If you’ve ever looked over in section 115 while attending a game at Ford Field, chances are you’ve seen two bearded dudes decked out in blue robes with fur collars, sunglasses, a ton of chains, and blue top hats with a silver ribbon.
They do this every game, every year. Why? Because that’s the kind of guys they are. They’ve got young, vibrant spirits and they’re not afraid to show it to the world.
If you get the pleasure to run into them before a game they’ll personally show you that spirit, too.
“We’re huggers”, Matt explains. “Well, mostly me”. Chris quickly adds “Except Aaron Rodgers”.
Matt Hornsby and Chris Evatt have known each other for a long time. They went to Junior High together where their friendship started to blossom. They were split up in High School when Chris moved to Utica and Matt went to Sterling Heights Stevenson, but that didn’t stop their friendship from continuing to grow.
Surely the fandom that they share every Sunday in downtown Detroit has to have its roots in their time in high school. I mean, they had to have at least watched a couple of games during that time in their life, right?
“I don’t believe we did, I think we just bothered girls,” Matt says. “Chris is married to one of them”
Chris confirms “I did… we have a son in the Marines and a daughter in high school”.
Although their shared love of the Detroit Lions did not necessarily start in grade school, their individual fanaticism did start fairly early in their lives. Early enough that Matt remembers watching Billy Sims thrash defenses and Chris recalls watching sports with his dad and listening to Jimmy “Spiderman” Allen sing his rendition of “Another One Bites the Dust”.
In 1989, Matt tagged along with Chris and his father to attend a Detroit Pistons game to watch the “Bad Boys” in person. With all of the superstars on the court – Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer – it was someone who wasn’t playing at all that would end up making the biggest impression that night. At halftime, the Pistons would bring out a new face in Detroit.
The football fans of the city were starving for hope. Monty Clark couldn’t deliver, and neither could Darryl Rogers. Three straight seasons with 11 or more losses had a once-proud fanbase in the dumps. After a decade of mediocrity, hope had finally arrived.
A 21-year-old rookie running back out of Oklahoma State walked quietly onto the court at The Palace, waved, nodded, and walked back into the tunnel. Barry Sanders had arrived. So had Chris and Matt’s shared fanhood.
Shortly after this Matt would enter the Air Force. While away he watched plenty of Lions football. Like many others during this time, he quickly fell in love with Barry and the way he played ball.
Upon returning to Michigan in 1993, Matt would get to meet his football hero in person. While shopping at the mall his first week back, he ran into the legend himself. “He was very cool” Matt remembers. Of course, Barry was cool. Barry was always cool.
After many years of watching games in the ’90s and early 2000s, Chris and Matt grew closer than ever before. Around 2005, they started attending games together and eventually became season ticket holders. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that the “Lion Kings” were born.
It started when Matt had to pick out a costume for a theme party he was attending. He found a blue robe that reminded him of the Lions colors, so he bought it. During the colder games of the year, he started wearing the robe to Ford Field. Eventually, Chris made himself a robe to match his friend’s style. Once he bought a “good” robe they started wearing them all the time.
It started off as simple as that. Then the hats were included. Then sunglasses. Eventually, chains made their way onto the costume. Before they knew it, they were the Lion Kings.
Now, they are somewhat of celebrities, at least as far as Detroit Lions fans go. They walk around tailgating before games and take dozens of pictures with other fans. People will come up to them and admire their years of work on the costumes while sharing beers, food, and stories.
Being a Lions fan isn’t about the wins, that’s for sure. To Matt and Chris, it’s about the people. Chris explains that “It’s all about having a good time and making sure everyone else is having fun. It’s so easy to make a kid smile when you dress up like a fool. Most kids don’t love it as much as their parents do but that’s ok. Eventually, they come around”.
“[It’s also about] hope,” Matt reiterates. “We will always have hope, and the people”.
NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association)
For their charity Chris and Matt chose NEDA. For Chris in particular, this is a personal decision.
“I didn’t understand eating disorders until my daughter started living with one. I’m guessing not many people do really understand them. The person affected loses their very being to the disorder and doesn’t care about much else. I am lucky that I have a good job and insurance. I would be beyond bankrupt if I didn’t. Hospitalizations are expensive and these disorders aren’t like the flu or whatever eventually goes away. This is something that stays with the person for a lifetime and without treatment, a lifetime usually isn’t very long.
I’d like to be able to remove all stigma from mental illnesses and raise awareness of the warning signs since, kind of like cancer, catching on that there’s a problem is important to do early”.
30 million people in the US will struggle with a life-threatening eating disorder at some point in their lifetime. By donating to NEDA you are reaching those in need with prevention programming, education and support resources, and helping to move research forward so we can better understand and treat the illness. Recovery is possible and you can help make it happen.
Detroit Sports Network will be donating to NEDA and their cause, and we encourage you to as well. Please visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/donate to help support those struggling with eating disorders.
Voting for Matt & Chris
You’ve heard their story, seen their charity, now it’s time to help them win some signed Lions memorabilia!
Every one of our fans that we profile will have a shot at winning some awesome signed Lions memorabilia courtesy of the great people at Pro Sports Zone. Be sure to check out their Facebook page where they have stock you won’t find anywhere else. They are extremely friendly, modestly priced, and are the best place to go to for all sports memorabilia.
The fan with the most votes by June 21st wins! You can vote up to 5 times per day. For additional information and to see how you can enter, click here.
Before you leave, take a look at some fun questions that Matt and Chris answered. I had a blast getting to know these two incredible guys, so here’s a little bit of extra fun.
You get to pick 3 Lions players (past or present) to be in your zombie apocalypse squad. Who do you choose?
Chris: This is tough. Bubba Baker, Chris Spielman, and Cory Schleshinger
Matt: Alex Karras, Luther Ellis, and Scott Kowalkowski
Chris: Seriously Matt, I can’t believe you didn’t pick Barry
Matt: I don’t want Barry getting hurt or eaten
Who is your favorite Lions player not named Barry, Calvin, or Stafford?
Matt: I’d have to say Spielman. He was a badass. Or Mel Gray
Chris: I’m embarrassed to pick a kicker, but Jason Hanson
What current Lions player do you think you could beat in an arm-wrestling contest?
Matt: I think I could take Prater
Chris: Justin Coleman, I outweigh him by at least 50 pounds
What will the Lions record be this year?
Chris: 11-5… It makes no sense but that’s how I see it. Give me some kool-aid
Matt: 8-8. I say this every year though. I’m never too disappointed
Featured image credit: @ajohns70_aaron