NFC Championship: Visiting Detroit Lions fans say beating 49ers would bring “tears of joy”

SANTA CLARA  — In a parking lot full of bright colors and unique costumes, nobody stood out more than Michigan man James Laperriere among the throng of fans at Levi’s Stadium.

The 53-year-old from Detroit was decked out in a spotless Jahmyr Gibbs Lions jersey and shiny sunglasses, and sported a neon blue mop-top wig to complete the look. 

He had watched the Lions play second fiddle — and often worse — in the NFL pecking order to more successful franchises like the 49ers for most of his life. 

Having lived through Detroit’s 0-16 season in 2008, Laperriere didn’t hesitate to describe how he would react if his Lions upset the 49ers and advanced to the Super Bowl.

“Crying tears of joy? Absolutely, yes,” the diehard Lions supporter said. 

While Laperriere is a man of few words, Nicholas Aiello, a 24-year-old Detroit native, took a far more brash approach to pregame festivities.

Aiello reveled in the jeers and trash talk directed his way as he paraded through the lot holding a Honolulu blue Lions flag.

Although vastly outnumbered by thousands of tailgating 49ers fans waiting for the gates to open, Aiello was not alone. 

Walking alongside him was a pack of fellow Lions fans, most decked out in Detroit paraphernalia, who had seen their team go 12-5 in the regular season and defeat the Rams and Buccaneers in the playoffs.

Traveling halfway across the country and spending thousands on tickets to attend what may be the most expensive NFC title game ever was not an issue for Aiello, who had waited his whole life to watch his team reach this point.

“The ticket prices mean nothing to us, baby,” Aiello said a few hours before Detroit played in its first conference championship game since 1992. “We’re here to win!” 

Detroit Lions fans Drew Aiello, left, and his brother Nick Aiello cheer as they walk through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) 

Right behind him was relative Steve Aiello, who bellowed that the Lions were now “America’s team.” 

But even though he enjoyed trash-talking locals who have seen the 49ers reach three conference title games in the past four years, he also said he’d had nothing but good experiences as a visitor to the Bay Area. 

“All the Niners fans are as competitive as we are, and all the Niners fans have also been welcoming to us and want us to enjoy the city,” Steve Aiello said. 

Across the vast parking lot was diehard Lions fan Chuck Lauber, who said he spent $1,500 on a ticket. 

The owner of the Belleville Bait Shop Bar and Grill in Belleville, Michigan said that as the Lions have gone from three wins in 2021 to the conference title on Sunday, his bar in the Detroit suburb had seen more business. 

“It means everything to this town,” Lauber said. “A lot of people come through our business because of it. ”

Related Articles

San Francisco 49ers |


Fred Warner’s American dream: How his desire to grind from a young age created his rise with the 49ers

San Francisco 49ers |


NFL playoff predictions: Will the 49ers advance to a Super Bowl revenge vs. Chiefs or Ravens?

San Francisco 49ers |


Lions defenders must be aware of 49ers WR Jennings at all times

San Francisco 49ers |


NFC Championship Game: 49ers 5 keys to home celebration over Lions

San Francisco 49ers |


49ers’ Brock Purdy on NFC title game: ‘This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’

Not every Lions fans had to traverse the country to watch the team in person. Tee Sanders, who wore a No. 20 Barry Sanders jersey, is a Detroit native but now lives in Dublin with his wife and children.

One of his sons rocked a 49ers shirt, and the other a blue and grey uniform. 

Unlike some nervous Lions fans, Sanders was already making plans for a trip to Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVII in a couple weeks. 

“Just for the record, we’re here to chop them up and feed them to the Lions,” he said. 

San Francisco 49ers fan Brandon Taniguchi, of San Jose, left, greets Detroit Lions fan T Sanders, of Dublin, before their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fans arrive before their NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fan Toure Sanders, 6, and his brother, Detroit Lions fan Tyson Sanders, 5, of Dublin, play in the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Detroit Lions fans Frank Iadipaolo, right, and his cousin John Iadipaolo, of Michigan, cheer as they walk through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fan Alex Dominguez, of Hayward, left, with his 1962 Impala low rider before their NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fan Lisa Nunez wears sparkly boots before their NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Detroit Lions fans and San Francisco 49ers fans face off as they walk through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Detroit Lions fan John Iadipaolo, of Michigan, cheers as he walks through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fan Ivette Rico, of Pinole, with her display as she tailgates before their NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Detroit Lions fan Joe Aiello, cheers as he walks through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Detroit Lions fans Drew Aiello, center, and his brother Nick Aiello cheer as they walk through the parking lot before their NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fan Brandon Taniguchi, of San Jose, left, greets Detroit Lions fan T Sanders, of Dublin, before their NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

San Francisco 49ers fans Rita Scott, Eliana Keshari and Alicia Knott, from left, tailgate before their NFC Championship Game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

of

Expand

 

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *