I'd been looking forward to this morning for most of the pre-season, because while we've been inundated for months with news of holdouts and injuries and trades and predictions, there's a different feel when the regular season gets under way. The blemishes on a team's record stay with them all season. Don't screw up, or you might not be playing past the first Sunday in January.
As a Detroit Lions fan for the past 20 years, I've seen more screwing up than one fan should have to endure, with the majority of the team's off-seasons beginning immediately after the last second ticks away from their final regular season game.
This year, I'm more optimistic. Not necessarily about a playoff run, mind you. I'm more of a realist than that. The Lions are at least a couple (hundred) years away from being a playoff team.
But they drafted well and were active in free agency, and I expected them to win a few more than the two or three (or, um...zero) games they'd won in recent seasons.
My Christmas Day of football was marred very early, however, by a couple of huge boulders of coal in my athletic sweat sock.
Near the end of the first half, the Lions' young quarterback and only hope to make that offense click, Matthew Stafford, was planted on his shoulder by a Bears linebacker, and could potentially be out several weeks with an injury.
Lump No. 1.
Late in the game, after allowing the Bears to climb out of an 11-point hole and take a five-point lead, Detroit still had a chance to win, and a pass from backup quarterback Shaun Hill found superstar receiver Calvin Johnson in the back of the end zone, who outjumped the defender, grabbed it with both hands, landed in bounds, sat down, rolled over, let the ball go, and stood up to celebrate.
Wrong. The refs called it a touchdown, then huddled up and reversed the call to an incomplete pass. After several minutes of review, it was confirmed that it was indeed an incomplete pass, according to the rules—the stupid, stupid rules—of the NFL.
Lump No. 2...delivered with a sledgehammer.
The rule states that the receiver has to maintain possession of the ball "through the entire process of the catch."
The entire process, eh? When exactly does the process end? Before the team's first practice on Tuesday?? Does Johnson have to shower with the ball after the game to show he still has possession?
It was a lousy call, one that generated plenty of comments on the social sides of the Interwebs. Cris Carter from ESPN said he knew as soon as they signaled a touchdown that it wasn't really a touchdown because the receiver didn't stand up with the ball in his possession, able to hand it to the official.
So, perhaps a correct call...but a lousy rule. I don't know all the tiny details buried in the rulebook.
But I do know the Lions are 0-1 instead of 1-0, a position in which they've grown to feel quite comfortable.
But this particular fan...on this particular football Sunday...hasn't.
"The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion
our adversaries are insane."
(inspiration for post title via...and of course, John Madden)