The Borderless Bonfire

>> 4.08.2010

When I started The Lions in Winter, I had three goals.  In no particular order, they were: to rekindle my love affair with the written word, to harness the hours I waste on football Internetting and create something worthwhile, and to build a place where loyal Lions fans from every walk of life can gather, share, and talk football without shame.  On the way, I hoped to discover exactly what it is about sports, what it is about fandom, that keeps us coming back for more, over and over and over.

From the very beginning, I've received a lot of traffic from non-American visitors.  Most come from our fair neighbor to the North (or East, or South, depending on where in Michigan you start from, and where in Canada you finish), but I also have frequent visitors from Sweden, Australia, Germany, France, China, Finland, Afghanistan, Chile . . . at least a visit or two every month from nearly every industrialized nation.

Last night, I noticed some traffic from an odd link: I followed it to a Japanese Lions blog! To my astonishment, the site is a true Detroit Lions weblog; frequently updated with legit, up-to-the-minute analysis—and it’s well-read, with active commenters. With a little help from an old friend, the Babelfish translator, I read the site's "about me"-type-section:

This [burogu] NFL (national [hutsutoborurigu]) is Detroit Lions [huanburogu].  Basically to the last in the negative, it is the intention in addition of having supported cynically, but way there are also times when excessive expectation starts overflowing. 拙 To be, doing the meaning of the local media by English ability, because it increases, please and so on be wrong and pardon please.

Wow. "Basically to the last in the negative, it is the intention in addition of having supported cynically, but way there are also times when excessive expectation starts overflowing."  That pretty much nails it right there, doesn't it?  Despite our jaded, cynical feelings from years of futility, every summer we overflow with excessive expectations.

This author reads all of the Detroit beat writers, same as we do, and blogs about everything that's happening, same as we do. Despite thousands of miles, and a yawning chasm of a culture gap, in between us, the author and his readers are right on top of all the latest info. The title of the site is awesome, too: "Roar of the Lion - Detroit Lions Fanblog: NFL Detroit Lions the Page Which is Supported Selfishly From the Far East." The latest post discusses the details of the Rob Sims trade:

As for [shimuzu] with the Ohio state Ooide body 26 years old of 4th year. In 4 years it started in advance in the total 34 tournament, but HC of [shihokusu] alternates to the peat carol, it was seen that by the fact that in zone block it becomes modification it is outside war potential.

The translator really struggles with some of this, but you get the gist: Sims has started 34 games in his first four years--but with the head coach of the Seahawks now being Pete Carroll, the switch to the zone blocking scheme is outside of Sims' war potential.

"War potential." I like it.

The author goes on to note that the Lions are in position to take the best player available at the 1.2 spot:

Lions at 2 rank becomes to designate who among 3 of sou, [matsukoi] and [okun] with BPA, probably will be? After don't you think? it becomes that leader position has appraised who high. Probability of [okun] went down extremely.

Right!  It comes down to Suh, McCoy, or Okung, and the Lions will take the one who they consider the best available--and by swinging a trade for a young veteran left guard, the probability that the Lions take Okung has gone down extremely.

I frequently receive email from displaced Lions fans, folks who’ve moved to Minnesota or California or wherever.  I love that the Internet keeps them informed, and connected to the fan community, like they never left.  Sometimes I even talk to folks across the country who decided to root for the Lions because of Barry, because their team moved, or because they just want to see perennial losers turn it around.

I knew that the NFL’s European league had turned a lot of folks over there on to “gridiron”, as they call it.  I further knew, from watching the last World Cup of American Football, that football is a popular high school sport in Japan, and has been since the war.  However, it didn’t click with me that all those overseas football fans could pick a team, and as long as they understand English, follow those teams like a native.

It’s fascinating to me.  I follow the Lions because I can’t not; it’s something I’ve done my whole life, almost instinctually.  I literally cannot remember a time when I was not a huge Lions fan.  Like many, if I didn’t have a lifetime of personal identity and childhood memories wrapped up in this team, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to keep following them throughout the past decade.

This cuts to the very heart of what I’m trying to understand.  How could someone could reach adulthood, then choose to follow the Lions—of all teams!—the way I do?  How could someone from an entirely different nation, entirely different culture, choose the Lions to cheer for, and then wrap themselves up in it as if they were born to it?

I don’t know—but I think it’s really, really, really cool.

To that end, I've included a little widget over on the right sidebar for our international Lions-fan brothers and sisters:

Though our friends at Roar of the Lion - Detroit Lions Fanblog understand English perfectly well, I hope the Babelfish will allow everyone else—wherever they may be—to be part of the international Lions fan community. So: no matter how far the journey, no matter what your native tongue, come on over.  I’ve got plenty of hot cider, and plenty of room around the Honolulu Blue bonfire.  Sit alongside the rest of us, folks, and take off your coat.  Warm your hands, warm your hearts, share your stories, and root for the Detroit Lions right along with everyone else.

Technorati Tags: nfl,detroit lions,blogging,japan,football,american football


Rob Davies,  April 8, 2010 at 12:34 PM  

Excellent piece, Ty. I lived in Japan on and off for six years, and never realized there was anything other than baseball for the average, internationally inclined Japanese fan (read "The Chrysanthemum and the Bat," by Robert Whiting -- a real eye-opener, even thirty years later). Japanese people have interesting, even bizarre attachments to things American, and for lots of reasons (witness the naming convention of cars, such as the old Nissan 280Z, which in Japan was called the "Fairlady"). They connect with the appearance of English script and characters, as well as logos and colors. But that doesn't explain their dedication and willingness to become full-throttle fans, particularly of the Lions. Something else at work here -- this bears investigation...

A Lion in ViQueen territory,  April 8, 2010 at 1:08 PM  

Dang cat. I can't wait till you write for ESPN.

Brothers in Blue.

Hyperion Ecta,  April 8, 2010 at 9:14 PM  

The Japanese are definitely sport lovers, and it's just awesome to know that there are fans like me who have thousands of kilometres between them and the team they love. The internet makes the world that much more reachable.

Ty,  April 9, 2010 at 11:12 AM  


And of course, the feeling is reciprocal! I have often groused that when I in high school, "the Anime Club" meant a handful of antisocial losers who traded dubbed VHS tapes, not a school-sanctioned student group with racks and racks of quality DVDs at their disposal.

In college, I met a girl who'd been to Japan, and she showed me a picture of the upscale coffeeshop near where she stayed. It was called (in English) "THE DORF HOUSE", and the owner thought the name RADIATED quality and excellence.

Honestly, I suspect there's a degree of irony involved here, as in, "let's all root for the crappiest team ever". But hey--I'll take it. If they're dedicated enough to be blogging about the Rob Sims trade, the Ashlee Palmer signing, and the significance of the Silverdome auction, they're dedicated enough for me!


Ty,  April 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM  



I don't know if I could ever pursue this as a career; if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that as soon as I HAVE to do something I like to do, I don't like to do it anymore. I failed lot of college classes in things I LIKED (e.g., Japanese) because I didn't wanna HAFTA.

I have a 'day job' that I really like, and that treats me well--and in this state, in this economy, that makes me damned lucky.


Ty,  April 9, 2010 at 11:18 AM  

Hyperion Ecta--

Exactly! It's amazing how small the world is these days. Sometimes, it's a little TOO small.


Scotty,  April 10, 2010 at 5:25 AM  

I'm a New Zealander who moved to Midland, MI in early 1992, from England in my late twenties.
Didn't know much about the game; I remember watching the Superbowl while still in England.
The Redskins vs The Buffalo Bills.
It sounded like The Potato Skins vs The Buffalo Wings.
Once in Midland I decided I'd watch the local team and learn the game. My buddy told me if Barry Sanders had been an All Black, he'd be the best All Black of all time, which impressed me.
Years later I told my brother the same thing when I visited NZ, and gave him a #20 Lions jersey.

Well, I moved away from MI in 1996, and since then I've followed many teams. I was in Memphis when Tennessee got a team, in Colorado when John Elway won his superbowls, in Baltimore for theirs, and lived a lot in DC and followed the Redskins.
I'm now back in Australia, and following the team that started it all for me, the Lions.
So I came to NFL football as an adult, but I think the warm feelings I have for the game and the Lions team are similar, if not as deeply-rooted, as that of lifetime followers.

Anonymous,  April 11, 2010 at 10:56 PM  

Nice to meet you. I am a Japanese fan of Detroit Lions and Detroit Tigers.
And I always love reading "Japanese Lions blog",
which was introduced this time. I am very glad to have your blog introduce it. Thank you.

By the way, in the Japanese language, we pronounce the title of this blog "shi shi ku", then "shi shi" means "lion", and "ku" means "roar".
In other words three meanings are included in a title of this blog.
1.According to the meaning of the ideograph "The Roar of Lion".
2.As Mr. Ty was introduced, " Eloquent Speech " as an idiomatic phrase.
3.By the direction for uses of the Buddhism term, there is the meaning of " Buddha's preaching ", too.

Mr. Tyuru who is Author of this Japanese blog is a very earnest person.
On next Saturday, MOCK DRAFT which he planned is going to be performed.
Fans and the blogger of each NFL team living in Japan are going to participate.
It is epoch-making MOCK DRAFT which made full use of twitter and a chat. It is possible even to trade each picks.

Finally, I am sorry . Because I wrote this comment that is hard to read. So I am poorer at English than Mr. Tyuru.

Ty,  April 12, 2010 at 3:13 PM  


Wow, what an awesome story; thanks for sharing! It's tough, of course, because I've been around these ol' Interwebs long enough to know that every fan base thinks it's special. Every team's fans think that THEY'RE the most loyal, that THEY'RE the most passionate, that THEIR TEAM has put them through the wringer the most, and on and on and on.

However, I'm really starting to think there's something different about rooting for the Lions. It's not maniacal life-and-death insanity like SEC football, but there's something about the team, and the city, that draws people in and keeps them close. I don't know if it's the "lovable loser" status, the glorious past, the classic logo and colors, or the increasingly-mythic power of Barry, but there is SOMETHING special about being a fan of this team.

I am both happy, and sad for you, that it got you too. ;)


Ty,  April 13, 2010 at 10:14 AM  


Nice to meet you, too!

I'm sorry I misunderstood the blog title; I'll correct that in my post above.

I have been following Roar of the Lion with a translator, and I saw that Mr. Tyuru is putting together that mock draft. I've been really interested to see how it turns out!

Finally, your English is just fine; I was able to understand it without any problem. As I told Mr. Tyuru, I failed in my study of the Japanese language in college, so I deeply respect anyone who can read and write fluently in another language!


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