Standing outside of Ron Crachiola’s home, it’s pretty obvious what he stands for. If the giant Detroit Lions bus parked next to his garage isn’t a dead giveaway, perhaps you’ll notice the Lions symbol on his garage, the logo on his truck or the trinkets peeking through the blinds.
You hardly can go five minutes without a horn honk from a fellow fan celebrating the aura of “Lions love” around Crachiola’s Macomb home.
“I don’t really think that I’m that well-known,” said Crachiola, covered head-to-toe in his special brand of Lions fandom — a hard hat covered with autographs, knee-high argyle socks in Lions Honolulu blue, face paint and the line boots he wore for 30+ years as a DTE worker.
“What this actually represents is the blue collar… Detroit is a blue collar city.”
Crackman — as his friends and fellow fans know him — may not think he’s a big deal, but others beg to differ. If you walk into a Detroit area bar, you may notice his face on this year’s Molson calendar for the Lions.
He’s been on billboards. Heck, Visa put together a hall of fans back in the day… Crachiola was among the elite selected.
“Fans will always be there,” he said. “Players come and go, but you know I’ve been a fan of the Lions since I was a kid.”
Looking at Crackman, you’d think there is a story, a specific moment that made it all click. How does a guy take “being a fan” to that level? The reality is, there’s no pivotal moment. As Crackman explains it, the type of fandom he subscribes to is something that’s just bred in you. His dad used to take him to games at Tiger Stadium when he was 13 years old. His dad’s dad took him to games.
You’ll see him on national broadcasts screaming his head off. He views it as his job to keep fans amped up inside Ford Field — you’ll likely see him as the season kicks off on Monday Night Football; he’ll be the guy in sunglasses, face paint and every imaginable piece of Lions garb you can imagine.
Of course, there’s plenty more to it — Crackman isn’t just a fixture at the games. He collects about anything you can think of that reads Lions. However, it’s the stories that he tells that give you a hint of what he loves about the Lions.
He’ll run you down one of the first games he ever went to, watching what many fans thought was the “golden boy from Notre Dame” sent to save the team. He blew out his ACL halfway into the game.
Crackman can describe the atmosphere of Barry Sanders' first game at the Silverdome with so much detail, you feel like you’re sitting right next to him in the old Pontiac stadium. If you ask him about Chris Spielman or Robert Porcher, you almost start to feel the bone-crunching hits.
Real fans tend to have a love for the game that goes beyond words. No amount of description can make you feel the way Crachiola’s presence would inside Ford Field. That’s probably why people gravitate to him — the Raiders Nation has even sent him gifts; they may not cheer for the same team… but they understand his feeling about the Lions.
It’s that type of celebrity that led to Crackman’s most touching Lions memory. He and a slew of friends had planned a trip to Green Bay to watch the Lions take on the Packers. The hotels were booked, the travel plans were finalized and everyone was hyped when Crachiola got the call: his grandfather had died.
As big a fan as Crachiola is, even he wouldn’t miss a funeral for a Lions game, though he would try to make both. He called and searched for plane tickets, but it was simply not meant to be. Not until the Lions got on the phone with their number one fan.
“He says, ‘Can you be at the Silverdome by 2 o’clock this afternoon?'" Crachiola recounted, pointing at a picture of his family, including his grandfather at a tailgate. “Yeah, I’ll be there." "‘Good. I’ll set it up for you, you fly with the team. Honor your grand-dad, then fly with us.’”
The Lions didn’t win that day, but you get the feeling Crachiola wouldn’t have cheered any harder if they did.
As the Crackman said, players come and go. Fans stay. At least the truest fans do.
— Matthew Smith (@MattSmithWXYZ) September 7, 2018