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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I feel it...it's almost camp time!

I feel the pulse moving through me just a little faster right now. It's late July and the Lions report to training camp on Friday!!!

This season feels so good right now, so right. I know from past experience that I'm often blinding by the excitement of the present, but damn this season feels like we might just have gotten one right.

The exits have been awesome, first Millen, then Roy, then we replace Paris Lenon with Larry Foote, and pickup Julian Peterson, secondary help, depth on the O-line, and a bunch of quick recievers to take advantage of Calvin's constant double teams.

Also, Brandon Pettigrew and Louis Delmas are ready to make instant impacts as rookies. We're out of the cover 2, which will give Delmas some freedom to roam and take some heads off, and Pettigrew will be a new prototype tight end. A tall and bulky tight end with great hands and is an effective blocker.

If you were a defensive coordinator, how would you match up against Pettigrew, Fitzsimmons, CJ, Bryant Johnson, and Smith? Play the run, and you've got an able group of pass catchers...play in a nickel, and we'll run you over. Pettigrew is an incredible 2-way threat and will create some mismatches.

I'm not thinking the Lions are a juggernaut just yet...but we have made some moves that make sense instead of getting rid of players that just weren't the problem (remember Millen jettisoned Johnny Morton and Herman Moore for Hakim and Schroeder?)

Our most glaring need was linebacker and offensive line. These positions were abysmal last year. That is why we were 0-16.

Ernie Sims has been having to make every tackle the last 2 years, and thus has not blitzed often...if ever. Finally, we've got rid of some liabilities at MLB and SLB and replaced them with reliable veterans, thus allowing the missile from Florida State off his chain. NFC North QB's be warned, a blind shot will be quite painful if Sims gets free.

The O-line should have been address with the #1 pick, but I can't argue with the logic that if you're a first year GM and a first year head coach, you take a franchise QB #1 if he's there.

We did bring in some depth to compete with Peterman and Cherilus on the right side. Jon Jansen is one of the greats, and if we can squeeze a few years out of him at close to the level he's played for his career...he might be the lucky deal of free agency (being a hometown probably also played a part). Fonoti is a journeyman, but should push Peterman for some playing time, and eventually his job.

As for Matthew Stafford...I truly hope I don't see him throw a pass for the Lions this year. I have heard some rumblings that he is on track to win the starting job from Duante by week 1...so that either means that Culpepper is not back to his old form even after an offseason of work (we're screwed) or that Stafford has truly broken out and plays better than Culpepper. I hope the latter.

Stafford certainly has the physical tools to be a great NFL quarterback, this is without a doubt. Some quarterbacks have questionable accuracy, or velocity, but Stafford is not one of those. Unfortunately, it doesn't mean he'll be successful, or Ryan Leaf would be at the helm of the San Diego Chargers, instead of working on his legal defense for slinging oxycotin pills (did you hear about this one???) The point is, if Stafford's head works like an NFL QB should, then we will have finally replaced Bobby Layne (and with a guy from the same high school as Layne no less).

Arrgh...the pulse is quickening...I'll admit to being one of the only people excited for NFL preseason. I hate the fact that they make me pay full price for a ticket, but I still love going to the games. When I was younger, preseason seats were the only one's I could get my hands on, so I went to nearly every game.

A little over a month, and we'll be talking about the first regular season game...I'm so pumped.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Baltimore

It was a season of high hopes, we were entering the second year of the Morninghweg/Millen era. We decided that we must drive to Baltimore to see Joey Harrington's first game as a pro (albeit preseason) since surely it would be a story to tell our grandkids, how we saw the Lion's future franchise quarterback play his first game.

Baltimore is a great city, they have a nice harbor with food and stuff a stone's throw from the stadium. The atmosphere is pretty awesome, they have a team band, a full one with drums and horns and everything. They march to the stadium, and we found out the Baltimore fans hate when rude Lion fans get in the band's way. I didn't know, this kind of stuff was foreign to me.

They sing a fight song that is might close to the Redskins...what a rip off. In fact, their entire band, their fight song, everything...they just ripped it off from the Redskins. Art Modell...what a slimy man. Not only does he steal the Browns away from Cleveland, only to invent the Ravens...stealing a big portion of the Redskins fanbase and all of the Redskins traditions.

Joey would play the second half, so we watched Mike McMahon throw fastballs into the dirt after scrambling for no good reason. Remember him? I never like him from the moment we drafted him.

McMahon took us nowhere against the Raven's starters (no surprise) and then the Raven's backups, and finally the Raven's band. Actaully, I think McMahon engineered a field goal drive against the woodwinds section.

By the time the second half started, we decided to abandon out nosebleed seats (I think $40 for 2) and moved ourselves to the rapidly emptying lower section. It's preseason, no one really stays very long.

So we watch our newly annointed savior, Joey Ballgame take the field. He played pretty shaky, throwing one pick...but in the closing moments of the game, we actually had a tie ballgame with the ball in the hands of the guy who led Oregon to 23 comeback victories in his heralded career. Certainly, he could lead a drive down the field and get Hanson in range for...nope...interception, returned for a touchdown. Game over, Harrington costs his team the first of many games.

Oh well, we left pretty happy. Ignorance is bliss, we still had hope for Joey, and hope that the 2001 season was an aberration.

When leaving, some Baltimore fans who had been overserved (my euphamism for drunk) reminded me that my team was 2-14, so I kindly reminded him "who cares, the Lions could go 0-16 and they wouldn't move the team to Indiana".

Apparently, this is still an open wound for the Baltimore collective, and I suddenly had the entire city wanting to either beat me or see me beaten. I smartly kept walking, and toned down my trash talk until I wasn't so badly outnumbered. That's something you need to learn as a travelling football fan...you need to know when to shut up.

Overall, it was a good trip. Got to see a new stadium, got to see Joey blow his first game, and see Kalimba Edwards turn in his first worthless performance. I also found out that a Honda Civic Hybrid can get you from Detroit to Baltimore on a single tank of gas. (But traded it in for an Explorer right before gas skyrocketed, dummy).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brush with the law

My addiction to the Lions is responsible for the one blemish on my otherwise clean criminal record. It's true.

I was issued a ticket for trying to sell extra pre-season seats to an undercover cop. They actually had their vice squad out in force posing as people looking for tickets.

i offered two of them for 20 bucks, because I honestly could not give them away. My sister in law was supposed to go with us, but backed out a few hours before the game. I then literally called every number in my phone, and no one was interested in free tickets. (Take a note, NFL...no one wants these damn games!!!)

This horrible city decided that it was more important to bust me for the evil crime of getting a few bucks back after getting bent over a table by the Lions for making me pay full price, and deployed their thugs on me.

I was briefly detained, my tickets confiscated (I still had 2) and threatened with arrest when I refused to sign their POS ticket. The lousy excuse for a cop told me it would be a cheap ticket...just plead guilty and pay $100.

Screw them, so i fought it. I had to go downtown 4 times, 3 for no reason whatsover, and try to fight this thing. After listening to the prosecuting attorney, as well as the public defender (whom I didn't ask their opinion) tell me that even if we got into the courtroom that day, they've already decided that I was guilty.

They actually zoned the city to make the Ford Field city block extend all the way out to Madison Ave. Check a map, that's damn near a quarter mile away.

The law clearly stated that any resale on the same city block as the venue is punishable by 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

I backed out...I was in enough trouble for missing 4 days of work, let alone facing 6 months in the clink. I paid my $100 and bid this sorry excuse for a justice system goodbye.

PS - I later got involved in a class action lawsuit against the City of Detroit, and won a multi-million dollar judgement. The city is of course dragging their feet, but my share of that should be over a grand!!! (if the city ever pays up)

Another interesting postscript - I later found out that this entire course of events got me a promotion at work. Apparently, my bosses thought I was lying when I showed up in a suit several days over a few months. They didn't believe me that i was at court and thought I was at job interviews. They offered me a large promotion to keep me. Ha!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Share your Lions best/worst moments

Please email me your best or worst memory of being a Lions fan...please make it interesting and/or funny and I'll post it here.

minsterhol@gmail.com

Cleveland

The year was 2001, the month September. Even though my boys had lost to the Packers in week one, surely the Marty Morninghweg/Matt Miller era would be one of promise. After all of these years, we have a GM running the team who "knows" what he was doing.

Even thought the Packers game was pretty bad, it was at Lambeau and surely Charlie Batch didn't play bad enough to warrant being benched, right? I mean, all we have as a backup is Ty Detmer, and he's been on the team only a few days.

Monday, September 10th. My boys are 0-1, Batch is still out starter, and we only have one winnable game agsint the Cowboys before we travel to Cleveland to see the Lions beat the Browns. I thought for certain, that I would be at the Silverdome on Sunday 9/16 watching the Cowboys.

First, they announce Charlie Batch is benched. Bummer, now we've got to hope Ty Detmer can hit the ground running.

Tuesday, September 11th. Enough said about that.

So come Sunday the 16th, there's no football game to go to...anywhere across the country. They're going to play it later this year. For a week, football seemed pretty unimportant.

Sunday, the 23rd...football is important again. President Bush said if I don't get up early and drive to Cleveland, then the terrorists win. So we pack up the grill and a cooler with drinks and drive to a dirt parking lot overlooking Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Did I mention that this stadium is right on the end of the runway from the Cleveland airport? I mean, right off the runway. So sitting in this parking lot eating spicy sausage and drinking soda (euphamism for beer) we get a constant reminder that we're still scared out of our wits, and loud airplanes flying overhead only make it worse.

We go into the stadium...we're actually getting treated better than I expected...but I guess we're all Americans. The Lions and Browns each run out carrying an American flag...cheers all around. They sing several renditions of national anthems and such, still all Americans. Ball is kicked off...once again we're ugly stinking Detroiters invading their sacred stadium. This is a feeling you get used to when you're an away fan, I've almost become addicted to it. Strange high, it really is.

Back to the game. Certainly, Ty Detmer has learned enough in his extra week to prepare...so lets get this show on the road!

Well...the first interception was just the rust shaking off...he'll bounce back. The first 4 picks...well, I see Charlie Batch warming up. Maybe Marty will realize that he was too quick with the hook, and Charlie will be the victor.

Not yet...we have to wait for Ty to throw his 5th, then 6th interception. The truly sick this is...we were still in reach of winning this game!!!

So surely they'll turn to Charlie...who was warming up on the sideline. They give Detmer one more chance....it's number 7!!! wait...nope, pass interference on the defense. At least Detmer won't set the NFL record for picks...now that they'll put in Charlie.

What??? Are you kidding...Charlie is still on the bench and Ty Detmer is under center? Are we learning disabled Marty??? Do you need to see the film? This guy has 6 picks already, and only missed his 7th because of a penalty?

Detmer enters the game, and it doesn't take Poe to write the ending to this one...one last interception to seal it up, and tie the NFL record. For the record, I say he has the record so I give him 8* for the one they took away.

The drunk guy in front of us finally got ejected for refusing to stop doing the bull dance in front of us. To tell the truth, he was going for annoying and aggravating, but we all thought it was funny.

We got lost on the way back to the freeway, and saw a man who resembled Charles Manson crossing the street in front of us. Creepy.

All in all, it was a memorable game...and we left thinking things aren't that bad...even Bill Walsh started out badly in the NFL...certainly the Millen/Morninghweg era wouldn't be a complete train wreck...would it?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Metrodome

The year was 2001. We decided to take a trip to Minnesota. My girlfriend (future wife) and I drove immediately after work Friday through the night, and arrived in downtown Minneapolis sometime after 2am. We were lucky enough to get a room, and got in a nap before starting our day.

Minneapolis is a really cool city, I must say. They have skywalks, so you walk 3 or 4 stories above the street through glass tunnels and through building lobbies. It's sweet, more cities should do it.

We went to the Mall of America...which is worth the trip. It's the biggest mall in the world, and the kids can ride roller coasters and you can shop with so sales tax. We also ate at Manny's steakhouse...whoo hoo. The place is incredible and the waiters wear butcher aprons. Some of the best steak I've had EVER and totally unpretentious.

We had such fun in Minneapolis, and of course hoped the Lions could pull out a win. Charlie Batch was back at QB (I miss Charlie) and we were hungry for a win (0-4).

They got down huge in a hurry, 31-6...but then Touchdown, Touchdown, Touchdown! And now it's 31-26. Holy cow, we have the ball and we're going to pull it out!

We're driving, Batch is on his game, picking the defense apart and getting recievers out of bounds to stop the clock. We have no timeouts left. Finally, only 12 seconds left, Charlie throws a dart and hits Germaine Crowell at the 20, right near the sideline. All he has to do is step out and Charlie can get the first win!!!

Step out....step out a@##ole!!! STEP OUT!!! Ahhghh...what the @#$# are you doing???

He ran for the endzone. Despite having 3 Vikings around him and the sideline right there, he ran for the endzone.

Game over, Lions lose.

Now begins the 10 hour drive back to Detroit, got to be at work at 8am Monday morning.

Start driving Lions junkie.

Rock Bottom

I am a football junkie.

I'll admit it, it's an addiction. It starts young and sucks you in, and you bring down those around you.

Rock bottom for me occured this December at Lambeau Field. The absolute worst experience of my football life. I saw my team go 0-16.

I guess I should say, I say I'm a football junkie because it takes some of the sting and pity away from saying I'm a Lions junkie.

Yup, I was there on the 50 yard line 10 rows away from my boys getting hammered for the 16th straight and final time. Why was I there...a glutton for punishment? Nope. To be there when history was made? Nope. I was such a Lions junkie, I was there to watch them narrowly miss going 0-16.

I was there for the 1-15 game, a game which would have clearly been the Lion's best win...our Super Bowl. We could walk off the field being 1-15...I mean, the Cowboys, the Jets...they've gone 1-15.

Nope. Rock bottom happens, and my boys get the 0-16 mark.

My wife, whom I've dragged down with me into this pit, had fun at the game. She was proud to go 0-16. I hung my head in shame, as I've done so many times. I walked that long walk back to the car (or in this case, the bar) and sucked it all in.

I think I counted this game to be the 13th regular season game i've seen the Lions lose...and those are only away games. The 0-16 game was my 0-13 game as a travelling Lions fan.

This game was my 3rd at Lambeau Field, and my 3rd loss. I've had 2 losses at Soldier Field, 1 at The Metrodome. I hung my head in shame in front of the dogpound in Cleveland while Ty Detmer threw his NFL record tying interception in a game (7). I've walked dissapointed from the RCA Dome, Texas Stadium, and the Trans World Dome (or whatever St Louis calls that plastic POS). I've had to damn near fight my way out of Buffalo, and staggered out of Seattle ($4 beers!!!)

The worst though, has to be Tampa Bay. I proposed to my wife on the beach that weekend, how could I not marry someone who plans a trip to Tampa to go to a Lions game?

Yup, we lost that one too. I was still happy after the game...probably one of the few times I have been happy after the Lions lose...I found a woman willing to dive into the Honolulu Blue and Silver abyss with me.

Oh well...at least for the first time in a long time...the Lions clearly will have a better season than the one before.

Rock bottom...only goes up from here.

PS...as I write this, my wife and I are planning trips to Cincinnati and San Francisco very soon. Think the Lions will get a win for us finally?