by | Dec 20, 1993 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

(Parental advisory: Anyone who says the words “We’re still in first place” in this column will be whacked on the head. You have been warned.)

Take a good look, folks. There go the 49ers, a real playoff contender, a January team, a franchise with the right to talk about “postseason” and
“home-field advantage” and all those words the Lions keep kidding themselves about after beating Phoenix.

The 49ers came. They saw. They burst out laughing. “This is an 8-5 team?” you could hear them say. They stayed just long enough to deliver a quickie lecture: So You Think You’re A Contender?

I hope we were taking notes.

At least those of us who actually watched this meat loaf to the finish — which was, what, four people? The Lions were proud of their rare sellout Sunday, but all it proved was how quickly 77,052 fans can exit a stadium.
(Actually, it wasn’t really 77,052. Some intelligent folks pulled into the parking lot, heard the Niners score a touchdown on their third play from scrimmage, turned around and drove home.)

“Total domination,” quarterback Erik Kramer said, after the Niners scored seven touchdowns in whipping the Lions. “I’ve never been involved in a game like that. All we can do is forget it. Crazy as it sounds, we’re still in first place–“


Sorry, Erik. You were warned.

First place? How dare anyone invoke those words after a day like Sunday? This was “Wayne’s World” in reverse: the 49ers telling the Lions, “You’re Not Worthy! You’re Not Worthy!” What was the score, 55-17? You don’t end games like this, you shoot them.

This wasn’t football, it was Pac-Man, with the 49ers gobbling real estate like a smiling yellow dot. Steve Young had four touchdowns and 354 yards and was on the bench by the third quarter, sipping a drink. By the fourth quarter, someone named Adam Walker was rushing for San Francisco. Adam Walker?

The only thing with more garbage time Sunday was public- access TV. A cupcake schedule

As I walked through the Silverdome moments after the game — and my footsteps echoed off the empty hallways — I couldn’t help but think of the irony. The folks in San Francisco are worried that their team isn’t playoff-ready this year.

Ah, well. Everything’s inflated in Frisco.

As it has been here. The Lions have been angry with media and fans for doubting their winning record, for saying it’s built on weak teams. Now. Lions, do you understand why they say it?

Here was a game Detroit needed desperately, it was at home, the place was sold out, the 49ers were coming off a loss, missing Ricky Watters and Kevin Fagan — and they still won by a country-and-a-half.

“What were you not able to do today?” someone asked Fontes.

“Stop them,” he said.

The room cracked up. But he was not kidding. The Lions did not force a punt all day. The only thing that stalled the 49ers’ scoring was halftime, and when they kneeled at the end of the game. The Lions also kneeled, but at the beginning of the game. I think they were praying.

“This game is over, done, forgotten,” Fontes said, making like a dog who kicks dirt over his mess. “The important thing is, we’re still in first place–“


Sorry. You were warned.

First place? With this embarrassment? The Lions were like fraternity pledges Sunday, whacked on the butt and forced to ask for more. Every time the defense went back out, it seemed to say, “Please sir, may I have another?”

And defense is supposed to be this team’s strong suit.

How sad this is. No one takes the Lions seriously. Why, John Madden and Pat Summerall, the CBS announcers, spent part of the game laughing at assistant coach Lamar Leachman, who sat on a stool on the sidelines, his headphones askew, yelling and drawing on his board while his defensive linemen looked off into space.

“Look, they’re not even listening to him!” Madden said.

“I know the feeling,” Summerall said. “I once taught junior high school.”

Hmm. Was he referring to Leachman or the defense? No playoff berth

Whatever. That was Sunday. Getting embarrassed, humiliated, smoked, diced and sliced on national television.

“Would you like to face the 49ers again?”

“Yes . . .” Fontes answered.

Is he nuts?

“. . . if I could send their plane to a different destination.”

Oh. That’s better. At least the guy hasn’t gone completely wacko. Still, we need to get real here: It would be nice if the Lions win the next two games, win the unremarkable Central Division and make the playoffs.

As long as they decline the invitation.

Otherwise they are headed for more of this. Sunday it was the 49ers, but it could have been the Cowboys, or the Oilers. This was a Triple-A team playing the big club. It’s not the Lions’ fault they have a fifth-place schedule. It’s only their fault if they believe the results.

“It’s just one game,” cornerback Ray Crockett said, “we got to put it behind us. We’re still in first place–“


I must be talking to myself here . . .

Mitch Albom will sign “Fab Five” and “Live Albom III” at 2 p.m. Tuesday, B. Dalton, Briarwood Mall; 6:30 p.m., Waldenbooks, 32203 John R, Madison Heights. On Wednesday: 7 p.m., Young and Welshans, Flint.


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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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