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Don’t stop believing Lions fans

The waiting is the hardest part.

At least that’s what the late Tom Petty told us.

This is especially true during Christmas season as you have to sit and wait until Christmas Eve to even have a chance to open your gifts, wondering what might be underneath all that wrapping paper.

But at what point do you give up on the waiting and take a peek, or just ask someone what they gave you and ruin the surprise?

So that got me to thinking. Would you ever get so fed up with waiting that you would give up on your favorite team? Is there a point where you would get so disgusted with its performance that you decide to throw in the towel? Would the heartbreak ever become too much to bear that you’d even consider switching your allegiance to another team, perhaps even a rival franchise?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering for awhile. In August, it was mentioned on the ESPN-UP SportsPen that a New York Knicks fan had become so disgusted with his favorite squad that he auctioned off his fandom online. It netted him $3,450 to become a Los Angeles Lakers fan.

At the time, former SportsPen host Blake Froling and I asked people what they thought of that idea, and if they’d ever consider doing it. However, we never heard any responses, so the question was never answered.

Still, though, the question lingered in my mind and it came to the surface again after reading a column by the Detroit Free Press’ Jeff Seidel. In the column, he pleads with Lions fans to save their children from any future misery by shielding them from the franchise that has dispensed so much pain upon its long-suffering fans.

Seidel describes being a Lions fan as “an illness that can’t be cured” and goes on to write about the terrible health side effects of loving that team. Seidel said that the symptoms of the “illness” can “morph and change” into things like delusion and hope. He even said that NBA star Steph Curry is more likely to “land on the moon” than the Lions making the playoffs this year. Place your bets now, folks!

He then mentions how he saw a man and a boy holding hands while wearing Lions jerseys as they walked toward Ford Field. Seidel treats the man like a deranged parent who willingly let his child become infected with Lions fandom, or even encouraged it. Have you no decency, sir?!

Seidel adds that kids have many options these days and that people should push them to other fandoms. He suggested buying a Rams jersey, a team that has abandoned two cities.

Or even a Browns jersey because although Cleveland’s fanbase is just as beaten down as Detroit’s, quarterback Baker Mayfield at least is exciting.

No he’s not Jeff. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes is exciting and even that might be a bit of a stretch.

He wraps it all up by asking Detroit fans to “save the children” and keep them from embracing Lions fandom. Um, when was the last time you’ve seen a kid listen to a parents’ advice?

Watching Seidel practically get on his knees and plead with Lions fans to keep the Lions away from future generations is sad to watch, because there’s a man who has given up. He’s like a married guy who desperately wants to get a divorce, but can’t bring himself to file the paperwork, so he perpetually sits in misery and dispenses advice like “Don’t be like me kids” at weddings. That’s a tough way to live, Jeff. I wish you luck.

Being a fan of a team that will rip your heart out on a fairly regular basis can be brutal and I understand the pain of Lions fans. Why? Because I’m a Chicago Cubs fan and have been for years. I endured lots of pain during that time before the sun came out shining.

They failed in the NLCS in 1989 when I was 5 years old (they got eliminated by San Francisco when I was mini-golfing with my dad in Texas. Another good bonding moment between father and son), got bounced early in the 1998 playoffs and were on the cusp of making the World Series in 2003, there was the infamous Steve Bartman incident, the Alex Gonzalez error and what followed as the massive collapse against the Marlins.

Yet, despite all that pain, I believed in the Cubs. Growing up a Minnesotan, I’ll admit that I wasn’t a complete fan of all the Minnesota franchises until I got to college, which I imagine pained my dad. You can’t blame me completely, though.

Most of the time when I was young, all the Minnesota teams were awful. The Twins lost almost all the games I attended, my first Vikings game involved a fumbled punt in overtime leading to the winning field goal, the Timberwolves took until I was in high school to become good and the North Stars left town.

However, I eventually came back and hitched myself to the Minnesota pain train, which gets derailed on time every season.

But here’s the thing, I keep coming back to all those teams. Even though my heart would get ripped out and stomped on, I’d search for a defibrillator, charge it up, shock it back to life and sew it back into my chest.

Why? Because I believe that things will get better in sports. The feeling I had when the Cubs finally won the World Series is hard to describe even two years later, though I’ve tried to do so in a couple columns. After all those stabs to my chest that the Cubs gave me over the years, it somehow made that championship that much more special. It’s weird, but the suffering is worth it in the end.

So Lions fans — and other fans of long-suffering teams — keep hope alive and instead of listening to Seidel, let your kids decide for themselves. If they want to wear a Lions jersey, let them. If they don’t, that’s fine, too. Just let them be happy with their choice and let them be who they are.

Sometimes bonding with a parent or relative is more important than winning. After all, misery loves company. If they do stray from your team, who knows? They might come back like I did. Like a confused prodigal son or daughter.

Like I said, it’s Christmastime. The odds may not be in your team’s favor and they might never be, but deep down, you know in your heart that good things are going to happen someday. Even if your brain tries to tell you otherwise.

Trust me. One day, you’ll wake up after a championship and it’ll feel like you opened a huge present, making it all worthwhile.

Why? Because you fought through the waiting period. And that’s always the hardest part.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.