Home of the losers.

Maybe you’ve heard: Detroit is a big sports town. An economic-development expert with the city once told me that’s both a blessing and curse, mostly in the favor of fans. People who like to watch sports have their favorites, but to some hard-to-quantify extent a major-league franchise lifts all boats. You can see this in my hometown of Columbus, which for years has tracked a steady course of economic growth and prosperity to eclipse Cleveland and Cincinnati, but sports-wise, was stuck with Ohio State University. When they finally got a team, it was hockey, and an expansion team with the dumbest name in the league (the Blue Jackets? Huh?) but no matter — corporations finally had a place to buy luxury boxes, there was suddenly an Arena District to fill with yuppie bars, and the city was able to claim a little bit of big-league glory for itself.

Detroit, meanwhile, is a dying city with terrible prospects, but still manages to support four major-league sports, and not only that, they’re usually competitive in three of them. Fans here are spoiled enough that some don’t even start paying attention until the Wings, Pistons or Tigers are contending for a championship.

And then there’s the Lions. The worst team in pro football.

They have a beautiful new stadium downtown, legions of fans who buy tickets and suffer with them year after year. Their Thanksgiving Day home game is a centerpiece of the local celebration. And yet, their insistence on reaching and staying at the very bottom of the league appears unmatched. Take the season opener this past Sunday in Atlanta, previously thought to be the worst team in the league. There’s nothing like the facts to punch up a good sports column, I always say:

Atlanta started a rookie quarterback, Matt Ryan, in the opener Sunday, and all he did was complete a 62-yard touchdown pass on his first throw. From there, it actually got worse for the Lions, if you can believe that. …Besides a new quarterback, the Falcons had a new coach and a tough new runner, Michael Turner. All Turner did was run 66 yards for a touchdown on the game’s second possession. He finished with 220 yards, a team record. The Falcons finished with 318 yards rushing, a team record.

Hey, don’t ever suggest the Lions aren’t capable of making history.

That’s Bob Wojnowski of the News. Here’s Michael Rosenberg in the Freep:

What is it like to be Rod Marinelli these days? Imagine putting a group of engineers together to build an airplane. You tell them it might not be the best airplane in the world. It doesn’t have to be as big as a 747 or as fast as the Concorde, but it will run on time and use fuel efficiently and get you where you want to go. Then, on the day of its first flight, you go out on the tarmac and find … a unicycle.

A day after his team lost, 34-21, to the lowly Atlanta Falcons, Marinelli stood by his team. Someday soon, he said, that unicycle will fly.

Mitch Albom just stomped his little foot on the ground like Rumpelstiltskin.

There’s a feisty movement around here called Fire Millen, aimed at guess-what for the team’s president, Matt Millen. Mainly they spread digital graffiti; when they’re in full cry, every story on the Freep website, no matter what it’s about, has at least one “Fire Millen!” in the comments. Why he hasn’t been fired, particularly after weeks like this, remains a mystery. JohnC, who follows sports, says it’s because old Mr. Ford (William Clay, Jr.), who owns the team, doesn’t really care about it. Possible. Rich folk love to throw their money away on losing causes, but at some point you’d think they were capable of being embarrassed, but maybe not.

Meanwhile, Kate has learned the truth, and every time we drive down I-75 past Ford Field, she says, “Home of the losers!”

Maybe we can get Thanksgiving tickets this year.


Via Metafilter, a guy who makes a list of 50 things he always wanted to do, quits his job and vows he can’t go home until he completes the list. He’s at 44 after more than a year. Someone help this guy ride a horse through a covered bridge so he can get to 45, ‘k?

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Lifehacker, the site that teaches you a few neat tricks (not, I regret to say, how to ride a horse through a covered bridge). Today: How to fold a napkin around a wine bottle so you don’t drip on the tablecloth, and the legitimate — i.e., non-porn — uses for the Incognito mode in Google Chrome.

Time for the gym. Talk Fight amongst yourselves.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events, Detroit life |

29 responses to “Home of the losers.”

  1. Dwight said on September 9, 2008 at 10:16 am

    No wonder Mitch became a novelist.

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  2. moe99 said on September 9, 2008 at 11:00 am

    AHA! I was right! NewsBusters is a very conservative organiztion:


    I thought they were giving truth short shrift.

    And btw as a Seattlite, the former home of the Sonics and currently sporting the Mariners and Seahawks, I understand your sports pain, Detroiters.

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  3. moe99 said on September 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Okay, here goes with the second try of the day.

    Obama to Palin: Don’t Mock the Constitution.

    Which reminds me of President Andrew Shepherd, in “The American President” whose following lines were supposedly written because Dukakis had no good response to GHWB’s “accusation” in 1988 that Dukakis belonged to the ACLU.

    “For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”……”

    It is terribly sad that once again the Republicans are only interested in playing the bully and not noting the deeper reasons behind our structure of government. Once again, they are trying to make this into a high school popularity contest. I only hope that they go broker underestimating our intelligence.

    Edited to add that Bob Hebert is going full bore in the NYT today:

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  4. vince said on September 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I remember attending a Lions Thanksgiving day game in the Silverdome in 1989 with my brother in law. He works for GM and back then engineers could score free tickets from vendors without running afoul of payola rules. (Why? There were no payola rules.)

    The Lions were terrible even back then. Empty seats scattered the arena – even on Thanksgiving.

    It was Barry Sanders’ first season. But the Heisman winning golden boy couldn’t carry the team on his shoulders.

    What struck me was the odd marketing approach the Lions took. They did not promote themselves. There was no rallying around Sanders as the new star to come see.

    Without a lick of team pride, the Lions’ own PR people bragged not about their own players, but about the star power of their opponents.

    The tickets we carried into the stadium were not emblazoned with a Lions’ player on them. Instead they featured Dallas Cowboys QB Troy Aikman.

    And on the jumbo tron we were treated to several ads. “Come to the Lions next home game and see Bobby Hebert and the New Orleans Saints!”

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  5. nancy said on September 9, 2008 at 11:18 am

    They’re still like that, Vince. If the papers didn’t cover them, the whole season could pass unnoticed. The Tigers advertise heavily on billboards and such, and even the Pistons have a $99 special (four tickets, four hot dogs, four Cokes) they promote in the impoverished city, but the Lions — yawn.

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  6. Judith said on September 9, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Just found this on Karen Goldner’s blog on the Allen County Democratic Party’s website. It points out the wrangling before voting of who will be allowed to vote.

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  7. MichaelG said on September 9, 2008 at 11:55 am

    The Lions will have lots of competition from the 49ers this year. Below is the beginning of Ray Ratto’s column in yesterday’s Chron. I like the headline.

    Nothing to See Here, Move Along

    (09-07) 18:57 PDT SAN FRANCISCO — It’s early. Lots of football left to play. A work in progress. Some good signs out there.

    See? Even you, the most committed 49ers fan that ever was, can’t spit out those with any conviction. You saw what you saw, and the phrases stick like pet hair in your throat.

    “Early?” Looks like too late from here.”Lots of football left to play?” Oh, dear God.

    “Progress?” Where?

    “Good signs?” Yeah, right.

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  8. brian stouder said on September 9, 2008 at 11:58 am

    At least the Lions really belong to Detroit.

    I still think Indianapolis is somewhat guilty of “receiving stolen property” with regard to the Colts (why don’t we have the Ravens, with the Colts name still in Baltimore?).

    But, gotta say – we have one of the best named sports radio broadcasters, Bob Lamey

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  9. nancy said on September 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I think the theft of the Colts was one of those inside jokes in “Homicide,” and IIRC, a Laura Lippman novel or two. They’re still pretty sore about it.

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  10. Catherine said on September 9, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    LAMary, would you like to join me in a chorus of, “At least Detroit HAS a football team!”

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  11. LAMary said on September 9, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    There is that, Catherine, but there in Pasadena you are lucky enough to have the hoards of USC grads who go to every game. I see all the Benzes, BMWs and Acuras on the 110 with the USC stickers, heading north to your part of town. My part of town roots for the Chivas.

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  12. beb said on September 9, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    “LAMary, would you like to join me in a chorus of, “At least Detroit HAS a football team!”

    “Alledged”. Detroito has an alledged football team. Didn’t someone try to sue the Lions because they were selling season tickets as a “Professional” football team when obviously they weren’t.

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  13. Catherine said on September 9, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I’ve seen UCLA play at the Rose Bowl and the Raiders (in their LA period) at the Coliseum. The Raiders were definitely the more interesting experience.

    But you’re right, Mary, soccer trumps football most days. Now I’ll turn my whining to the Galaxy leaving the Rose Bowl…

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  14. Kirk said on September 9, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Shed no sports tears for Detroit, home of a reigning major-league champion, the Red Wings.

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  15. Danny said on September 9, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I think the theft of the Colts was one of those inside jokes in “Homicide,” and IIRC, a Laura Lippman novel or two. They’re still pretty sore about it.

    Yes, we are. Hey, it’s only been 24 years. Don’t ask us to get over it just like that!

    Johnny Unitas has a statue in Baltimore, not Indy-a-Noplace. Also, when he passed away, the Baltimore QB got to where the black hightops. Not Manning.

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  16. Jolene said on September 9, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Hi Folks: Just wanted to mention a couple of pieces of news.

    1. The Post is running excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book, The War Within, on its web site. Just go to the homepage to find all the relevant links.

    2. Obama is appearing on David Letterman this evening. Should be fun. Additional segments of his interviews w/ O’Riellly and Olberman ae also on this evening.

    3. Some of you are likely already getting daily entreaties to contribute to the Obama campaign. If you haven’t contributed yet or lately, now would be a good time..

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  17. john c said on September 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    What makes the Lions loserliness so stunning is that the NFL is pathologically obsessed with parity. Money is shared, drafts are arranged and schedules are adjusted to make it so you don’t have to be very good to win about as much as you lose. As for Old Man Ford, he believes like everyone else that they are about to turn it around. But his loyalty to Millen is bizarre. I follow football less than any other sport. But when you are the General Manager and your team has been consistently terrible and you’ve gone through three head coaches and your draft picks are busts, blah, blah, blah – it’s pretty much time to go. Terry Foster, a local sportswriter and radio guy, reported last year that he asked Mr. Ford how he can justify to the fans hanging on to Millen. Ford’s answer: “I don’t have to.”
    About all I can say for the guy is he built his own stadium and didn’t whine around with his hand out looking for the taxpayers to do it for him.
    I do think that pro sports teams are good for cities, mostly because sports is one of the few unifying things in our society anymore. No one watches the same TV shows, listens to the same music or reads the same, er, any newspaper anymore. But everyone roots for the Tigers.

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  18. LAMary said on September 9, 2008 at 3:01 pm


    Thorazine and Lysol. Two products we can’t live without.

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  19. brian stouder said on September 9, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Mary – some of those ads were truly whack! The Lysol one isn’t ‘politically correct’, but it claims to be ‘scientifically correct’! The hog that was joyfully carving himself was more than a little PETA-ish!….but one cannot help but wonder if the Union Carbide one with the Great White Egg Head in the Sky, pouring chemical goodness onto the countryside of India – isn’t a latter day retro-hoax (considering the Bhopal catastrophe)

    Jolene – done, again! (last week)*

    *although, it was selfishness last week; went for a tee and a ballcap from the Obama on-line store

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  20. moe99 said on September 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

    — H. L. Mencken

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  21. Jolene said on September 9, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Good for you, Brian. I’ve never done any fundraising in real life, and I’m trying to decide whether to send an email to my friends with a link to that article. That’s pretty low-pressure, but it still feels like an imposition. I’ll let you know if I manage to work up the courage.

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  22. MichaelG said on September 9, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    It’s great, Mary! Thanks for the hook up. We have a lot of that senile agitation around here. Douching with Lysol? My God.

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  23. alex said on September 9, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Yes, Lysol. I’ve got several versions of that one on my bulletin board, copied from ’50s magazines. One of my co-workers happened upon them back in the ’80s and we used to pass them around the office for laughs.

    Probably made women sterile, alright.

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  24. ROgirl said on September 9, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    And just how much does Ford spend on advertising on NFL games? Isn’t that relevant in the sad saga of Mr. Ford’s ownership? What would Ilitch do?

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  25. whitebeard said on September 9, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Love those wacky ads from the past; I have bookmarked them for my nightly pleasure.
    On the Lysol “solution,” one family friend would douche with vinegar after an STD encounter and when I was accused (unfairly) of wanting to go to bed with her, my response was that I didn’t want my cucumber pickled just yet.

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  26. LAMary said on September 9, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I think the kiddie nembutal is a good idea.

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  27. Dexter said on September 9, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Jim Fitzgerald
    , former Freep columnist, wrote a column many years ago about how he was finally quitting the Lions. I thought I should join him, but I couldn’t. Now, in a new stadium, years removed from the day Fitz wrote those words, I still can’t quit them. Early in the third period Sunday, I felt sick to my stomach and had to leave my television , mount a bicycle, stick XM headphones in my ears and pedal off through our parks system, a baseball game on, trying to forget the disaster going on in Atlanta.
    And the Freep was more fun with Fitz and the late Bob Talbert. Fitz would be 82 now…is he still alive?

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 9, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Never mix Thorazine and Lysol.

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  29. MichaelG said on September 10, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Now you tell me.

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