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The Lions, the refs, the haters, and our mental health

This past Monday, my 30th birthday and the day the Detroit Lions were stripped of a deserved win against the Green Bay Packers on a national stage, a critical behavioral health study was released by the University of Houston. The study, led by professor of clinical psychology, Matthew Gallagher, found that the emotion known as hope is the key factor in the recovery from anxiety and mood disorders.

By definition, hope is described as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen or occur. Expectation. Desire. Such fragile words that many Lions fans know little to do with.

Hope, though, we always come back to.

The Lions this season can pretty perfectly be described as such: a talented and burgeoning group of players and coaches being torn from the inside out by the angst and pressure to reverse the damage done to a city and franchise that’s known exclusively for losing.

And if an order like that wasn’t tall enough, based on incident time and again, there seems to be a clear bias from NFL officials whom with the flick of their wrist, will throw an undeserving yellow flag to launch a thing called hope right back to where it came from.

The Lions’ enigma with poor officiating can only be described as the professional sports form of workplace discrimination.

NFL refs see the leaping Lions logo on those silver helmets, and it’s like they can’t help themselves in playing a part in our failures. To be fair, officiating has been a league-wide issue the past few seasons, but the Lions, in particular, are a target they love to aim for. Especially in big moments that can change the discourse and narrative that the Lions and their fans want so much to rid themselves of.

Another factor that goes into all of this: the haters. The people who recline in the seats of our dispair. Some of them non-Lions fans (think of a significant voice and Lions-antagonizer on Detroit sports radio) who empower themselves in our struggle and love to remind us the total falsity that it’ll always be this way no matter what. These are mostly pests whose opinions rarely matter.

The other group of haters can be more damaging and actually hails from within.

Self-proclaimed Lions fans (or former Lions fans) who are so poisoned emotionally by letdown after letdown that they’d rather wallow in negative rebellion of the franchise then support it forward. The now infamous slogan “Same Old Lions” is as much indictive to these types of fans as it is to the actual team.

You will find them in the comments to this article on Facebook dissenting every word of this column. To them, there is no moving forward. There is no hope. There’s just a team that will always be bad because that’s who the team is. This makes for a profound split in the fabric of the Detroit Lions culture between loyalty and reluctance.

There can be no doubt that being a pure Lions fan goes beyond casual support and becomes a trigger for our mental health. You can say it’s not all that serious all you’d like, but the desire to win has to bear on the anxieties of our fan base. Several Lions fans I know have told me how, after the game Monday night, they sat in an anguish that followed into the rest of the week. Fandom is apart of who we are and this is what it does to us.

So, as Lions fans, how do we continue to find hope? How do we stay sane and continue to support?

Answer: We embrace it. We don’t fear it. The Detroit Lions are not cursed, and the team can win because they are talented and want it. The bad officiating will go away. The Lions will win the North. They will be champions one day. We all will.

Because we already are.

 

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