I feel sick to my stomach.
Every Sunday at either 1 or 4 p.m., I painfully watch the “show” that is the Detroit Lions.
I refer to Lions games as shows purposely, because with the team and effort they put out on the field each week, it has to be a well-thought-out joke worthy of a laugh track.
But, unfortunately, no one notices.
Last season, you couldn’t go to a sporting event in Detroit or Ann Arbor without the Lions taking center stage. You could see the frustration boiling over at Pistons games. Fans would talk about the pathetic nature of the Lions at Tigers games (during the brief period in September when both teams were in action). Even at Michigan basketball games, “Fire Millen” signs rose above heads in the student section.
True, the Lions haven’t fielded an above-.500 team in recent years, but at least the fans called out the management.
People cared about their team, and they tried their best to tell Lions president William Clay Ford that Matt Millen couldn’t put together a successful Pop Warner football team.
It felt like we (by that I mean everyone who’s suffered as a Lions fan) were making a difference. But like the Coke Coalition or the Save the Big House groups, our effort went for naught.
Millen stayed, Ford still didn’t realize that, as the owner, he had a say and Steve Mariucci, the only person in the organization not deemed a failure in life, got fired.
But the truly sickening part of the whole scenario is that no one cares about the Lions. The team could be winless (they’re still pretty close to that), forfeit the season (something that should be considered), or even move out of the city. And people still wouldn’t care.
The reason why?
The Tigers and Michigan football have kept the spotlight squarely off Ford Field. The Tigers, longstanding losers, not only made the playoffs, but also are tied at a game apiece in the World Series. And the Wolverines have bounced back quite nicely from their five-loss season last year and stand as the second-ranked team in the nation and in the BCS rankings.
But while those teams’ success should be applauded, the joy they bring into Michiganders’ lives shouldn’t stop the “Fire Millen” signs.
The Lions drove the greatest running back of all time to retirement just one season short of the career rushing record. They’ve gone through more quarterbacks than Rush Limbaugh goes through pain pills. They boast a handful of first-round draft picks that could star on a reality-TV show. And, they hired a coach that elected to take the wind in an overtime session where the first team to score wins.
If by the seventh week of the season you’re overjoyed that the Oakland Raiders finally won, you know you’re a Lions fan. The Raiders’ upset of the Arizona Cardinals last weekend put the Lions back in the hunt for the No. 1 draft pick.
Every year, the Lions have a funny way of pulling the wool over their fans eyes. During the preseason, Millen parades around, talking up his boys. He let piano man Joey Harrington go and brought in a handful of quarterbacks that would have trouble challenging Keanu Reeves for a starting role. He told us Rod Marinelli was the real deal, the hard-ass that was going to inspire confidence and instill work ethic in his players. Millen’s move definitely panned out when two anonymous players filed a grievance against Marinelli in training camp.
Here’s a synopsis of the season to this point for those of you still focused on the Tigers and the Wolverines. Pothead and former No. 2 draft pick Charles Rogers got cut, Jon Kitna has done his best to make each game seem respectable, and Marinelli hasn’t been replaced by power-hungry offensive coordinator Mike Martz . yet.
I’m willing to bet that Millen is kicking back in his office, sipping on a wine cooler, smoking a cigar and smiling. He knows he could do whatever he wants and all eyes would still be on the Detroit area’s successful teams.
He could make himself the coach, and the front pages of newspaper sports sections would still feature stories on Kenny Rogers and his love for pine tar.
But eventually, the World Series and Michigan’s bowl game will pass.
Then, Millen, you better be ready for the outcry.
I’ve already started making my sign.
– Wright is a lifelong Lions fan who won’t put up with Detroit ruining his weekend every Sunday anymore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.