By Jackie Walsh
LOS ANGELES — The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are not the only two teams in the Super Bowl LVI discussion, with the “Detroit Rams” also in the mix.
A fictional franchise rooted in Detroit’s connection to Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was selected by the Lions with the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, gives their fans a part in Super Bowl Sunday. Newly initiated fans can even buy “Detroit Rams” gear in merchandise stores in Michigan.
According to Pro Shop Zone owner John Yu, the “Detroit Rams” shirts sold out within a few days in his store.
With a Super Bowl appearance in Stafford’s first year in Los Angeles, it is easy to imagine a fractured relationship between him and Lions fans.
Stafford stayed with the team until January 2021, when he was traded to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff and draft picks. In his 12 years with the team, Stafford never won a playoff game.
Stafford’s appreciation for his time with the Lions while on his Super Bowl run has maintained his connection with Lions fans.
“As far as what Detroit fans are, they were extremely loyal,” Stafford said. “Not only when the times were good, but when we weren’t winning football games. There seems to be a soft spot for our family (in Detroit).”
This soft spot has transformed into a new quasi-Rams fan base as Lions fans in LA pivot their allegiance.
Patrick Devine, a lifelong Detroit fan who relocated to LA, is rooting for Stafford in the Super Bowl, though somewhat hesitantly. According to Devine, the woes of supporting a losing Lions franchise has made supporting the “Detroit Rams” enticing.
“I think Lions fans feel sorry for the good, talented players that they bring in,” Devine said. “They waste their careers in Detroit. But Stafford escaped.”
Although Devine said this is not the Stafford Super Bowl appearance he imagined, he is happy to be part of the success in some way.
“This is the closest Lions fans will ever get to the Super Bowl,” Devine said. “Good for Stafford.”
Mary Zimmerman, a Rams fan and LA native, said she admired Stafford’s humility from a distance when he was with the Lions and appreciates how it has translated, even with his success with the Rams.
“It doesn’t seem like he has changed much since becoming a Ram,” Zimmerman said. “I think that is why his fan base is so big.”
As Stafford embarks on his first Super Bowl game, he feels the support from fans in LA and Detroit, whether they are in royal blue Rams gear, Honolulu blue Lions attire or the hybrid “Detroit Rams” T-shirts.
“To have their support playing for a team in the same conference, that is pretty special,” Stafford said.
Jackie Walsh is a sports media graduate student at Medill.