I’m John Wallace-Howell, a 31-year-old charity worker from Swindon, now living in Birmingham. I’m excited to write for ROTL UK and this, somehow, is how I became a Detroit Lions fan.
It’s October 26th, 2014. I am in Rwanda, following the NFL.com online text as the Lions beat the Atlanta Falcons in London on a walk-off field goal. I know that I have found my NFL team.
I'd had a rough couple of years between late 2008 and late 2010. I won’t bore you with the details, but several sad and tragic events occurred that culminated the in death of my sister in May 2010, and the sudden death of my mum in November 2010; I was devastated.
Come late-Oct 2014, I was in a completely different place. I'd just completed an internship I’d loved. I'd met a wonderful woman (who is now my wife). I was in the middle of a brilliant 10-week volunteer placement leading a team of British and local Rwandan volunteers. I'd found a city to call home. Things were looking up for the first time in years.
One of the people I was volunteering with was a Denver Broncos fan and he helped me discover the NFL. But what team should I support? I knew I wanted an East Coast team- the time difference is easier! I've always loved lions, the colour blue, and they have a player nicknamed Megatron? Sign me up! These things led me to the Lions, but they’re not the reason I stayed and found a home.
The reason I found a home is that Lions fans were in a similar emotional place to me. After years of misery and failure, the Lions were contending for the division title. Everything felt possible that season and vibrant optimism was coursing through the Lions communities I found. I instantly felt at home in a community of fans battered by defeat but now united by hope. Hope that the long winter of pain and sporting futility would soon end. Hope that we were on the cusp of a new beginning.
I don’t know when we’ll finally win an NFC North title. I don’t know if Campbell and Holmes can lead us to the promised land. I don’t know when Lions fans will stop mentioning that we drafted Eric Ebron ahead of Aaron Donald.
But I do know that the day when we finally win a Super Bowl will be the sweetest day. A day when we can all finally leave winter behind us, and celebrate together in the warmth of spring.
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