Open Mic: The Detroit Lions Are Sport’s Ultimate Disappointment

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IJune 15, 2008

This is an interesting topic for open mic, because there is a lot of room for interpretation.  As a registered sports-aholic anonymous member, I’ve seen my fair share of disappointing performances, finishes, choke-jobs, broken-records, and scandals. 

Hell, we’ve probably all lived through them together. Particularly lately with the prominence of mass media giants like the NFL Network and ESPN.  But the first thought that jumped into my head when I read the call for articles was the outline of a Honolulu-blue lion profiled in attack position. 

The emblem of my beloved Detroit Lions. 

It’s word association and in my mind the Lions and disappointment are one and the same.  When someone tells me they had a disappointing day, I’m literally thinking,”Detroit Lions.”  Probably much like Chicago fans that walk around thinking, “Da Bears,” though with considerably less precision.

My therapist would tell me that this warrants further examination, so here we go.  I warn you this is a journey to confront my most virulent demons and is not a trip taken lightly.

Where to begin?

It’s probably relevant to start out with the truth that I love football most, out of all the major sports in America.  Though I have great appreciation for all competition and I am a loyal and knowledgeable fan to all my teams, of the large professional four I would rate them: 1) Football 2) Basketball 3) Baseball 4) Hockey. 

And, I’m a Detroit Fan.  Enough said.  There is no scenario where I would even consider rooting for another team.  Send me to Guantanamo G.W., but it ain’t going to happen. 

So if other Lions faithful may deride me for exposing my team, the truth of the matter is, that something can only be truly disappointing if you love it. 

So I can point to other Detroit sports disappointments such as the woeful 2003 Detroit Tigers season that set the mark for American League futility. I can also take solace in the fact that the Tigs have won a championship in my lifetime (1984) and have fielded intermittently good clubs over the years. 

I could also point to the dagger that “Big Shot Bob” plunged into my back during the 2005 NBA finals that denied the Pistons their second straight NBA title (and some say over-all legitimacy), but their continued excellence over the years more than makes up for that. 

Unfortunately, my greatest love is unrequited, and isn’t that the very essence of emotional pain?  I send them flowers, buy them sweets, tell them I love them, but somehow I can’t get them to come upstairs for a drink.

In my lifetime the Lions are 194-314-1, a winning percentage of 38%, which is far and away the worst of any other professional football team during this tenure. 

Honestly, that seems a little high. 

Somehow, through all this losing, Detroit still sells out Ford Field which speaks to the loyalty of the Detroit fanbase, but also to how much punishment we are willing to take.  Like a beaten dog that still crawls back to its master. 

To enumerate all the failings of this club would take way too long but it’s worth noting that they all stem from the teams inept ownership.  Players come and go. As do coaches, GM’s (though not nearly quickly enough,) but the one constant that has been hovering over us like a specter since they took over the team are the Ford’s. 

Yes, the same fourth-generation morons who are still rolling out SUV’s and crippling the entire state of Michigan’s economy, are also responsible for crushing whatever vicarious thrill we could derive from the Lions.  Take our jobs, take our money, but PLEASE let go of our Lions! 

The Fords are the embodiment of Mr. Burns of The Simpsons stopping to take a lollipop from a baby after he’s blocked out all of Springfield’s sun. 

Say what you will about Matt Millen—granted he’s completely incompetent—if someone was paying me a couple million dollars a year to live in Pennsylvania (even during the season,) not employ a single scout (the only professional franchise to attempt this brilliant plan,) and generally not do anything other than preside over the league’s worst team, I think I’d keep the job. 

That fact that he was offered such a lucrative contract EXTENSION after his so-called “leadership” is less an indictment of him, and more damning of the idiots signing his checks. 

Mr. Ford let our Lions go!

It takes pure evil to take someone like the incomparable Barry Sanders, someone for whom running was the ultimate joy, and make him hate football.

Though Barry was a bright spot in the Lions ultimate failure, their dismantling of him may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch.  How they traded away his linemen.  How they only ran TWO running plays for him in the most asinine offensive system ever to grace the game.  How they gave him almost a dozen starting quarterbacks including Erik Kramer, Bob Gagliano, Rusty Hilger, Dave Krieg, Rodney Peete, Charlie Batch, Andre Ware, and Scott Mitchell. 

Who?  Exactly. 

Somehow Sanders was excellent in spite of the Lions, which in itself, means he was probably the best ever. 

Nonetheless, as time went on even the Lions most faithful secretly hoped that they would trade him to a contender because he deserved it. 

In the end, too loyal to demand a trade, and too sick of management to continue, he simply retired.  Those of you who don’t understand why should have their heads examined.

I wish I could retire from the Lions… but I can’t.  Battered fan syndrome and unrequited love.

Worse than the rush of expectation and then defeat suffered by contending teams because the dull ache never goes away. 

Like the Japanese water torture, drip, drip, dripping me into madness.