IF ONLY LIONS’ SEASON COULD END AFTER THIS

TO: NFL MANAGEMENT

FROM: DETROIT LIONS FANS Dear Sirs:

Please excuse our football team from next week’s Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers. We will be unable to attend because of a total lack of desire to end the season with a loss on network TV to a team so powerful it uses Joe Montana as a scrub.

No thanks. We prefer to close the season right here, in Detroit, after Sunday’s 16-3 victory over Chicago. Even with our losing football team, beating the Bears still means something. Mostly it means we can go to bed without vomiting.

Gentlemen, to be blunt, this has not been a good year for our Lions. You may have guessed this by the sidelines Sunday. Jerry Ball, former starting nose tackle, wore a pink and black sweat suit — as only he can — as he hobbled from place to place. Kevin Glover, former starting center, wore dress slacks to go with his cane. Mike Cofer, former starting linebacker, chose wire-rim spectacles to complement his crutches. Ken Dallafior and Blake Miller, former starting offensive linemen, went casual in sneakers, making it easier on their bum legs. Mel Gray, former starting kick returner, was carted out before halftime with a season-ending knee injury. Rodney Peete and Erik Kramer, former starting quarterbacks, never broke a sweat.

Injuries? We had injuries. Benchings? We had benchings. Controversy? We had controversy.

Which is why, we repeat the request: We would like to check out right now, cash in our victory chips, go home for Christmas with something to look forward to next year, besides picnic tables at Tiger Stadium, whoop-de-doo.

Did I mention Andre Ware? Give us a Christmas present

If you won’t think of us, think about the kid. He sat in Detroit for nearly three years, as unopened as Christmas fruitcake. Then, these last two weeks at home, he has started. And while he has made mistakes, he also has made some rather good plays, including a few highlight-film bombs to the acrobatic Herman Moore. He has thrown touchdown passes. He has shown style. He has won two games, which around here can get you canonized.

And finally, the kid has some confidence. Listen to him after his 290-yard effort Sunday:

“This is the best I’ve felt since being here. To have guys come up to you in the shower and say, ‘You know, I had doubts before. I wasn’t sure if you were gonna work out because you weren’t playing, but I want to tell you, you’ve earned my respect. I think you can help us win.’ Well, that’s something.”

True, that’s a lot to say in one shower. Give him a break. Send him home for the holidays with those nice words — and the soap suds — in his ears. Don’t send him to Frisco where it could all come apart. Why? You want the kid to have a lousy new year?

Wait. How about our injury thing? I don’t want to say the Lions are depleted. I will say we now have a team tryout booth next to the pizza stand. Did you hear Wayne Fontes after the game?

“We lost George Jamison in the second quarter. We had to go with Troy . . . uh . . . Troy. . . .”

“Johnson?” said a reporter.

“Yeah. Troy Johnson.”

Clearly, it is time to end.

And what about the defense? Here is a unit whoseself- esteem has been so battered, its “3-4” scheme stood for three scores allowed in the first half, four in the second. But here it was on Sunday, closing down the Bears. Here was Chris Spielman blitzing up the middle while Lawrence Pete chased quarterback Jim Harbaugh for a sack. Here was Tracy Scroggins fighting a double-team to sack Harbaugh as well. Two sacks? In one half? Three points allowed?

“If we had played this way at the start of the year . . .,” Spielman lamented. Instead, in the season opener, against these same Bears, the defense sagged, allowing Chicago to score the winning touchdown on the final play from scrimmage. That pointed the season downhill. Sunday was revenge, a bookend payback.

Can you mess with that kind of symmetry?

Why not show a rerun?

Now. OK. Perhaps you’ll say: “If we let you do it, then other teams will want to call off their last games, too, like New England.”

And this may be true. I say: So what? Let ’em. As far as the Patriots go, I don’t know why you didn’t mercy-kill them a long time ago.

We Lions fans, on the other hand, only want something sweet to take out of this season. It began with such promise. You should have seen us. So geeked up. Expecting great things. Marching into Chicago like, well, lions. Marching out like lambs. We have now won two in a row. Not big games, but games. We don’t feel great. But we don’t feel nauseous, either.

So please, excuse our absence next Monday. Take the night off, and tell ABC to run one of its fine made-for-TV movies, such as “The Burning Bed Serial Killer Royal Sex Scandal Mystery: A True Story.” And leave us to our eggnog.

We would be eternally grateful, and might not even complain that we are the only city in America that needs 80,000 fans to show up before we see a home game televised.

(P.S. As for missing a chance at Joe Montana on your airwaves? Why not let him play Steve Young, one-on-one? People would rather see that anyway.)

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