by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I crawl into the attic. I lift the old blanket. There, beneath a dusty program from Super Bowl II, is the oblong-shaped crystal. I put it on the table. It begins to glow. Headlines. I see headlines. Stories. I see stories. Football, 1988.

Here we go . . .

PONTIAC, Sept. 4 — The Detroit Lions beat the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, prompting a celebration rarely seen in a season opener. “WE DID IT! WE DID IT!” screamed the Lions players to the crowd of 766 fans at the Silverdome, many of whom stayed for the whole game.

Atlanta players seemed confused.

“Geez,” said Falcons quarterback Chris Miller, “You’d think we were good or something. . . . “

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Sept. 10 — Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, who underwent heart bypass surgery last winter, stunned a crowd of 59,075 Saturday by ripping off his headphones and entering the season opener between the Wolverines and Notre Dame.

Schembechler apparently was upset over the play of a freshman lineman. On third-and-four, he came barreling into the huddle and said: “Move over. I’ll show you how to do this!” He then lined up at left guard and threw a block that allowed running back Allen Jefferson to scamper in for a touchdown. Michigan won the game, 10-3.

Afterward, Irish head coach Lou Holtz announced he would lodge a protest.

“Fine,” Schembechler replied, “have him call our athletic director. Not before 10 a.m. I like to sleep in. . . . “

FOXBORO, Mass., Sept. 14 — The New England Patriots announced the release of quarterback Doug Flutie, as soon as they could find him. “I looked in the equipment bag,” said teammate Irving Fryar. “He’s not there. . . . “

NORMAN, Okla., Sept. 19 — Football fans here were beaming with pride after Sooners coach Barry Switzer announced that running back Anthony Stafford had refused the offer of a free Corvette from a local booster. Said Switzer: “It just goes to show you that, contrary to what Brian Bosworth might say, we run a clean program here.”

Stafford simply shrugged. “No big deal,” he said, “as long as the Mercedes still runs.”

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 2 — The Lions dropped their fourth straight game Sunday, losing, 40-7, to the LA Rams.

“How do you think the fans in Detroit will react?” someone asked coach Darryl Rogers.

“I’m not sure they know yet,” he said. “The Tigers game was on this afternoon.”

NEW YORK, Oct. 5 — Lawrence Taylor, the star linebacker for the New York Giants, returned to the team after a 30-day suspension for substance abuse.

“I’m sure he has learned his lesson,” said NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, denying the league was soft on violators.

Taylor said he used the time off to work on his new book: “L.T. II.”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5. — Dexter Manley, the star lineman for the Washington Redskins, was suspended for 30 days for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse rule for the second time in two months.

“I’m sure Dexter learned his lesson the first time,” said commissioner Pete Rozelle. “He just forgot.”

Manley said he will use the time to work on his new book: “Manley, Yes, But I Like It, Too.”

ANN ARBOR, Oct. 8 — The Michigan State Spartans won the annual war Saturday, upending the U-M Wolverines, 14-13. The Spartans’ defense was responsible for all the scoring, converting an interception and a fumble recovery.

“How do you feel?” coach George Perles was asked.

“Hey, we’re just here to have a good time,” he said. “I’m looking forward to taking the boys to Disneyland. That’s what this is all about.”

He was later informed that the Rose Bowl had ended nine months ago.

FOXBORO, Mass., Oct. 29 — The New England Patriots once again announced they were releasing quarterback Doug Flutie, as soon as they could locate him.

“I checked under the seat on the plane,” said teammate Steve Grogan. “He wasn’t there. . . .”

PONTIAC, Nov. 3 — The search continues for missing lineman Reggie Rogers, who was last seen Monday morning getting on a bus. Apparently, Rogers’ disappearance was a result of a communications mix-up concerning the Lions head coach, Darryl Rogers.

“It was during the fourth quarter of our game against the Giants,” explained defensive co-ordinator Wayne Fontes. “It was our eighth loss in a row. We were walking past owner William Clay Ford and we heard him say,
‘That’s it. I’m getting rid of Rogers.’

“And the next morning Reggie left.”

EAST LANSING, Nov. 19 — The Spartans finished their season with an impressive 45-3 victory over Wisconsin.

“Things are going just as we planned,” said MSU coach George Perles. “The food out here is great. And tomorrow we’re going to Universal Studios. . . . “

CHICAGO, Dec. 1 — William (The Refrigerator) Perry showed up at a suburban weight-loss clinic and said he was there to check in. When informed that he had already gone through the program a month ago, Perry said, “Oh,” and left. He later checked into a memory-loss clinic.

FOXBORO, Mass., Dec. 3 — The New England Patriots announced they were changing their mind about missing quarterback Doug Flutie and would keep him on the roster.

Flutie immediately crawled out from a shoe-box and said: “Here I am.”

“We lied,” the Patriots said. “You’re fired.”

PONTIAC, Dec. 4 — In an effort to spruce up sagging ticket sales, team owner William Clay Ford gave permission for seats to be sold on the Lions’ bench for Sunday’s game against Green Bay. Unfortunately, he forgot to tell coach Darryl Rogers.

It was a costly mistake. During the third quarter, Rogers turned to Miles Poomkin, a plumber from Livonia, and said: “Get in there and make something happen, gosh darn it!” Poomkin, obviously shaken, dashed out to the huddle, took the snap, and ran a sweep for 87 yards and a touchdown. Realizing their mistake, the Lions immediately offered him a two-year contract.

“What?” Poomkin said, “and give up my day job?”

PHOENIX, Dec. 18 — A precedent was set in the NFL Sunday when the entire offense of the Phoenix Cardinals pulled up lame on the same play, causing the forfeit of their season-ending game against the Packers.

The Cardinals are winless this year, and there have been rumors of discontent. On Sunday, trailing 47-0 in the second quarter, quarterback Neil Lomax called “68 red, drop dead!” — and all 11 Phoenix players fell to the turf and began to scream: “Hamstring! Ooooh, my hamstring!”

Cardinals coach Gene Stallings charged onto the field. “How can you all have hamstring pulls at the same time?” he yelled.

There was a pause.

“Groin pull! Ooooh, groin pull!” they moaned. . . .

ANN ARBOR, Dec. 20 — The Big Ten has chosen Iowa over Michigan to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2. The teams had identical records within the conference and had tied, 13-13, in their one meeting.

“Hey, what can I say?” said Hayden Fry, the Iowa coach. “I guess it’s my sunglasses, huh?”

Michigan coach Bo Schembechler refused comment, as he was too busy tying Big Ten officials to their chairs and lighting a stick of dynamite.

MIAMI, Jan. 22 — The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cleveland Browns, 24-14, Sunday to win Super Bowl XXIII. Quarterback Joe Montana completed 20 of 21 passes, all of them to receiver Jerry Rice.

“That Rice cooks in a minute!” marveled one player marveled.

“He’s a San Francisco treat!” said another.

After the game, Bernie Kosar announced he is giving up football and will return to his popular role as Big Bird on “Sesame Street.” Montana said he would “take my wife to the dance, since that’s all she ever asks me.”

Outside Joe Robbie Stadium, a row of Miami schoolkids sold lemonade from homemade stands. In the middle were two large men, whom passers-by identified as Dexter Manley and Lawrence Taylor. They were standing behind a table full of books marked “REDUCED.” Business, according to witnesses, was slow.


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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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