Senior Bowl Day

>> 1.29.2011

It's the first day of the Draft-y season: Senior Bowl Day! I hope you've been following along with the practice reports--if not, I can heartily recommend Michael Schottey's Bleacher Report page,, the folks, and Wes Bunting at the National Football Post, just to name a few.

Real scouts and evaluators look just as hard, if not harder, at the week of practices as they do the game. However, as merely an interested observer, the game is the best chance I get to see these guys in action, next to each other.

It's important to put it all into perspective, though--even guys who dominate at the Senior Bowl, like Brandon Graham did last year, can still struggle to make an immediate impact. Don't come away with the idea that any of these guys are going to solve an immediate problem for the Lions--be thinking three years ahead.

I'll likely be Tweeting live as the event goes down, so tune in at 4:00 on NFLN, and follow me @lionsinwinter.


Lions Fans: Stepping Out Onto The Ice

>> 1.27.2011

The old hockey pond.This is a hockey pond. It’s part of a park across the street from my old neighborhood—which is also my current neighborhood. Oddly, I’ve never played on this pond. None of my few friends played. I didn’t have my own skates. Even though I liked hockey and watched hockey and wanted to play hockey, I never bothered to. In college, I ended up playing a little drop-in roller hockey—but I never played on ice, never even on this ice, which I passed every day on the bus for a decade.

As a grownup, whenever I’d see a hockey movie, or hear people talking about pond hockey, I’d feel a pang of regret. Once, I took a family trip to Alberta; as we flew over hundreds of family farms I was awed to see each boasting their own private hockey pond. When I read University of Michigan forward Luke Mofatt, who grew up in Arizona, say in regards to the Big Chill, “I didn’t exactly play a lot of pond hockey,” I cringed.

As a fiercely proud Michigan native, I feel like I abdicated my birthright. I feel like I took a pass on an important part of our cultural heritage. I mean, I like hockey, I grew up a half-mile from a purpose-built public hockey pond, and I never once bothered to walk over there and play! Just another thing that normal kids do that I didn’t, I guess.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Lions being a “normal” football team lately. After reading this piece by Neil from Armchair Linebacker, a lot of thoughts that had been swishing around my head set, like concrete.

I've said there's safety in futility, that at the bottom there’s nowhere to go but up.  I’ve said loudly declaring that the Lions are no good serves as disappointment insurance:

They may be looking down and shuffling their feet, hoping nobody sees them. They may be watching from afar, shivering in the bitter chill, but more afraid of getting burned again than freezing to death. Or . . . they may be loud and obnoxious. They may be proclaiming doom. They may be standing in our midst, shouting that we’re wasting our time and our breath. They may loudly predict a blowout loss before each and every game. They may boo and hiss every mistake, and crow with knowing glee after every loss. They may seek to dishearten us, to discourage us, to disperse us. They may seek to extinguish the little blue flame we’ve worked so hard to protect.

What should we say to them? “Welcome.”

Their sarcasm, their derision? It’s their scar tissue. It’s their armor. It protects them from getting burned again. If they loudly proclaim inevitable doom of the Lions, then they can’t lose! Whether the Lions win, or they are proven right, there is no way a boo bird can be labelled a loser, since they never truly cast their lot with the team.

But . . . they’re here. They’re already coming. The hope and promise and preseason performance of this young Lions team has kindled the flame to the point where the naysayers are already coming back. Despite their protests to the contrary, they are Lions fans, too. They want to cheer, they want to be true blue. If they truly didn’t care, they wouldn’t be here at the fire, they’d just move on with their lives.

What I didn’t think about is the flipside of that: it’s the losing that’s made us special, that’s made us different. It’s the losing that branded us as outcasts, that caused us Lions fans to seek each other out. It was the losing, ultimately, that caused me to carve this space out of the Internet and pour my emotions into it.

Now that nearly all of the streaks have been snapped, and we’ll expect the Lions to win more games than they lose, will we lose what makes us special, as fans? Rooting for the Lions won’t be something only “a real diehard” does, it’ll be what everybody around here does. We’ve waited and waited for this time to come, for the Lions to be a real football team again—now that that day is here (or nearly so), what will we do?

For me, what will I do? What is my role in this strange new world, where the Lions are just another NFL contender? If I’m not keeping the flame from being extinguished by the harsh and bitter winds, if the little blue flame roars ‘round the clock whether I tend it or not, does anyone have any need for me?

I think the answer lies in my kids, and on that pond. After a decade of being the losers, of being the rest of the NFL’s social outcasts, of playing by ourselves in our basements instead of joining the fun, it’s time to get over ourselves. Let’s make the winter fun! It’s time to quit moping around about how lonely we are, strap ‘em on, and go play.

My boy playing hockey on the pond. Yes, it needed to be shoveled.

Technorati Tags: nfl,detroit lions,hockey


Tinderbox: Follett Story on Press Coverage, Meta

>> 1.26.2011

My reaction to the Zack Follett incident is up on Press Coverage; I suggest you go check it out there.  Amazingly, the story is still developing, as Killer and Sean reacted to Zack’s reaction to the media reaction on WDFN this afternoon. It’s incredible to see how meta this is getting . . .

Speaking of going meta, I’ll again pray forgiveness for the lack of content yesterday. My “tweaking” of the site has scope-creeped all the way up into a full-on platform change and redesign; what I have in the works ought to knock your socks off (but it’s killing all my writing time)! Tomorrow will feature a nice fat offseason post I hope you’ll all enjoy.  In the meantime, check out Press Coverage.


Three Cups Deep: The Pack Continues to Go; Go

>> 1.24.2011

Green Bay Packers helmet with George S. Halas NFC Championship Trophy.Two weeks ago, I wrote that I’d decided to root for the Packers during these playoffs. That got an interesting mix of comments, with several proclaiming they’d never root for the Packers, or any division rival. This morning, the talk radio airwaves were burning up with people saying they’d never root for the Packers (and/or totally would have gutted out Jay Cutler’s MCL sprain, because they’d have won States if Coach had put them in in the fourth).

I’ve often ranted in this space about how I prefer pro football to college.  Here, though, is where college football wins out. First, rivals are rivals, regardless of record. I detest the Vikings  for a variety of reasons, but I’ve always had a begrudging respect for the Packers—fan owned, outdoor stadium, Titletown, Lombardi, Starr, Favre, etc. I love that in a league of teams in big cities, a tiny Wisconsin town can still build a perennial winner out of pure will. The Bears were flatly the coolest team in the world when I was a little kid, and just as steeped in history as Green Bay. I don’t particularly like the Bears now, especially with Martz and Marinelli calling the plays--but I have a hard time mustering real venom.

Rivalries, in professional sports, are either handed down through the generations (like Cubs/Cardinals), spring up when multiple coaches and players leave from one team to the other (Patriots/Jets), or blossom out of repeated contests with something big on the line (Red Wings/Avalanche).  Unfortunately, unless it’s the first type, the rivalry fades away.  Players move on, teams’ fortunes wax and wane, and meaningless games become hard for even the fans to get up for.  The Lions haven’t played the Packers with anything on the line since the early Nineties, and the games have been mostly uncontested since then . . . until this year.

One of the reasons I'm rooting Pack this season, is that the rivalry is about to rekindle.  The Lions took them to the final minutes in Lambeau this year, and beat them at home this year.  The Lions’ time is beginning, and this rivalry is going to mean something again, soon. As I’ve said, I want the cool players (like Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and Donald Driver and Charles Woodson and . . .) and cool fans to get to the mountaintop before the Lions knock them down.  Think of it this way: if the Packers are the reigning Super Bowl champions next season, taking the division crown from them will mean that much more.

Technorati Tags: nfl,green bay packers,detroit lions

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