Sunday, December 28, 2008

From Bad To...Just As Bad?

How does one officially sever all ties with a sports organization and direct one's fan affiliation elsewhere? What is the proper procedure for such an action?

I've been a Detroit Lions fan for 19 years, and after this remarkable season, I may have had enough.

While I may have known early on that the Lions probably weren't going to make a big playoff push this season, I never expected this. Sixteen games. Sixteen losses. An even greater mark of futility than the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers who went 0-14 in their first season as an expansion team in the NFL.

Detroit's been around for a while. They even have a superstar or two: Calvin Johnson, who will reserve his untapped potential until such time as he's wearing another team's uniform; and Roy Williams, who was a superstar until he started dropping passes, and then was traded to the Dallas Cowboys where he complained about not being used enough in the offense; and placekicker Jason Hanson, who's old but can still boot the ball through the uprights. (How sad is it when your kicker has to be mentioned among your best players?)

But now...I don't know what to do. I've changed affiliations before, but it's been so long that I honestly can't remember the steps I took.

I used to be a New York Giants fan. I was, and still am, a fan of Phil Simms, and followed players like Mark Bavaro, Dave Meggett, Stephen Baker (The Touchdown Maker), Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson. And I was a big fan of Lawrence Taylor, until he retired and became a shell of his former self, wandering the streets looking for his next crack fix. (Seriously. Listen to that guy in an interview sometime. It is so sad how his life did such a 180.)

And on the sideline of the Giants games is where I first "met" Bill Parcells. There's only one other sports figure I revere more than Parcells, and that guy was the reason I became a Lions fan in 1989, having to split my time between the Lions and the Giants for a few years before Parcells went on to other challenges, and Simms retired, and LT went on a binge.

I guess I just answered my question of how I parted ways with the Giants. Many of the players with whom I was enamored were no longer there, and I had a one-of-a-kind running back to pay attention to in Detroit. Change focus, start buying new T-shirts, sweatshirts and caps.

Barry Sanders came into the NFL in 1989, and left it, disgusted with his poorly owned, poorly managed, poorly coached, go-nowhere team, in 1999. He could have played a 16-year career instead of 10, and built a career rushing record that would have stood untouched for decades.

Instead, he knew when to get out. The same cannot be said for at least one fan, who remained optimistic through the signings of Scott Mitchell (loudmouth bust), Charlie Batch (fragile bust), Herman Moore (great receiver on a bad team), Jon Kitna (too loose with his predictions on radio talk shows), Charles Rodgers (collarbones made of ceramic), Mike Williams (headcase bust, and too fat for a receiver), and a first-round O-lineman named Gosder with a bad attitude.

(the sad part is that I could keep going, but there's not enough room on the interwebs to list all the ridiculously bad moves the Fords and Matt Millen and the rest of Lions management have made.)

Add to all of that having to endure the final nail in a sixteen-nail coffin this afternoon. A perfectly awful season. No team can ever be worse than the 2008 Detroit Lions.

So if I decide to cut ties with the Lions and move on to another team, in which direction do I move? I'm a Peyton Manning fan, but if I cheer too loudly for the Colts in the playoffs, I'll be accused of jumping on their bandwagon. I can't really go back to the Giants, because while I've started to go a little easier on him in the past year or two, I've never been too high on Eli.

To avoid as much flack as possible, I'd have to slide over to another pretty bad team. And who wants to be a Chiefs fan, or a Raiders fan? (No disrespect to fans of those teams, of course. I mean...look at what I'm dealing with!) I could firmly plant my fandom in my home state and become a Packers fan, but...I was already chuckling before I finished writing those words. Clearly not an option there.

I guess I'm stuck, and will remain loyal (meaning I'll lie on the couch on football Sundays and fall asleep during the games) to the Lions for a bit longer. Rumor is that Parcells could be on the move, so there's a glimmer of hope he might end up in Detroit. And the Lions will be looking for a new head coach, which will be at least a mildly entertaining story to follow.

Unless they hire Brian Billick, the former Ravens coach. Not a big fan of his. If that happens, I may give up watching football altogether, and spend more time reading the classics. Which is what I should be doing anyway.

Dostoevsky's kicking my ass lately.

As badly as an 0-16 season by my "favorite" football team.

"The natural state of the football fan
is bitter disappointment,
no matter what the score."
—Nick Hornby

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