Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, December 19, 2005

Anticlimatic and apathetic

If you weren't already despondent enough about the Lions' 2005-06 season, the lead from Leonard Shapiro's story in Saturday's Washington Post might make you want to cry in your orange t-shirt:

The day before the Detroit Lions hired Marty Mornhinweg, then an obscure assistant, as their head coach in January 2001, team president Matt Millen canceled an interview with a much more prominent candidate, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

The overall story is about the success of minority head coaches in the NFL this season, not the debacle that is Detroit Lions football. And I imagine Shapiro is taking a shot at Millen because of the way he disregarded the NFL's order to include at least one minority candidate in the interviewing process while targeting Steve Mariucci.

Given the opposite directions of the Lions and Cincinnati Bengals, however, you can't help but look at that moment, wonder what might have been, and then ask Millen, "Hey, how'd that work out for us?"

Is 41-17 enough of a definitive answer to that question?

How did that game work out for you? I wanted to write another "live blog," but gave up after the first quarter. I was running out of different ways to point out how awful the Lions were. There weren't even jokes to make. You don't want to read one of those things without some humor. And I don't want to write one.

(Image by Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News)

Was that the most predictable outcome of the season? If anyone was under the delusion that the Lions would somehow stay competitive with the Bengals, that balloon was popped almost immediately when R.W. McQuarters fumbled on the opening kickoff. Cincinnati was inexplicably held to only a field goal, which was the last stand the Lions had in them.

The team in orange, white, and black looked completely relaxed. The Bengals did absolutely anything they wanted to on the field. Carson Palmer was just playing catch with his receivers, who seemed open on every play. On each of his carries, Rudi Johnson gained three yards before a Lions defender even touched him.

The team in honolulu blue, silver, and black looked as tense as a klutz being asked to hold a newborn baby for the first time. The Lions knew they were totally overmatched, and just bit down on their wood splints while they took their beating and hoped it would be over quickly. You could almost hear them praying every time the ball was snapped.

As I watched the game, I think I knew what the Lions were feeling. Years ago, I played on a Rec League basketball team that was terrible. Really, really bad. We had no idea what we were doing, and were overmatched in every single game. If we lost by less than 20, we practically celebrated after the game. The only games we actually did win were by forfeit when the other team didn't show up. Not even our parents would watch us play.

And I remember sitting on the bench once the game started, looking at the scoreboard, and thinking, "Which way are we going to lose today? How bad will it be?" One time, my friend Chris and I discussed whether we should wait until we were down by 10 points or 20 points before calling time-out. And the game hadn't even started yet.

I felt dread before every game. I knew what was coming. Hell, we all did. And we were powerless to stop it. I saw the same look in the Lions yesterday. I recognized that body language.

But this game was supposed to be about the sideshow, about the fans making their displeasure known. And from what I could see and hear on the broadcast, that might have been yesterday's biggest disappointment.

(That, and Chad Johnson just handing the ball to the referree after his touchdown. Not even a little shimmy? What, he didn't want to use his good material on us? Or maybe he was embarrassed after watching his teammate, Kelley Washington, make an ass of himself. Could you tell he hadn't caught the ball much this season?)

(Image by Rashaun Rucker/ Detroit Free Press)

I didn't go to the game, so I didn't see the protests and marches surrounding Ford Field. But I've seen the reports on the local news and the pictures in today's newspapers. I know people were expressing their outrage. They just didn't do so inside the stadium.

And it's hard to blame them. Once McQuarters fumbled that opening kickoff, the inevitability of the day was deflating. After that, it seemed like the fans didn't want to bother anymore. Why waste the air and energy?

How many ticketholders gave up their seats to Bengals fans? Not every orange garment in Ford Field was an indication of protest. How many "Fire Millen" chants broke out in the stadium? I didn't hear any on TV.

In Friday's Free Press, Drew Sharp wrote that the fans needed to make a statement with apathy. If you show anger, you're showing that you still care. And as long as that was the case, the Lions knew they still had you. Yesterday, it looked like the Detroit fans agreed with him. How many of us still care right now?


  • At December 19, 2005 9:49 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    A lot of us care, Ian. That you're blogging about it suggests that you certainly do. I know that I do.

    Why should I be apathetic? I love my team, and I want them to do well. And if they don't...well, tough shit for me, I guess.

    The Fords have more money than god, and they want to win too. Being apathetic or not showing up isn't going to do anything to the team any time soon.

    Anyhow, only one person can give this team an identity -- and that person is a REAL head coach. I think Millen understands that now. He thought that he could bring in an innovative offensive guy and X-and-O his way to victory. He thought that he could go with that guy's old boss, a proven winner, and get to victory. And now he realizes (I think) that they need a passionate guy who's going to just run a tight ship off the field and put in sets that let the players be who they are on the field. Easier said than done? Perhaps. But those guys are out there, and I suspect he'll find one.

  • At December 19, 2005 10:56 PM, Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said…

    Your right though, these are two teams that not that long ago were debating who sucked worse. I think that's what hurts the most for Lion fans. It's like two geeks in high school and one inexplicably starts to morph into a much better looking guy with a nice jump shot. Soon the chicks are calling. For the one left behind in nerdville it's a tough pill to swallow.

  • At December 20, 2005 8:34 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Evan, you're right - I do care. And I know a lot of fans still do. I'm just scrambling for an explanation for what happened inside Ford Field on Sunday. After all the build-up, the "fan outrage" seemed to sputter out.

    Maybe it's that no one wanted to do anything to lose their seats. Maybe the premediation of the day (as opposed to the spontaneous outrage we saw at the Minnesota game) had an affect. Maybe the sound system drowned out the chants, and the security staff kept people civil.

    Or the whole thing was overblown to begin with. Those who really wanted to do something marched outside the stadium. And when it comes down to it, fans love the Lions and aren't going to show otherwise.


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