by | Nov 8, 1993 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

As they always say, don’t think and drive. So I asked for a ride home Sunday from the Silverdome. Three weird happenings, and I truly needed to concentrate.

Here’s what threw me:

1) A run. 2) A walk. 3) A shove.

The run refers to the Lions’ record, which has run up the flagpole from decent, to good, to hugely impressive.

Let’s see: 7-2.

Shawn Bradley’s height in kindergarten?

The odds that Meat Loaf bathes regularly?

The final score of any 2-2 game Mitch Williams enters?

The Lions’ record?

Bingo! The Lions’ record. The best in the NFC? Second-best in the whole league? The last time they were this successful was 1962, and some of their plays have changed since then.

So where’s the party? Where’s the fireworks? Instead, I heard fans booing if the offense even sputtered against Tampa Bay on Sunday. And I saw the stadium nearly empty by the final gun of the 23-0 win.

In the press room afterwards, Rodney Peete met a small media crowd, but few stayed for long. Within five minutes, I was the only one left.

“Mitch, can this be the last question?” Rodney said. “My dad’s waiting.”

Is this the NFL or Little League?

Why wasn’t Peete, the winning quarterback, mobbed by national media? Troy Aikman is mobbed every week, and Dallas has won less than Detroit. Why aren’t the Lions hoisted atop the national news? Joe Montana is, and Kansas City can’t match their record.

The answer, quite simply, is the Detroit schedule. The victories have come over Atlanta, New England, Phoenix, Seattle, the Rams, Minnesota and Tampa Bay. If those teams were cars, they’d be a demolition derby.

But listen. While we can blame the Lions for many things — including the worst fake animal roar I’ve ever heard over a loudspeaker — we can’t blame them for their schedule. They earned it. They played lousy last year, and because the NFL is the only business in America to reward failure with easier competition, they got the bottom-rung menu this year.

You gonna hate them for that?Will he or won’t he?

Strange, I’d have thought fans would be dancing in the streets. Instead, here was Wayne Fontes saying, “We’re 7-2, but that’s just a number.” Then he leaned into the microphone and whispered, “But I’m excited.”

Maybe he’s whispering because he doesn’t want Barry Sanders to hear him. This was Strange Item No. 2, “The Walk,” referring to this contract-related, one-game walkout Barry keeps threatening or not threatening, depending on when you catch him.

Check out this repartee from Sunday:

“Why does your agent say you’ll walk out? . . . I did not say that. . . . But your agent did.. . . . Did he say that? . . . Yes. . . . I thought he said we would look at all the options. . . . Well, will you be here for the next game? . . . It’s been blown out of proportion. . . . Will you walk out? . . . If I do walk out, nobody will know . . .”

Hmm. If that were a dance, it’d be the cha-cha.

What’s weird is that Detroit is 7-2 (see above) so you would assume that 1) this is not a good time to walk out, because the team is finally coming together, and a good postseason only increases Barry’s value, and 2) at 7-2, the Lions can actually afford to lose a game without much damage, so what effect will a one-game walkout have?

“I haven’t given any signs that I’m leaving,” Sanders said, in his cryptic


Listen. Barry. To quote an old Motown song, “Just try it, Daddy, and you’ll lose a good thing.” The fans might love you now, but they will not love you long if you take a mid-job vacation because you’re only earning $2 million a year. Sorry. Too many folks back on planet Earth don’t have that kind of money, or that kind of option. It will not be understood.

Besides, does Barry, or his agent, really think they need an unexcused absence to show how valuable Sanders is to the Lions? All that would do is turn public sentiment against him.

That’s a shame, because the guy is lightning in a jar.

But wait. The weirdness continues . . .A real classless act While Barry, a player, chose to tap-dance with reporters, another player, Jimmy Williams, chose to slam-dance.

Williams, a linebacker, used to play for the Lions. He now plays for Tampa Bay. Which only proves that calling the Bucs losers is redundant.

After the game Sunday, Williams shoved Free Press reporter Michelle Kaufman from behind because she was, in his opinion, blocking his locker. He then told her, “You don’t belong in here,” I guess because she’s a woman. Maybe he meant you have no place in here, because Michelle has an ounce of class, and Williams does not.

Williams — who was fully dressed, so this wasn’t one of those naked athletes/female reporters things — made a few more nasty comments, then walked off cursing, before coming back with a half-hearted apology.

This is the same Jimmy Williams who quotes scripture and gives thanks to the Lord for football plays. And you wonder why sports writers are cynical.

So, all in all, it was a strange day in football, and I’m glad I have a bye week to draw conclusions. Right now, I’m leaning toward the Lions taking a rest, Sanders counting his blessings and Michelle putting Ben-Gay inside Jimmy Williams’ helmet.

But check with me tomorrow . . .


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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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