| Detroit Free Press
Debating Detroit Lions at midseason; what’s on line vs. Washington?
Debating the Detroit Lions’ good and bad at midseason, and what’s on the line vs. Washington this week? Filmed Nov. 12, 2020.
It’s often best to lean into pain as a way of mitigating it. Or at least as a way of not making it worse.
When something hurts, acceptance can be a friend of peace. Which means that as a football fan in this state, it’s probably best to watch the Lions, Wolverines and Spartans these days with a healthy level of detachment.
If you watch at all. (Of course, you will watch.)
You have to go back a couple of generations to find a more depressing first month to football season around here. You have to go back to 1967 to find the last time all three teams finished their seasons with losing records.
That is possible this year, thanks to a rebuilding effort in East Lansing, a now-that-we’ve-lost-to-MSU-let’s-call-it-a-rebuilding-effort in Ann Arbor, and a 60-year rebuilding effort in Allen Park.
This weekend, the Spartans host Indiana, which is undefeated and just kicked the Wolverines’ butt; the Wolverines host Wisconsin, which hasn’t played in a couple weeks because of COVID-19, and the Lions host Washington.
The Lions may beat Washington on Sunday at Ford Field, a team even more hapless than them, in record and in organizational ineptitude. But if they do, try not to think a win means anything more than a step toward the inevitable, and another losing season.
Maybe another coaching search. Maybe a general manager search, too.
Whatever happens, the misery carousel never stops. So why not embrace it?
Cozy up to it. Snuggle with it. Let it surround you. Only then, can you free yourself. Only then, can you stop weeping. Or hoping, at least for this season.
The same principle applies to U-M football. Whatever miserable stench that hovers over Allen Park has found its way to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have been Lionized.
Oh, they don’t lose as often, and they still carry aspirations in Ann Arbor, but U-M is no closer to the College Football Playoff than the Lions are to the Super Bowl.
Of the three, the Spartans are the least removed from national relevance, from playing for something significant after the holidays. Still, MSU’s CFP run was now five years ago, and, in some ways, feels much further back than that.
This isn’t Mel Tucker’s fault, obviously. But after watching his Spartans get shoved around in Iowa last Saturday it’s not a stretch to say a return trip to college football’s Holy Land seems years away, at best.
At this point, Tucker would be happy with a winning season. The same could be said of Jim Harbaugh and Matt Patricia, even though neither would admit it.
At 3-5, Patricia is fighting for his job. At 1-2, Harbaugh is fighting the perception that he isn’t the coach he once was. At 1-2, Tucker is fighting to install new systems and philosophies and a culture. He’s got time to exceed or fail expectation, though the expectation isn’t much now.
In any case, he beat the Wolverines, and shouldn’t need to win another game the rest of the way for MSU fans to be satisfied.
And yet, even in East Lansing, even as the MSU faithful know more losses are coming, it can still make one flinch as they happen.
So … turn and face the losing. Close your eyes and let its bitter wind bite your cheeks. It will turn warm again at some point.
As it did for your parents and grandparents who loved these teams back in the ’60s, who only had to wait, at least in Ann Arbor, two more years after the ’67 season until Bo Schembechler arrived.
Winning. Sometimes as many as 10 games a year. Bowl trips. Victories over … Ohio State!
In East Lansing, the winning took a little longer. But it came. So be patient. First with George Perles in the mid-to-late ’80s, then with Mark Dantonio in 2010.
As for the Lions, well, does Barry Sanders count?
He arrived in the late ’80s. Perhaps another diversion is on the way. Someone whose highlights are so compelling that you’ll forget about the Super Bowl. Which is just as well, because the Lions are a long way from it.
For now, perhaps you will settle for a win over Washington. Or for a new regime. Or for the season not to be over so soon. A fate that is less familiar in Ann Arbor.
It’s possible that one or more of these teams can find its way to .500 or better by season’s end. But as each dreary Saturday and Sunday pass, that seems unlikely.
So, if you can’t turn away, enjoy the pain. It will be over soon. Besides, you’re getting a chance to witness something that hasn’t happened in almost 53 years.
Misery has its place in history, too.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.