Q&A with Lions Superfan Christopher Rogers
Christopher Rogers is what some people would call a “superfan”, including the Lions head coach Jasonn Gibson. This weekend, I got a chance to talk with Christopher and learn the story behind his constant support for the Lions.
So the first thing I wanted to ask you was in coach Gibson's email to me, he actually used the term “superfan” and before we get into the Lions, what are some of your favorite sports?
A. Actually, football is probably my favorite sport. As far as the hierarchy goes, being from Michigan, I am a Michigan State University, Spartan fan, first and foremost, kind of live and die the green and white. And right under that, and that would be Tom Izzo’s basketball team, Mel Tucker's football team, Danton Cole's hockey team, the Olympic sports and support the university. Right under that and before any of the Detroit pro teams, which I love, is the Columbus Lions.
You mentioned you are from Michigan so how'd you end up here in Georgia? I think coach Gibson in his email said you were from Cummings, Georgia. Is that correct?
A. I live up north, Cummings is about 30 miles north of Atlanta. Yeah, we relocated to Columbus in 2014, from the Metro Detroit area, my wife took a job. My first season as a ticket holder was the 2015 season, when they won the PIFL Championship. I was really homesick, and I needed something, at the time I was just a stay at home dad, and I really needed something to kind of get me out of the house to do something and I kept seeing the commercials for the Lions. Back at that time they had a show, “Something and Duke”, one of the former owners, Duke, he would do a show with Coach Gibson. I remember just watching that and being really intrigued about the sport of arena football. And at that point, my wife and I were like, “hey, maybe we should do this.” I looked into getting season tickets, and it was unbelievably affordable and I've been hooked on it and it's become something that, I consider after we'd moved to the south and being transplanted down here now, the Columbus lions are very much, it's something for me. It sounds so absolutely, like selfish and kind of a way it is because I love all of our fans, but it's like, it's my thing. So now that we're in the south, we relocated like, you know, it's not the Atlanta Braves. It's not Georgia football, Georgia Tech football. It's the Columbus Lions.
In the 2015 season, your first year as a fan, the Lions went all the way and won the PIFL Championship. How was that experience?
A. It was unbelievable to tell you the truth. It was, the accessibility to the players blew me away. The interaction, the guys were jumping up in the stands back in the day and high fiving, and it was just such an intimate atmosphere. I was really drawn into that, it was very intimate, and,at a high level, and to watch them win the championship, to be able to experience that all. I remember being able to go out on the field in that season, and watch them hoist up the trophy that was wild, and it really cemented this. Being even a Detroit Lions fan, I'm like, “Oh, my gosh, I just finally saw a Lions team that I love win a championship”.
Prior to following the Lions, had you experienced any other forms of arena football before coming to Columbus?
A. Yeah, you know, it was really my first introduction. Living in Michigan, they did have the Detroit Drive. I remember hearing about these things when I was younger. Also, you would see things on TV, but never go to a game for the Detroit Drive, or the Grand Rapids Rampage, or then they became the Detroit Furies. I never went to see any of those. But just being down here, and I was like, man in the south and football, and I just kept watching the commercials and hearing about it on the radio or whatever. And I'm just like, this has gotta be fun. I like hockey, we would go to the Columbus Cottonmouths games and it was fun and being a Yankee with hockey, you can go and appreciate hockey, but the whole indoor football thing really kind of piqued my interest in when I was looking for something to create some type of social or just outside connection from the home being in a new place. Loving football, it really filled that void, and really attached me to the organization. To tell you the truth, or not trying to just ramble on, there's been tons of instances over the years, as far as different owners, players or fans, those relationships to me, are the really, really cool parts about being a ticket holder. And being someone who's vested with the organization, in that aspect, to see those players that have played here, or played other places. People you sit within your section become part of your family. And I look forward to it every spring.
Being a ticket holder since 2015, have you been to every Lions game since becoming a ticket holder?
A. Yeah, this is crazy. In 2015, I missed the first game of the season. We traveled back up to Michigan. However, since then, I have made every single home game. And we've relocated to Cummings from Columbus, we moved north of Atlanta in 2016. So ever since 2016, I've been traveling down there, and usually I stay in whatever hotel is sponsoring the Lions. That's another cool thing too. You come in, you get a great rate, but just say, this year, for instance, staying at the Holiday Inn, which was phenomenal. My brothers who flew in from Michigan for the last game of the year against New Jersey, they flew in from Michigan, just to go see a game. “We're like, Man, you guys gotta check this out.” And they were just floored by the fact that we were staying in the same hotel as the referees and the other players and got to see them at breakfast and stuff. It's really immersive. And if if you? I don't, man, I'm not there. I'm probably just rambling.
Could you talk a bit more about that immersion as a Lions fan and just what it is like to be a fan?
A. Yeah, it's just, I sent coach Gibson an email right after the championship game. I think it was the next morning. I just said to him you can tell that this team loves playing for each other, because what has happened is they put the suites over at the Civic Center. And so my season tickets got moved to the exact opposite side of the arena. So this season, they were near the lions bench and I could hear the team coaching each other, I could hear how the team communicated. It was for the most part towards the end of the year, very much a player-coach team, and that's not anything against coach Gibson, I think that's what a coach wants. And I told him, I said I could tell from the beginning of the year that you guys love to play for each other and that you always want to win your last game of the year but I had my brothers come down to their first game and I've been in the south since 2014. And they've never visited until 2021. So it was kind of like a big deal for me, and it was a big deal for me to share the thing that I love so much. Then for the playoff game, I had my youngest son. He is six, his name is Liam and he's on the autism spectrum. He came, and he had a great time, and he was embraced. He has to wear ear protectors over his ears and stuff and he's a little socially awkward, but it was so cool that the other kids in the section embraced him. Teresa Rodriguez, another fan that sits next to me, I've got a video of her letting him ring her cowbell, teaching him when to do it. I mean, that is the stuff to me, in two years, I'll never remember the score, I don't even know the score now, but I will always remember that. And that's what I told him. I said thank you for providing the vehicle that gives me my memories.
In your years as a fan, what has been your favorite memory?
A. Wow. That's funny. They're all great, but I think one of the neatest ones was in 2018, I believe it was Larry Edwards who was a mac-linebacker for us. And I'm a big, big boy. I’ve got red facial hair, and I have a little mini megaphone that I scream at the games through all the time. I remember just being on the field, dapping guys up and then I feel a tap on my shoulder and I turn around and Larry just gives me this huge hug. He whispers in my ear “I hear you out there big fella,” and that to me was just like, that's all I need to know. Coaches coach, players play and fans chair. He noticed me and I was doing my job. So I think that was completely unsolicited on his part, and to be recognized for being a fan by a player, I think is a pretty cool thing.
Following up, do you have a particular player that has been your favorite to watch in your time as a fan?
A. I love Larry, I'll tell you what, I think there's two guys who I believe will be up on the wall of the Civic Center along with Justin Rivers and Damien Daniels, and those two gentlemen will be Kendrick Washington and Dion Small. And when I think of those two guys, I think of leaders I think of not just on the football field, but off the football field, incredible human beings. Those two guys, to me, in my time being here have been absolute rocks, wonderful with the fans and they've always showed up and done their job. And those two are the two dudes that really impressed me over my seven years or so watching the Lions.
In the past month it was announced that Columbus is getting a new soccer team with the Rapids. Should we expect to see you on the sidelines with your megaphone this season?
A. I would definitely love to check out an indoor soccer game like that. I think it's a really fun, fast paced sport. Soccer is not something that's in my wheelhouse, but I think just knowing the people who are involved with the league, I think it's going to be, just knowing that, I think it lends credibility to the fact that it's going to be fan friendly, it'll be affordable and it'll be exciting to watch. I think that Columbus and the tri-city area, I think they should feel really lucky that they have that option now for their sports entertainment along with the other sports, including football. So yeah, we'll definitely be down there to check out a game and bring the family.
ABOUT THE COLUMBUS LIONS
The Columbus Lions are members of the National Arena League (NAL). Founded in 2007, the Columbus Lions are starting their 15th season in 2021. The Lions are a 3x league champion and 13 playoff appearances in their rich history. The Lions play their home games at Hughston Field in the Columbus Civic Center. Lions Season Ticket Memberships are on sale now call (706) 322-3336 or visit columbuslions.com. Follow the Lions on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lionsfootball/, twitter @columbuslions and instagram.com/Columbuslions.
ABOUT NATIONAL ARENA LEAGUE
The National Arena League was founded in 2016 and hosted its inaugural season in 2017 as the premier league in arena football. The National Arena League will kick off its fifth season in 2021. For more information regarding expansion opportunities or partnerships, contact Commissioner Chris Siegfried at email@example.com For more information about the NAL visit www.nationalarenaleague.com, facebook.com/nationalarenaleauge, twitter.com/NALfootball, Instagram.com/nationalarenaleague.