by | Nov 20, 2001 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Mama always said, if you’re gonna do something, do it well.

I think it’s time to admit what the Lions do well. They lose. They’re good at it. In fact, when it comes to losing, the Lions printed the catalog.

You name it, we got it. Against the tough teams, like the Rams, we can roll over without a point. Against the weak teams, like the Cardinals, we can turn a 10-point lead into a 14-point deficit by bouncing the ball into an opponent’s hands.

Either way, when the chips are down, the Lions are dependable. They will move heaven and earth to change victory into defeat.

So why fight it? As Mrs. Gump once said, “Forrest, you’re different than the other boys.”

I have a message for the Lions.

It is time to embrace the inner L.

There is nothing special in going 7-9. There is even less in going 4-12, or 3-13.

Ah, but 0-16. Winless. A perfect season.

Now there’s a milestone.

True, it’s not a milestone you wear proudly. It’s more like making your high school yearbook as “Most Likely to Develop Hemorrhoids.”

But, hey, it puts you on the map.

And by threatening the all-time NFL record for single-season incompetence — held by the 0-14 Tampa Bay Bucs in 1976 — the Lions are indeed on the map.

For example, did you know Jay Leno is talking about the Lions? It’s true. On the “Tonight Show,” our Motor City team has become the butt of his L.A. monologue.

JAY: “Hey, Kevin, did you know the difference between the Taliban and the Detroit Lions?”

KEVIN: “No, what?”

JAY: “The Taliban have a running game!” Hiii-ooooooooo!

They couldn’t be worse if they tried

Now, I hear what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Mitch, are you actually telling the Lions to lose?”

Of course not! Why would I do that? They’re already losing! They don’t need me. In fact, I want the Lions to try as hard as they have been all season.

I want those defensive backs to keep playing that tight-as-a-muumuu coverage. I want Coach Marty to keep doing exactly what he’s doing. Whatever it is.

I will admit that Marty speaks as if he’s hyperventilating. And I did actually hear him say, before Sunday’s embarrassing come-from-ahead defeat, words to this effect:

“A 10-point lead is the most deceiving lead in football. It’s just one play away from things turning around.

“Now, a 14-point lead, or a 17-point lead, that’s a lead.”

Hmm. Well. That explains it.

But, hey, I don’t want his players to deliberately lose. They should always try to win. On the other hand, to the fans, winning a game at this point means nothing. And don’t tell me about “salvaging” the season. Salvaging is something you do with a sunken ship, usually because there’s a safe on board.

There is nothing on this 2001 Lions ship but barnacles and bad memories. I know Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

But did Vince ever see his quarterback throw a Hail Mary pass — out of bounds?

Losing made them somebody!

Now, I want you to know, I have experience in this matter. One of my alma maters, Columbia University, once held the record for most consecutive defeats in major college football.

Week after week, we would line up, hunker down, and get the snot beaten out of us. At Columbia, we refer to those as “the glory years.”

It wasn’t fun, but it was noteworthy. Our record became a cause celebre. Each week, networks that otherwise wouldn’t put Columbia in the graphics crawl under “Lou Dobbs Moneyline” suddenly were mentioning our games. True, they were saying things like “Columbia, incredibly, has lost again!”

But the way we looked at it, that was the only chance we had of hearing
“Columbia” and “incredibly” in the same sentence.

And then, one fateful Saturday, we won. Whom did we beat? No one remembers. The streak was over. We were off the map. The next week, we had no reporters, no coverage, no attention.

And we lost.

Since then, you never hear about my alma mater. We are just another slug in the long line of mediocrity.

For years, the Lions have been there, too. Just bad enough to be forgotten. Now they have a chance at history. Tonight, Jay Leno; tomorrow, Regis!

Think of football as a graph. If the Super Bowl is the high point, then what is the low point? Utter defeat, right?

Well, we know the Lions aren’t going to the Super Bowl. That point is gone. Take away the only other point and that leaves you — well — pointless.

And who needs that? Let’s give ’em something to talk about. Go Lions! Go Marty! Run, Forrest, run!

Uh, the end zone is that way.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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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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