Wishing The Browns To Win: A Lions Fan

It is Week 11 in the NFL, and again, the Cleveland Browns have lost a match. It is the 14th consecutive game they’ve lost if you include last season, and their record currently stands at played eleven, lost eleven.

The Cleveland Browns are awful this year, and the odds are shortening on the team losing every single game. Browns fans are even planning a parade if they complete their winless season.

As a Detroit Lions fan, I’m worried about this whole thing.

If you didn’t know, in 2008 my beloved Detroit Lions became the first team to lose every single match in a 16 game season. We swiped the winless record from the ’76 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who also lost every game, but they were spared a couple of games, because back then, you only played 14 matches in a campaign.

Maybe Buccaneers fans felt the same, back in 2008, thinking ‘I quite liked being in the history books for something’. Of course, after such a disastrous season, the Lions head coach Rod Marinelli got the sack, and Tampa eventually won the Super Bowl, so they’ve got other things they can talk about.

Prior to the Lions’ washout, the 2007 Miami Dolphins went 1–15, so the ever-giving Detroit Lions made sure no-one talked about the Dolphins’ failure for too long. In 2009, the St Louis Rams won only one match in a whole season — who was that against? The Detroit Lions.

However, the Buccaneers, Rams, and Dolphins have been to, and won, Super Bowls. They’ve got championship rings. Their fans have had a night out, where they got staggeringly drunk while they lifted the Super Bowl trophy.

The Detroit Lions have never even been to a Super Bowl, even as the losing team. The last game of the season is pretty stress-free for a Lions fan, because we’re a special kind of rubbish. As a UK-based fan, when people talk to you about being a Lions fan, they almost look at you like you’ve just brought up a suppressed abuse memory. It’s fun, and the phrase ‘long suffering’ is never far away.

And here’s the thing — the Cleveland Browns are another team who have never been to a Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl era, the Lions have only won one playoff match, and that was 25 years ago. Both teams have won championships before the Super Bowl was created, but that is so long ago, it barely counts in 2016.

The Lions don’t have many entries in the history books, so each week, I find myself willing the Browns on to a win, and each week, I’m disappointed as they edge closer to Detroit’s special, if dubious, honour. At least the Lions have trained me well, when it comes to managing and maintaining feelings of being let-down.

Looking at the Browns schedule, I’m pinning all my hopes on the Browns hosting the Bengals. Not that the Bengals are a bad side, but rather, the match lands just after Cleveland’s bye-week, which hopefully means they’re rested and ready to win a game. Failing that, I’ll be hoping for a Christmas miracle as the Browns take on the Chargers, but if they’re still without a win by that point, you can imagine that their confidence will be so shot to shit, that they’ll basically offering themselves up as sacrifices to anyone who steps on the field with them.

At least the Browns fans might be getting first pick in the draft, as a result of all this, eh? We ended up with Matthew Stafford after 2008, and… erm… have been setting the NFL on fire ever since.

Browns fans might be getting a macabre pleasure out of all this, but the players won’t be feeling it. Former Lion, Drew Stanton has been asked about all this. Being part of the 2008 season for the Lions, he says: “I don’t wish that on anybody. The worst part about it was the offseason — I couldn’t tell people I played for the Lions.”

For players, it sounds like a horrible process to go through, with Stanton adding that he can’t think of “anything good from that season”, like someone who has been asked to remember an abusive relationship. However, Lions fans know that sport is pain. You’re not supposed to enjoy it wholesale. The Lions keep you grounded. They also like sneakily getting your hopes up, before taking a massive piss on them.

As such, the 0–16 season has become something of a badge of honour. Detroit — it can pretty much handle anything you throw at it. Sure, the city may suffer along with the football team, but everyone keeps grinding.

Besides, the problems with Detroit as a city shows you that there’s more to worry about than professional sports. Supporting the worst team in NFL history? It’s hilarious compared to real life problems that are found in Michigan. The Flint Water Crisis, the fall of the auto industry in Detroit and swathes of job losses, and Detroit becoming the kind of name that is used almost solely as a marker for bad things (like Chernobyl, or The Somme) — Lions fans prick the pretence of sports’ importance in the fabric of society.

Some pro-football fans think Lions supporters are trash, and that’s partly because we can laugh at being such a historically lousy franchise. I’ve spoken to some Lions die-hards who have been going to home games for decades who kinda hope we never win a Super Bowl, ever, just for the fun of it.

It’s easier to shout about being terrible, than mediocrity.

From tattoos, to daft t-shirts, and attendees of Ford Field referring to it as ‘the perfect season’, it’s clear that Lions fans excel in gallows humour as good as anyone on Earth. Of course, some won’t agree, but tough — you knew what you were signing up for when you decided to follow a team with our history.

The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the excuse of being an expansion team and, of course, the Browns were basically shipped off to Baltimore, and rebooted in 1998, and have struggled since. You can’t fight that kind of nonsense.

However, the Lions have a rich and proud history of being pretty shitty, and here we still are, with an average attendance at home games of over 60,000 people. We love football, we see it for what it is, we sing “Rah! Rah! Rah!” in the fight song, and sometimes we briefly get our hopes up, just to have them shat on by a last minute Hail Mary or somesuch. It’s the Lions way.

I feel for the Browns fans, but seriously, don’t you dare take our 0–16 record from us — it’s all we’ve got.

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