Join the best to ever do it and quit the Lions, too
Written By Kyle Magin
Detroit Lions fans, famously, have been through this before.
Watching a star walk away in the vicinity of the top of his game from a hapless team rather than play out the string with a hapless team. The variables–Barry Sanders in 1999 and Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson in 2016–both coincided with a constant: the lowly Lions.
To re-set the undisputed facts, the Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1957. In fact, they’re 1-11 during that span, with two whole decades–the 1960s and 2000s–where they didn’t even make the postseason. Sanders rushed for more than 15,000 yards in 10 seasons with the club, scoring 99 touchdowns. Johnson hauled in catches worth 11,000-plus yards over nine seasons while scoring 98 touchdowns. The anecdotal evidence of greatness for both men matches the measurables–Sanders was unhittable on his best runs, disappearing behind tight ends only to reappear 60 yards later in the end zone. Johnson ran past everyone then jumped over everyone else to likewise end up in the endzone. Both are arguably the greatest ever to play their positions in professional football.
I’ll admit that once Sanders left the Lions my zeal for the team began to dissipate (though I do own a Germane Crowell jersey with a taped over-nameplate reading “Rogers” in sharpie, ugh) and by fall 2007 I’d moved out west and pretty much missed Johnson’s career in the Honolulu Blue and Silver. That career included a stint on 2008’s 0-16 squad and two fruitless playoff appearances. I’ve probably watched a grand total of four Lions games in the past ten seasons (including one I attended) and the only memory I have of Calvin Johnson was him making a beautiful catch against the Bears that ended about as badly as any catch could possibly end.
I take this moment of reflection to encourage anyone who’s still watching the Lions with any regularity to follow Barry and Megatron’s example and quit this team, too. If Johnson’s retirement has crystallized anything, it’s how utterly fucked this organization is and how little it cares about its players and especially its fans.
Look, the club of guys who retired without rings isn’t an embarrassing one to be part of. Dan Marino walked away without one, ditto Tim Brown and Eric Dickerson. But for a team to lock down two of those kinds of guys–generational talents, men who changed the way the game was played–and come away with nothing takes a special kind of failure.
That’s Detroit. That’s a team that led two of the greatest ever to decide ‘you’re not doing enough to put me in the position to win a title, so I’m done.’ For that failure alone you should walk away from this team. Why would you ever blow three more hours on a Sunday that will likely end in a loss and the accompanying misery (if you’re the sort who feels pain) on a team that didn’t care enough about you to try to build a core of competent helpers around its mega-stars? Why would you endanger your health by staying sedentary to observe a franchise that hates you with such a passion that it employed Matt Millen for seven years and hired Marty Mornhinweg, Jim Schwartz and Rod Marinelli and then continued to employ each long after he demonstrated his inability to coach football? Why would you spend one more dollar at the publicly-financed Taj Mahal of suck that is Ford Field to watch a team that couldn’t convince two young men to continue to receive millions of dollars in paychecks to do something they’re good at. Ponder that for a second: this organization is so hateful, so inept, that two Americans decided they didn’t really need to be richer.
The Lions are today and will continue to be awful. If you can’t pray, barbecue, play outside, work on your golf game, read, learn to cook or learn a foreign language on Sundays, at least pick another team, one that values your time, your dollar, and the talents of the Hall of Fame athletes who suit up for it.