On Monday night, the Detroit Lions – the NFL’s lovable losers – found a spectacular new way to break their fans’ hearts.
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, the team’s best player, was just about to cross the goal line with a go-ahead touchdown when he let a Seattle defender knock the ball out of his hand, and into the endzone.
Another Seattle player batted the ball out of the endzone, which is illegal, but the refs gave the ball to Seattle anyway.
Game over -- the Lions’ fourth loss this year, against zero wins.
The Lions’ fans blamed the refs for blowing the call, their team for such ineptitude, and themselves for continuing to cheer for this most inept of teams.
Gotta love the Lions fans, and their boundless loyalty. But to express shock at this Most Lions of Losses is tantamount to Charlie Brown screaming at Lucy for pulling the ball. Anyone who’s old enough to have cheered for the Lions; last championship – in 1957 – has every right to be upset.
But for everyone else, it's like getting mad at Canada for being cold.
To help long suffering Lions fans kick the habit, I’ll be holding an Intervention this Sunday, at 4 p.m. at the Silverdome – you know, the Lions’ old home, whose roof blew off a few years ago. Plenty of parking.
With the Lions season already shot, let’s turn our attention to Big Ten play. It’s a heady time for the nation’s oldest athletic conference. Ohio State, the returning national champion, is the top-ranked team in the land.
Michigan State is the only team in the country to finish in the top five the last two seasons. They were ranked second last week, but dropped two spots after a sloppy win over Purdue.
But the Big Ten’s good news doesn’t stop there. Last year, both Northwestern and Michigan finished at 5-7, and failed to quality for a bowl game – which is as pathetic as not getting a birthday card from your mom.
But this year, Northwestern is 5-0 and ranked 13th, and Michigan is 4-1 and ranked 18th.
The Wildcats boast a 97-percent graduation rate, but they’re always trying to prove they belong at the big boys table. They were so bad for so long, they were everyone’s favorite Homecoming opponent.
But since 1995, the Wildcats have won three Big Ten titles. Coach Pat Fitzgerald told me they’re still everyone’s favorite Homecoming opponent, but now they’ll ruin your homecoming.
Sure enough, Michigan invited Northwestern this weekend for Homecoming. Who’s got the upper hand now? In the past three seasons, Northwestern has had Michigan beat, then somehow found a way to lose in the waning seconds – Lions’ style.
It won’t be any easier this weekend. Under new coach Jim Harbaugh – perhaps you’ve heard of this guy? – Michigan is playing better and better every week. No one has scored against them since the second game.
After picking themselves off the floor, both teams now think they’re the real deal. On Saturday, one of them will prove it.