by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Go ahead. Make us sick, why don’t you? It’s bad enough to sit in a canvas bubble watching your team go plop. But here was Anthony Carter, back for his annual visit, streaking across the middle of the Silverdome as if everyone else were moving in slow motion, and here comes the ball, right on target, and, bingo, it’s in his hands and he’s off.

Who needs it? It’s hard enough to see the Lions week after week without getting chewed on by the rats of what might have been. But they were there Sunday, every time Carter caught the ball. And wouldn’t you know it? He caught it a lot.

Try five receptions for 111 yards. Try a pretty touchdown catch on the lip of the end zone corner. Try a game-breaking slant across the middle for 49 yards.

Try this. In the Vikings’ locker room, following their 24-10 victory over the Lions, quarterback Tommy Kramer stood up in front of the team to award the game ball.

“To Anthony Carter,” he said, “who’s from right here in Motown.”

Where’s that Pepto-Bismol we had lying around? He still belongs in Detroit Carter, of course, is not from Motown. He is from Florida. But don’t tell people around here that. Carter — “A.C.,” you call him “A.C.” probably — spent 7 1/2 years in this area, with the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan Panthers, and he was almost a Detroit Lion, until the front office tripped over itself again and blew the deal. But hey.

“Did you correct Kramer?” someone asked him afterward, as he stood before a crowd of local reporters. “Did you tell him you’re not really from here?”

“Nah,” he said.

“You just took the ball and ran?”

‘You got it.”

No, he got it. And the Vikings got him, thank you very much. Those of you who remember the almost-deal for Carter’s NFL rights — that fell through last year when the Lions dinkered around too much for Miami’s liking — probably had a tough time watching Sunday. Carter caught the first pass of the game and the Vikings’ first offensive touchdown and he had as many yards receiving as Jeff Chadwick, Leonard Thompson and Jimmy Giles put together.

He was, simply put, one big reason the Lions are 3-7 this morning, and watching it was as bittersweet as watching your best friend marry your old flame. How many games had Carter excited people in this town? Beautiful moves, beautiful receptions. Blinking speed. And now the same moves, in an enemy uniform.

Give us that aspirin, will ya? A.C. finds the right home Homecoming. Bah. Who needs it? Carter had friends in the crowd Sunday — “16 tickets worth,” he said — old school chums and Michigan pals. They were waiting in the tunnel after the game, while Carter patiently answered questions about the Michigan-Ohio State game, about his days with the Panthers, about what might have been had that deal ever . . . ah, why torture ourselves?

“Do you ever think about doing what you did today for the Lions?” Carter was asked.

“It would have been nice,” he said. “But I’m happy where I am. Tommy Kramer

is having one of the best seasons I’ve ever seen. We’re playing well. It’s a good group to be around.”

Sure it is. The Vikings shower with hope and water these days. For them, the playoffs are still a longshot possibility. The Lions, meanwhile towel off and go home, week after week, and if pride and next year aren’t good enough reasons to play, then I’m surprised they show up at all.

They disintegrated Sunday at the moments most critical. A goal line fumble. An interception returned for a score. Their turnovers led to 17 of Minnesota’s points. So what, the score should be 10-7, Lions win, right?

Forget it. Detroit couldn’t even win the coin toss Sunday. Lose enough close ones and you forget how to beat people, and that seems to have happened to the home team. Carter, with his game ball under his arm, can right now thank his stars and his agent that his uniform is purple.

“Will you stick around tonight, maybe see some old friends or something?” Carter was asked.

“NO! NO! NO!” he hollered, laughing and grabbing his bag. “I’m Minneapolis bound!”

He looked at the faces, and maybe he saw disapointment.

“I mean, you know, that’s my home now,” he added.

We know, we know.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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