Many of you may know, I am an unabashed, somewhat naive Detroit Lion fan. What is that you say? Detroit still plays football? Of course it does-how else would most NFL teams get a guaranteed win. You know the old saying, Detroit only has one good Sunday each season and yeah, it is the Bye week. Also, I know that our most famous coach in the past 40 years is Wayne Fontes. Yeah, yeah, our greatest quarterback was Greg Landry...but it is looking up. Why you may ask? Please ask...because usually when I mention that I am a Lions fan, all I hear is crickets or the people clearing their throat as the sounds of footsteps running away is heard.
I have two words that begin with S that make it a great time to be Lion fan-Stafford and Suh. Add to that Mr. Calvin Johnson and another word that starts with S-Schwarz, as in Coach. There is somewhat of a foundation being built and this one is at least on solid dirt and not rushing waters like Matt Millen used as the foundation. C'mon you say, this can't be the only reason why it is a great time to be a Lion fan. You're right. What makes it so fun is that this is the time of year when the Lions are the most competitive with the other teams. I know there are no games, but the Lions are competitive in other areas. Have you seen the lobby of their headquarters? Only 3 other teams have better chairs. And the flowers are terrific. The blooms on them are huge and only warm weather teams Miami and San Diego have bigger blooms and more blossoms. Throw in Detroit's website and you have the makings of a topnotch team, until draft day. BUT...and I say but...the two aforementioned S's (Stafford and Suh) are beginning to make Detroit's ability to compete last beyond draft day, preseason, and maybe, yes maybe even the regular season.
Stafford is the real deal when healthy. He is the Lions version of Andrew Bynum of the Lakers. When healthy he makes a difference; however, injuries leave us wondering how good it could be or even if he will ever be good. He is tough all over except in an important area for football players-the shoulders. It wouldn't be a problem if the O line would actually know their assignments. They can block, but the problem is knowing the schemes and assignments and putting it into action. I sure hope the Lions look at the smarts of O lineman during the draft and when they make trades. Stafford's health is the the most important thing to the on field success of the Lions offense. Protecting him is job one. He has weapons to throw to, especially one who is top 3 among receivers-Calvin Johnson. No reason if Stafford stays healthy that they can't hook up for over 100 catches and close to 15 scores. But back to the Bynum comparison, Stafford doesn't have the overall talent of the Lakers like Bynum does when he is out. Calvin Johnson ain't bad, but boy does the bottom begin to fall out after him.
Bottom line, Suh is a disruptive, energized defensive force-a once every few years player who can dominate games from different positions on the defensive line. He can showboat, but when you can back it up, who cares? Plus, a little attitude would be good for the doormats of the NFC North and pretty much the whole NFL. The comparison to the Lakers ends with Stafford's injury. The closest comparison for the Lions, really, is the Clippers. And I say that without trying to insult the Clippers and their fans. Well, maybe a little knock on Donald Sterling, but he usually deserves it.
Why am I being so sarcastic and smug about my team-and yes they are my team. I buy the NFL package just to watch my Lions. The reason is first, I need to have a sense of humor and skepticism because other than Barry Sanders and maybe Bobby Ross, I haven't had much reason to be confident about their chances. I mean the Saints won a Super Bowl before the Lions. God help us that Cardinals do it before the Lions...wait, at least they went to a Super Bowl.
The second reason is that just as I get excited about a draft, an off season, preseason, and ultimately a season, here comes the lockout. I should be encouraged because I know as long as there is a lockout, the Lions are fairly even with all other NFL teams. They aren't losing any games or signing free agnets who will bust. But then again, neither is anyone else. Yet, last year did give us Lion fans some hope. Hope that a 8-8 season or better could be around the corner. A Calvin Johnson TD, or Suh sack, or Stafford scramble away from a, dare I say it, gulp, playoff birth. But wait...a lockout. What are Lion fans supposed to do? Oh yeah, pretty much what we always do, sit around and complain then hope that things will get better. Maybe, we will draft an offensive lineman who really can protect your biggest investment. I mean our last few drafts have been somewhat encouraging. What am I thinking? Boomer, get a hold of yourself...these are the Lions. So here is my dream season (nothing too big):
The Lions keep most of their starters healthy. They start the year 4-4 and give us some hope. They finally destroy someone on Thanksgiving and they go into the last game needing a win for a playoff birth. Stafford hits Johnson for the game winning TD and the Lions actually are the last wild card team in the playoffs. They lose the next week, 77-0 but who cares, we made the playoffs.
Bottom line, the NFL needs to get their act together. Don't tell me you care about the head injuries of the players and continue to treat them as second class citizens at the bargaining table. In this case, I side with the players who are not Brady, Manning, or Brees. The last guy on Punt Return or the guy that keeps getting signed every other week and is just waiting for one long run, a good tackle, or great block to get the coach's attention and really jump start his career. Those are guys we care about. They give it their all every Sunday hoping something great will happen. They may break a bone, but no matter what, they try and try again until the game is over. I know the NFL is a quarterback league (star quarterback), but I will take the guys like Suh, Julius Peppers or Jared Allen anyday. So, please NFL owners, even thougth the Lions are even Steven with their opponents right now, please open your books, think of the fans and tear down this wall. The fans deserve this, I deserve this and please, the Lions need this. Here is to Stafford's shoulders, Johnson's hands, and the NFL's brains(s). It scares me to think the fate of the NFL 2011 season may be in the hands of two Jerry's-Jones and Richardson. (side note-doesn't Jerry Jones look like he is always in a state of surprise?). (another side note-Jerry Richardson is out for one thing-money, money, money for himself). Hey, at least Carolina has the top pick in a draft that doesn't have alot of superstars-though Patrick Peterson will be and Cam Newton wants to be.
There are 9 billion reasons to have a lock out and that is dollars, but there is 1 reason to get this settled and that is little Timmy Thomas in Wahoo, Iowa. He has cried himself to sleep at nite when the Lions lose. He has lost feeling in his thumbs by squeezing his hands so tight when they lose by double digits. He has had to replace his TV 9 times because he throws shoes and drinks at the screen when the Lions fumble or let an opponent score. Finally, he breaks out into a Lion blue rash every Thanksgiving because whether the Lions win or lose, it usually is meaningless. Wait, that's not Timmy Thompson, that is me. For now, I will keep voting for the Lions. Tomorrow the carpets in the visitor locker rooms get cleaned at the stadium and from what I understand the Lions are paying lower cleaning fees than all but 2 teams...you go Lions!