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

WASHINGTON — Hey, bus driver. Pull over. Let me off. I am not taking this ride again with the Lions. Not if Sunday night was the destination. You can drop me right here, thank you. I’ll walk the rest of football season. It has to be better than watching interceptions, missed tackles, slips, drops, fumbles, stumbles, blown coverages, bad special teams, sacks, balls flying over receivers’ heads, no pass rush, stupid penalties and countless touchdown dances by the other team.

Hmm. Did I leave anything out?

Nuh-uh, Lions. Not this time. I’ll go fishing. I’ll go curling. I’ll clean my basement. I’ll clean my neighbor’s basement. I’ll become a roadie for Bobby Vinton. I’ll hold the mike for Sally Jessy Raphael.

I will do anything to avoid another autumn’s worth of Detroit football Sundays that, when they are over, make you want to — and you’ll pardon my bluntness here — throw up. And I’m feeling queasy already.

Is this any way to start a season? The Lions came out Sunday night, in the first game of 1991, as if they were trying to make 1990 look good by comparison. Plop plop. Fizz fizz. I don’t know who was more fatigued after 30 minutes, the Lions’ defense or the fans who kept having to sing, “Hail to the Redskins,” after every Washington score. Geez. Bruce Springsteen doesn’t do that many encores.

The game? OK. Let’s talk about the game. Ready? Here were the first three Detroit possessions:

1. Punt.

2. Interception.

3. Punt return for touchdown.

And here were the first three Washington possessions:

1. Touchdown.

2. Touchdown.

3. Touchdown.

Do you want to talk about something else now? Positively awful

“It was pretty pathetic,” Lions quarterback Rodney Peete admitted after the 45-0 embarrassment. And he was being kind. Fact is, after Washington’s third touchdown, the game was hardly worth watching, because the Skins were laughing heartily on the sideline and talking about what good restaurants they would go to.

Unfortunately, this was still the first quarter. At least the Lions didn’t drag this loss to overtime — as they did against Washington last season in the Silverdome. No. This time, by the second quarter, Detroit was little more than Jane Fonda leading a Washington Redskins workout. You guys got a nice sweat going? Getting some good exercise?

Now. I want to say right here that Jerry Ball, the Lions’ fine defensive lineman, has asked me to be more positive about the team this year. And Jerry, I’m trying. Really hard. I’m trying so hard my head hurts. Then again, in the middle of the game, a member of the Lions’ front office leaned over and said,
“This is worse than a barium enema.”

I mean, what can I say after that?

Listen, Jerry. Even you can’t deny these Kodak moments: Peete’s first pass sailed over everyone’s head; Robert Clark took a pass in the hands and dropped it; Cedric Jackson coughed up the football with minimal contact; the Lions’ defense, over and over, reached third down and failed to put enough pressure on quarterback Mark Rypien, watching him throw for a first down, scramble for a first down, jog back smiling as the referees moved the chains.

The Lions were so bad, you began to feel sorry for them. By the fourth quarter, the Skins were using their scrubs — and still driving downfield. They turned to mercy killing in the final minutes, sitting on the ball near the Detroit goal line rather than scoring again and rubbing it in. Thanks, Washington. Now we can be ashamed as well as defeated.

“I can’t believe we played that bad,” moaned coach Wayne Fontes.

We can, Wayne. That’s the problem.

You want to hear about the “new” run ‘n’ shoot offense? The Lions’ top receiver Sunday was running back Don Overton. You want to hear about the Lions’ “improved defense”? Forty-five points, six touchdowns and a field goal.

Heard enough? Wait. Barry Sanders. I hear you say Barry Sanders. I hear you say Barry didn’t play. Bad ribs. He was less of a factor in Washington than Dan Quayle. I hear you say that, and I say: You are right. I also say: So what? The Lions didn’t lose because Sanders was hurt. Hey. Check the scoreboard. It read 45-0. Even Barry isn’t that good.

The fact is, if the Lions need Sanders so desperately, they are not much of a team. One man cannot matter that much. All night, Sanders sat on the sideline, gazing blankly at the action. While all night, his teammates seemed confused, overwhelmed and discouraged. They had the look of a bird with anchors on its feet, watching as the flock takes off without him.

The worst part is, it’s such a damn familiar look. A doomed season?

“It was an old-fashioned butt-whipping,” said linebacker Chris Spielman, who does not like to get his butt whipped. “We were totally outclassed. We didn’t play worth anything.”

Which is why I want out. Let me off the bus, before things get really ugly. Do we really want to go through another season, cynical, bitter, angry and frustrated? Come on. Monday through Friday is hard enough. Why should Sundays be torture, too?

Here are the only reasons I can think of for even watching the Lions next week: 1. Washington is a hell of a team. 2. Better this should happen in the first game than in midseason. 3. Barry Sanders. 4. The alternative is watching pro wrestling.

Other than that, I see no reason. Not given this team’s history. After his squad was totally outplayed, unmercifully destroyed, embarrassed, humiliated and crushed, Fontes told the media: “The best part is, this is only one game.”

Could be the worst part, too.


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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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