INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — I found myself today flashing back to Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. My beloved Detroit Lions had just lost, 31-21, in Green Bay, the team’s umpteenth consecutive loss in Wisconsin — and more importantly (if you want to call it that), its 16th and final loss of the season.
I watched my team, a dejected bunch of athletes shivering on the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field, heads hung low, half-heartedly shaking hands with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and company as they prepared for the longest offseason in the history of professional sports.
I was embarrassed. I knew I was facing perhaps the longest offseason in the history of die-hard fans loving terrible teams (Clippers fans, you can call me any time), as I knew the jokes were coming. Even to this day, while fewer in volume, they haven’t stopped. Every lowly Rams fan will find a way...
I was at rock-bottom, I told myself three years ago. My beloved Lions, terrible for decades, save for the 50s/early 60s, and the Barry Sanders era, now held the laughable distinction of worst team in football history, and perhaps of all professional sports.
Until Thursday’s 27-15 Lions loss at home in front of a national audience on Thanksgiving to the same Green Bay Packers, I figured there was no way it could get worse.
Hell, Nickleback put on a better show. Even the American Idol gal who fumbled the National Anthem was more impressive. As commentator Joe Buck put it after her near-national gaffe — “it’s how you finish.”
Not bad advice, Detroit.
Forget the lay-an-egg factor — composed of, but not limited to, 3 interceptions and countless bad passes from Matthew Stafford and 11 frustrating and game-changing penalties for 82 yards — that has the national TV audience complaining yet again about the terrible Lions being undeserving of an annual Turkey Day football game.
And forget the injuries, too. Sure they didn’t help — whenever you see a man with the number “82” on his back (no offense to Rashied Davis’ athleticism) covering Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, you know you’re in trouble.
Still, I’d seen this theater before in a Lions game, and while it hurt to watch, it wasn’t foreign. After all, if there is anything the men in Honolulu blue and silver are good at, it’s playing poorly and being unlucky.
But one thing we diehard Lions fans never, ever, EVER do — even during the 0-16 season — is lose respect for the passion with which the team plays (notwithstanding our lack of respect for Matt Millen, of course).
Until Thursday, early in the third quarter, when one of my favorite players in football lost control and made a fool out of himself, the Detroit Lions, the team’s fans — and the tradition that is Thanksgiving football in Detroit.
Make no mistake, folks — Ndamukong Suh is a dirty football player, and he deserves to be suspended for the rest of this season.
Until yesterday, I felt Suh perhaps was a bit more aggressive on certain hits and plays, and while I agreed with some of the personal fouls hurled his way, in general I felt he and the entire Lions’ team got a bad rap for being “dirty.” In my mind, I kept thinking back to the late 80s and early 90s, when another Detroit team led by Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Isiah Thomas broke the rules and were called a dirty team — a dirty team that eventually toppled the mighty Celtics and Lakers, winning back-to-back titles and going down in history as one of the greatest professional sports teams in history.
I have a feeling, though, that even Bad Boys enforcer Rick Mahorn was shaking his head in disgust after Thursday’s national display.
Maybe Suh really feels he did nothing wrong. I tell you though, I would have loved to be a fly on the way when he actually saw the video footage to see his reaction. Because it’s indisputable. He blatantly tried to injure a player by slamming his head into the ground — THREE times — and then stomping him with a cleat-covered shoe on his exposed biceps.
The game unraveled from there, both for the team attempting a futile comeback and for me as a fan. I wanted to turn the TV and watch Martha Stewart make a Thanksgiving tablescape or something. I was not inspired to root on my team, and it was obvious some in the stands weren’t either. And then, to hear his reaction after the game, denying wrongdoing, it just made it worse.
At least Suh made better contact with Evan Deitrich-Smith’s right arm than he did kicking an extra point in the Jets game last year.
But frustrated jokes aside, Ndamukong Suh has a lot of explaining to do, and if the NFL does what I feel is appropriate for punishment, he’ll have plenty of time to drive around in a Chrysler 300 to think of a good way to apologize to Deitrich-Smith, the NFL and all Detroit Lions fans.
Considering what we’ve been through, it’s the least he can do.
— Kevin MacMillan was born and raised in Bad Axe, Mich., is a die-hard Detroit and Michigan Wolverines sports fan and is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.