TO: Detroit Lions

FROM: The NFL Dear Sirs,

We are writing with happy news. You are doing very well. So well, in fact, that we are promoting you. To first place in the NFC Central. You must be very proud.

Of course, with the new status comes new responsibilities. No more Tampa Bay, Green Bay or Indianapolis. We know you had a good time playing those teams, but we feel, after careful observation, that you have matured much faster than them. Now when you play together, the other boys get hurt.

Take Sunday, for example, when you stomped all over Tampa Bay, 31-3. Oh yes. We were watching. We watch everything. In fact, we should tell you that Sunday was a big reason for your promotion. Our research staff predicted: “The Lions will lose to the lowly Buccaneers — even after winning three in a row
— because it is their tradition.” They said you always have had much in common with Tampa Bay: Fumbles. Interceptions. Play-calling from the 14th century.

But now, it seems, you have gotten quite serious and mature, while the Bucs are still, well, growing up. Take the first quarter. Your defense stuffed the Bucs on their first three plays, then forced them to punt from their end zone. Then your offense took over and made like a Ferrari for a touchdown. Then your defense intercepted a pass. Then your offense took over and with one play — a 26-yard pass from Rodney Peete to Willie Green — scored another touchdown. Goodness! It was 14-0 before the marshmallows on the hot chocolate melted.

Very impressive. So we all took a vote. And you were promoted.

Enclosed, please find a cigar. Don’t party too hearty

Not that you should smoke it. You know our rules against celebrations. Besides, as part of your promotion, we are scheduling some very good opponents for you now, teams that have actually won a game this year, starting Sunday with Minnesota. Sorry. We know you would like us to keep sending Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Miami and Indianapolis — who have a combined record of three victories and 17 losses — but, unfortunately, that is one of the changes with the new position.

Like we said, winning brings responsibility.

We in the home office feel you can handle it. We base this not only on your performance Sunday — which we call “beating a team you should beat” or
“squashing a grape” — but also on your reaction in the locker room. Oh yes. We were watching. We watch everything. And this is what impressed us: You were not singing. You were not dancing. You were not standing on your heads.

In fact, you sounded very mature, as if you had been winning for a long time. Very good. Our star pupils, the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants, also behave this way.

A special commendation to the following players:

Mr. Chris Spielman, who said: “We won the football game and that’s great. But I’m not going to go home and have a parade.”

Mr. Rodney Peete, who said: “We used to come to games saying, ‘We hope we can win.’ Now we expect to win. That’s why we’re not getting overly excited.”

And Mr. Jerry Ball, who said: “Being in first place at this point in the season don’t mean s—.”

Of course, we would have preferred Mr. Ball use a different noun. Maybe he could work on that. But we are glad to see you Lions know how to handle the attention that comes with winning. Who knows? There could be lots more of it.

Enclosed please find playoff tickets. Now comes the hard part

Not that you should use them. You know our feelings about celebrations. We are only sending these tickets so you can hold them, touch them, caress them, dream about them. They are a little gift from us, because we know you haven’t seen one inch of the playoffs since Barry Manilow had a hit record. Also, the last time you were4-1, New Kids on the Block were actually New Kids in Second Grade.

Which is why this promotion should be so exciting to you. Think of the status that comes with first place. Think of the fun in being known as — and this is your new title — “One Of The Hot Young Teams In The NFL.” Fabulous, no? We’ll put it on the nameplate across your desk.

Here are some of the changes we anticipate in your new position:
* When you arrive for a road game, there actually will be people in the hotel lobby asking for you. Besides your relatives.
* When your games are televised, the ratings will not go up for the competing Elvis Presley movie on UHF.
* At least one Hollywood celebrity will start wearing your team hat and telling people he has “been a Lions fan for years.”

In addition, we see great things for your defense, and for this young fellow, Barry Sanders, whom our research staff informs us is “supernatural.” High praise, indeed. And he had 160 yards rushing Sunday? Tell Mr. Sanders if he keeps this up, he may get his own office.

All right. Now for the brass tacks. Sunday, you will play the Vikings. Then you face the 49ers. Then the Dallas Cowboys (also one of our Hot Young Teams). And then the Chicago Bears. We realize this may seem like a heavy burden after Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. But as we say in the home office, if you want to bowl with the big boys, you better buy your own shoes.

We’re not sure what that means, but it seems appropriate.

Anyhow, congratulations on the promotion. We are confident you can handle it. One word of warning, however: We are watching. We watch everything. Do not smoke that cigar. Do not get a swelled head. Now and then, much to our distress, teams do that, and we have no choice but to demote them back to a losing season.

And if we can do it to Lawrence Taylor, we can do it to you.

Best of luck, fellas,

The League MAGIC NUMBER For the first time since 1980 the Lions have posted their fourth victory before September ended. Tracking victory No. 4: YEAR 4TH WIN FINAL 1991 Sept. 29 1990 Nov. 22 6-10-0 1989 Nov. 23 7-9-0 1988 Dec. 4 4-12-0 1987 Dec. 27 4-11-0 1986 Nov. 16 5-11-0 1985 Oct. 20 7-9-0 1984 Nov. 22 4-11-1 1983 Oct. 30 9-7-0 1982 Jan. 2 4-5-0 1981 Oct. 25 8-8-0 1980 Sept. 28 9-7-0

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