for the kind of backhanded compliment typically reserved for your kid’s undersized rec league team anymore.

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“There won’t be no singing on the way home,” Crachiola said aloud as I approached him on the plane.

As bad as they’ve been this season, the Lions almost certainly have more wins in them down the stretch. The have two games left against a bad Green Bay Packers team, two against a worse Chicago Bears team, and games against the lowly Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars still on their schedule.

They’ll stack a few hollow victories together, probably mix in an upset or two, and likely head into the offseason feeling optimistic enough about how some of their young nucleus is playing to take the sting off winning too many games to have a chance at Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Crimson Tide pass rusher Will Anderson in April’s draft.

Then, next season will roll around and they’ll spin their wheels again.

Lions coach Dan Campbell said Sunday he was “frustrated” by all the losing the team has endured under his command — he’s 4-18-1 as Lions coach — but still optimistic about where things are headed and some of what his players did on the field.

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“You don’t like to lose games, but I’m not down and I’m not losing confidence,” Campbell said. “I’m not going to go hide in a corner. That’s not what I’m about cause I know you change a couple of things, man, you take care of the football, you play your game plan the way you should and all of a sudden you win.”

That’s the devil of the NFL, a league built to keep hope flickering even when only a select few really have a chance.

As I made my way to the back of the plane Monday, after that half-hearted “Let’s Go Lions” chant died a quick death, even the die-hards who made it to Dallas seemed to take solace in having figured that out.

“We at least scored in this one,” one fan joked.

“Keep drinking it,” another replied. “It taste good.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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