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Every Sunday after church, Ron "Crackman" Carchiola switches out of his clothes and into overall shorts, a hardhat, argyle socks and work boots. He hops into his truck (decked out in Lions logos) or his new 14-seater minibus and heads to root for his city.
How did you fall in love with your team? What is your first memory around your NFL team?
I was born close to Detroit and raised in a small town in Utica, Michigan, just north of here. It's a farming community. There's only one football team in the state. As a young lad, I can remember being home and my dad throwing shoes at the TV while watching the Lions play football. At around 15 years old he took me to my first game. I got to hang around with him and his buddies. Just seeing all the fans, the looks on their faces, even being in the city was a big deal for me back then. It kind of snowballed from there.
How, when, and why did you start dressing up, collecting, or becoming more than a regular ordinary fan?
During the Silverdome era! In the early 80s I started wearing my dad's work clothes and hardhat in honor of how this is a blue-collar city full of hard working people. In 1990 – 1995 people started shouting out, "Hey, Crackman!" Because my name is Crachiola, people always shorten it to Crack. Back in school when I played ball it was always, "Crack this, and Crack that." So Crackman I am! Again, that snowballed!
What is your favorite NFL moment or team memory?
Something I'll never forget about my team happened back in 2000 when my grandfather died. He was 98 and he died the first week of December. I was planning on going to Wisconsin with my buddies. We were going to drive Friday, have fun, go to the game on Sunday, and come home Monday. The funeral was Saturday and I would never miss it, so I checked some flights out for Saturday afternoon. Nothing was going my way though. So I decided, what the hell? I'm going to give this a shot! I called the Lions' organization. I spoke to the man who was the CEO for the Lions at that time. I told him my situation and he didn't even hesitate to offer me a seat on the plane.
When I offered to pay, he laughed and said, "We aren't running a charter airline here. With as long as you've been a fan, the dedication you show, what you've done for us, our organization; it's a pleasure to have you aboard!"
...I can remember being home and my dad throwing shoes at the TV while watching the Lions play football.
That was that, I had my flight to the game. I could drive back with my buddies. The Lions even sent stuff to the funeral home with their condolences to the Crachiola family. That was my best moment.
What distinguishes you from other fans of your team?
Apparently, I stand out, because wherever I go people recognize me. My voice is distinctive. I went to London, England and people recognized me! They wanted to take pictures with me and everything else. In England? I love that!
How did you develop your costume / get your nickname / develop your Superfan persona?
Crackman came from my nickname as a kid, like I said, on account of Crachiola being my last name. The look came from my dad's clothes originally, but my job is overhead-line-man for the utility company. I'm blue-collar like my city. I wanted to show pride in that. I started wearing my bib-overalls cut into shorts with the hardhat and the Lions' Argyle socks with my lineman boots. It got the fans all worked-up. I am all about put your boots on, go to work, smash that football, and get it done baby!
What is your favorite keepsake or piece of memorabilia?
I started collecting a little bit in the 70s. Later, when I started getting recognized as this ultimate fan, I started trying to collect things like autographs and stuff. The best thing I have is this mint condition 1936 program from a game played on December 6, 1936 at 2 o'clock. It's real football history!
When did you start collecting / building your fan cave? (If applicable)
My living room is full of Lions' treasures. My garage also has a Lions' mural on it that this talented young artist painted for me. He did it all by hand, first drew it then painted it in about a week. My car features their logos proudly! I also just got a 14-seat Lions' minibus that we are going to take to tailgates.
What is your game day ritual? How do you prefer to watch the game?
Sunday morning I go to 7:30 a.m. mass. I go to the Catholic Church to pray, but I wear my Argyle socks so when church is done I can get ready to roll right away. I race home, slip on the bib-overalls, the boots, game face, and hat. Then I head downtown. If it's a road game, I will be pacing. Some people listen to music, I pace.
How does it feel to be known by your friends and peers as a die-hard fan?
Everyday people come up to me thinking that I'm the coach or the president of the team or something. They always want to know what happened to the Lions today? How did they lose? What happened? So what, they lost? Did you watch the game? Did you see the main player got hurt? Did you really watch the plays? Or are you just here to watch when they win? They act like it's my fault or that I know every little thing that went wrong and I can fix it. People complain to me and criticize my team! I don't want to hear it! I got my truck all decked out with Lions logos and I ride down the road; seven guys start looking at me and asking, "How can you drive that truck like that?" I answer, "Because I'm a Lions fan and I'm proud to be one!" Then one guy says, "They're lousy!" and I fire back, "Then move to Wisconsin, cause I'm not going to listen to your $#&*!"
What is the best thing about your team?
Everything! You know there's only one team in Michigan and that's the Detroit Lions. There is so much history here! I believe it's going to be 77 years of Thanksgiving Day games in Detroit this year. That's real American history and our team is part of it! I just love the organization. Detroit is often called a hockey town, but believe me, on Lions' game days, it is a football city. When the Lions start putting together a real winning season, it's going to go nuts in Detroit. I just I love the team, I love the organization, and I'm glad it's in my blood.
"Forward down the field, a charging team that will not yield, and when the blue and silver wave, stand and cheer the brave!" those are lyrics from our teams' song.
All images by Shaniqwa Jarvis.
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