Last fall, the Detroit Lions were a feel good story in the NFL. A moribund franchise had finally turned itself around to the delight of their fans and a rabid football community. Things were finally looking up. As usual, plenty of people still chose to urinate in Detroit's collective cereal bowl.
Naturally, many in the media couldn't just leave well enough alone with Detroit's success. The Lions, they said, were still immature despite their modest achievements. They were thugs and a team full of dirty players. In spite of making the playoffs, they weren't for real. At times, the team didn't do much to prove these sentiments wrong, but all the negativity still felt like overkill in the midst of something so special unfolding every week.
Consider what would have been said if this was another NFL franchise in a different city. There would have been countless Sports Illustrated covers dedicated to the franchise's comeback. The pundits would say "they're just learning" with every foolish mistake. Those mistakes themselves would be written off as simple errors in youth. Many of Detroit's best players would still have been revered as heroes, and stories would still be told about several legendary road comebacks.
Now, the Lions have struggled to open the 2012 season, coming into this week a dismal 1-3. That's just what many more of Detroit's faceless critics wanted to see. Validation for their harsh opinions. The disheartening part? It's general managers speaking out now anonymously. People who should know better. This isn't simply the media's sometimes justified ribbings. A Pro Football Weekly report stated that other general managers and league executives anonymously said nearly everything about the Lions was overrated including Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz. Classy stuff.
It's slimy journalism to ask such questions behind closed doors, but even slimier for colleagues to actually respond. However, as the Neon Trees (somewhat annoyingly) sing, "Everybody Talks." It's time for the Lions to start listening. After they took obvious exception to the comments, this should be just the kick in the pants the team needs to finally get the season going. When asked about the criticism, Jim Schwartz brushed it off in typical Teflon fashion. Dominic Raiola was more blunt, trying to limit his profanity while saying "it fires me up."
There's no question it should. Now's the time to manufacture a chip the size of Detroit for those shoulders, boys, and take this stuff personally. You're all overrated. Nobody likes you. Every player on the defensive line stinks. The guy who drafted you or traded for you? He's not good, either. He's like Matt Millen. The guy who coaches you? He stinks. Never won anything.
That good enough?
Obviously, the Lions needed something to turn this season around. To casual observers, the team has looked for a few weeks like they simply didn't care or were coasting along. With these words, those days should be over. Keep losing? You give those nameless cowards a reason to smile. Reclaim your season? They have a reason to snivel in their offices somewhere. That, and reaching their personal goals, should be all the motivation the Lions need.
Hopefully, Lions' fans can look back months from now and say 2012's success started with a couple anonymous whispers.
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