by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Tickets remain. That was the story Sunday. For the first time at Ford Field, the Lions couldn’t sell out; the game was not televised. Some called this sad. Others called it merciful. Many didn’t notice.

But as one of the lucky 54,312 in attendance, I feel obliged to report to you what you missed.

Not much.

Detroit actually scored in the first quarter for the first time all season. A touchdown with 13 seconds left. That makes the year-to-date first-quarter total: Opponents 57, Lions 7. Yay!

But besides that, there was nothing you haven’t seen before. The Lions had chances. They missed them. They had plays to make. They didn’t make them. They kept within shooting distance. Then shot themselves in the foot.

They converted two third downs, gave up 439 yards, lost by eight, 25-17, and walked off the field.

And afterward, Rod Marinelli insisted, earnestly – and he is nothing if not earnest – that he was going to “just keep doing what I do,” even though some would argue that what he actually does is coach a losing football team.

“I’m coaching the dog out of them,” he said. “… We’re just not getting it done on Sunday.”

This is honest and unacceptable. It’s a bit like saying, “I went to med school, I scrubbed up, but I keep removing the kidney instead of the appendix.”

In “doing what they do,” the Lions don’t make big plays. They don’t convert. And they are 0-7.

Tickets remain. Redskins fumble and bumble

Now, we must admit, there were some things seen Sunday that were notable. The game was not even 5 minutes old and Washington was already down to the Lions’ 1. Then, apparently some folks on the Redskins’ side who get paid by the TV ratings (Washington ratings, not Detroit) decided they’d better make it interesting.

From that point, the ‘Skins did all kinds of things to go backward. They got sacked. They fumbled. They missed a field goal. They committed penalties to stall drives and keep Detroit drives going.

They tried, it seemed, as hard as they could. But like an older boy who can’t help but outrun his baby brother, the ‘Skins eventually grew bored and did what they were fated to do.

A third-quarter bomb to Santana Moss gave them the lead.

A fourth-quarter punt return – by Moss again – went 80 yards for a TD. That put it out of reach.

Afterward, I spoke with left tackle Jeff Backus, who has been here a long time. Like others, he insisted that game day is not matching with weekday.

“We don’t accept losing,” he said. “The day you start accepting losing you might as well hang it up. Losing isn’t fun.”

When’s the last time you had fun, I asked?

“It’s actually fun during the week,” he answered. “Once we get past Monday and critiquing film. The guys are fun to work with. We have fun in practice. It’s just not translating into the game.”

Maybe they should sell tickets to practice. Use the Tigers as a lesson

Because there’s nothing to see here. The Lions turn every opposing quarterback into Johnny Unitas. (Jason Campbell had a career-high rating.) But they can’t make their own offensive plays to win it – only the ones, like a pretty Calvin Johnson 17-yard touchdown catch-and-dive, that keep it close.

This prompted me to ask Marinelli if the team hadn’t developed a “doomed to lose” attitude.

“That’s a great question,” he said. “But I don’t deal with couch therapy.”

Fair enough. On the other hand, that’s what people who need it the most always say. And nobody at home was doing much couch therapy either, since you couldn’t watch the game.

The Lions – and by the Lions I mean the owners – had better be careful. Ask Mike Ilitch about trying to win back fans after they’re alienated. The way pro football works is this: You get a team, you sell tickets, you get on TV, you go for a championship.

Well, there’s no championship. There’s no TV. And Sunday, when the clock expired, there was no sound at all. No boos. No cheers. Just the turned backs of spectators heading up the aisles.

Tickets remain. Fans are another story.


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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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