In the first decade of this relatively new century, Detroit's sports scene has set the tone for success, success that couldn't be mentioned in the same sentence with New York City.
In this decade alone, the Red Wings have won two Stanley Cups, including last season's victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They seem ready to do it again in 2009, with most of their nucleus back from last year's championship team.
The Pistons won the NBA title in 2004, and made it back to the NBA Finals the following year, where they would lose to the San Antonio Spurs.
They are in the middle of their most successful run in franchise history, a run that includes two Finals appearances, one NBA title, and six Central Division titles in nine years.
The Tigers, five years removed from threatening to challenge the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in baseball history, have rebounded rather nicely, winning the American League pennant in 2006, staying in contention with the Yankees until the final week of the season in 2007, and signing big names like Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to lucrative contracts in 2008.
And the Lions? Well, if you count last year's 7-9 record plus the undefeated run they made in the preseason this year, this decade hasn't been kind. It's been horrific.
But it's been that way for the last 50 years, ever since Bobby Layne bolted for Pittsburgh and William Clay Ford bought the team in 1963.
In the last 45 years of Ford ownership, the Lions have had one win in the playoffs, which came in 1991 when they beat the Dallas Cowboys en route to the NFC Championship Game. There they would be hammered by the Washington Redskins, winners of Super Bowl 26 against the Buffalo Bills.
Even the legendary Barry Sanders, who was the only reason why kids like me during the 1990s would watch the Lions play on Sunday afternoons, didn't get a chance to play in a Super Bowl. However, in that decade alone, the Lions had six playoff appearances and were, in most years, contending for the playoffs.
Ford and his people couldn't find a system quarterback to bring to Detroit or, even worse, an offensive line that could give Sanders protection when they were going up against the Packers, Bears, or Cowboys.
The list goes on and on for the sins of the Lions in this decade, ranging from cutting Charlie Batch in 2001, to numerous draft busts like Charlie Rogers and Joey Harrington, and to the biggest sin of them all—hiring Matt Millen as team president. This, despite the fact that the guy was best suited for broadcasting rather than dealing with the day-to-day operations of an NFL team.
Apparently, Millen's reign is what leads us to the present. With one more game left in their 2008 season, the Lions are staring down a record no team wants to be known for: 0-16.
After losing against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 42-7 before the second smallest crowd in the history of Ford Field, the ragged men from the Motor City face rival Green Bay next Sunday at Lambeau Field—a place they haven't won since 1991 and their last chance to avoid infamy.
So, as I head to Atlanta on Dec. 28, expect to get a news alert on the Lions being the first 0-16 team in NFL history.
Can't wait to receive my 0-16 shirt in the mail.
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