by | Nov 22, 2005 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

When I heard that the Lions were asking Charles Rogers to give them back $10 million of his $14 million signing bonus, my reaction, like a lot of Lions fans, was one of sympathy and empathy, summed up by the sentence, “Yo, where’s MY money?”

I mean, as long as we’re talking refunds.

The Lions, a football team that has let more people down than the Otis Elevator Company, should tiptoe lightly around any refund issue. After all, there have been Sundays in Detroit where double your money back wouldn’t have been worth it.

To be honest, I’m not sure why the Lions are seeking money from Rogers now, since they have six games left this season and he is finally healthy enough to play in them.

I mean, they tell the guy, “Go out there and break a collarbone for us, because dang it, you’re part of this special thing we call a TEAM!” and meanwhile they’re saying, “By the way, check or charge?”

And you thought he had motivation problems BEFORE?

Now, it’s hard to have much sympathy for Rogers, who had to fail three drug tests to possibly reach the “we-get-our-money back” stage of his deal. You don’t need to read “War and Peace” as a football player, but once in a while, a glance at the contract is a good idea.

Still, it’s pretty clear the Lions are telling Rogers, “We don’t want you anymore, but keep playing and maybe we’ll take you cheaper.”

It’s sort of like eating at a restaurant, telling the chef the food is making you sick, but agreeing to finish it if he doesn’t charge you.

Lions have won contract disputes before

It’s true, the players union says that Rogers doesn’t owe the Lions diddly. But the union should note: This it isn’t the first time the Lions are getting into the refund business. When Barry Sanders quit, they demanded -and received – a good chunk of money back from him. Which only proves that playing for this franchise can be so depressing, you will actually give them millions to avoid it.

Still, if the Lions are going to collect on failed expectations, shouldn’t they be paying out as well?

Which brings us to my One Dollar Plan.

The Lions often speak about “giving something back to the fans.”

Fine. Let’s start with the following refund proposal.

For every Lions quarterback who has been given his own era – such as “The Scott Mitchell Era” or “The Rodney Peete Era” or “The Andre Ware Era”- we get one dollar back.

For every time a Lions coach has said, “It’s still early in the season, we can turn this thing around,” we get one dollar back.

For every Lions lineman who turned out to be a wasted draft pick, we get one dollar back.

For every Lions defensive back who turned out to be a wasted draft pick, we get one dollar back.

For every Lions player who has said, in a losing locker room, “We need to look ourselves in the mirror,” we get one dollar back.

For every Lions player who has a better season the next year – when he’s playing for some other team! – we get one dollar back.

Dial M for more losses

For every time the defense lets down the offense, we get one dollar back.

For every time the offense lets down the defense, we get one dollar back.

For every week that the kicker is the best player on the team, we get one dollar back.

For every time the Lions go for three yards when they need four, we get one dollar back.

For every blown decision that any fan can make at home – like taking the ball on an overtime coin toss – we get one dollar back.

For every time an NFC North team that finished behind the Lions one year finishes ahead of them the next, we get one dollar back.

And, just for the heck of it, for every time a coach or GM is hired with an initial “M,” we get one dollar back. (Marty, Monte, Moeller, Mooch, Matt, you see how quickly it adds up.)

The way I figure it, we’ll all be millionaires, which only will make us more like the owners of this team, and thus enable us to understand them better.

Otherwise, how are we supposed to comprehend a franchise whose starting quarterback doesn’t know if he’s playing until game time, and whose highest draft pick in 25 years may be down at the bank, right now, emptying out the cash drawer?

“It is what it is,” Rogers told reporters.


What is it?

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or He will sign books at 11 a.m. Friday at Borders Express in Great Lakes Crossing. For a complete list of holiday signings, see Page 2D.


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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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