by | Dec 10, 2002 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

At halftime of Sunday’s Lions-Cardinals game, a TV reporter asked Marty Mornhinweg about his plan for the second half. The Lions had been up 10 points, and should have been up 20.

“We want to put a nail in this thing,” Mornhinweg said.

Alas, only the Lions can go from nailing the coffin shut to lifting the lid and jumping inside.

Enough. Call off the season. I have been trying to give the Lions time, trying not to jump all over them, week after week, loss after loss, just because, I don’t know, there are so many swimmers in that pool already.

But at this point, it’s a mercy killing. Call off December. End it now. I always felt there should be a double-digit rule anyhow — once an NFL team loses 10 games, let the players go home, if not for their sake, then for the fans. Is there some glory in rallying to finish 6-10? I don’t think so.

Sunday was the last straw. I know people hated the Chicago game and the infamous coin flip, and that was bad, but this was worse. Did you see that Arizona team? The ham radio club has a deeper roster. Their stands were empty. They’d lost six in a row. Half the fans, meaning eight, brought cocoa butter and tanning boards. Honest-to-goodness, I think the Cardinals were signing players out of the parking lot.

In other words, this was that rare and wonderful thing, a team the Lions could beat. Should beat. Must beat. Mornhinweg, in an interview last week, said as much. “This is one we can win here,” he said.

He was right. Only he was wrong. The Lions rabbit-punched the Cardinals all day, then handed them the gloves and stuck out their chins. Another overtime defeat? Their 15th straight road loss? If that’s all this team can do against a club that undermanned, what’s the point? Call off the season. Blow the whistle. Don’t embarrass us anymore.

We’ve got Christmas shopping to do.

Curse of the Lions

“I think we’re cursed,” fullback Cory Schlesinger said Monday. He laughed, trying to make a joke of it. Careful, Cory. Somewhere, someone has your voodoo doll . . .

Cursed? Yes. Like the Greek legend of Sisyphus, who was doomed to roll a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down every time. The Lions call that third down.

Cursed? Yes. Like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” doomed to repeat the same awful mistakes, over and over. On Sunday, Detroit had offensive lapses, defensive lapses, special teams lapses, even field goal lapses. And then, of course, there was the mandatory “Gee, I never saw that one before.” This time it was James Stewart, throwing the ball away in disgust. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been tackled. He could have run into the end zone. He could have crawled into the end zone.

Instead, the Lions needed instant replay to keep the ball. Shameful? You bet. The only saving grace is that, outside of the Detroit market, no one was watching. I don’t want to say it was dull and sleepy, but that was the first time I ever heard the snap hit the quarterback’s hands.

The Lions are fast approaching Christmas and still have five total wins in 29 games under M & M. Unlike some pundits, I will leave it to the Ford family to decide how much embarrassment is too much. It’s in their hands anyhow. Fans and media can scream all they want about how Marty must go, Matt Millen must go, but until the Fords are fed up — and they tend to do things like car executives, allowing their division managers to implement five-year plans — then nothing will change.

Which is why we won’t miss the last three games.

Call them off.

A glutton for punishment?

Does anyone really want to see the Lions get drubbed by Tampa Bay? Joey Harrington, to this point, has managed to stay upright. Why risk it?

“Oh, I’m looking forward to this game,” he said Monday, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. “I want to get ear-holed by Warren Sapp. I want to see what it feels like.”

Good God. The kid has wigged out. You see? You see what we’ve done to him?

“I want to earn Sapp’s respect . . . I want (Tampa Bay) to stand across the line from me and say, ‘This is a guy who’s gonna play until he’s dead.’ “

Please. Joey. Don’t tempt them.

We know the Lions will play until they’re dead. Heck. We’ve witnessed it. But the sad truth is, dead or still breathing, they are not likely to win more than one of the last three games, which means a 4-12 season to follow a 2-14 season. Few teams have been that hopeless in NFL history.

“We want to put a nail in this thing,” Mornhinweg said.

So do we, Marty. But the dang schedule keeps getting in the way.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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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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