Wednesday, December 07, 2005

As the Tempest Brews....................

Author’s Note: I apologize for dedicating The JEP Report to the Detroit Lions for the past several posts. I realize that there are very few people outside of southeastern Michigan who have any interest in the Lions whatsoever. In fact, these days one would be hard pressed to find someone interested in the Lions IN southeastern Michigan. Things have been slow here though (at least in the literary sense), and I’ve been really reaching for material lately, so please bear with me. Now, I’d like to point out right now that I am not one of those muck-raking, bottom feeding journalists who makes their living kicking the life out of an organization when they’re already down. As I do this for free, taking delight in and eliciting laughter out of the misfortune of others is more like a hobby.

Never underestimate the power of a grass roots movement. In the 1980’s, loosely organized groups of people effectively ended the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In the 1990’s, they shattered the Iron Curtain, opened up Eastern Europe to capitalism and effectively created the largest continuous red light district the world has ever seen. Within the last few years, they have toppled dictatorships in the former Soviet republics and hoisted into power the most entertaining public speaker Venezuela has ever seen. Now, a grass roots movement has started right here in the Motor City and is building momentum as we speak, getting stronger with each passing hour and louder by the day. This movement, holding true to the eccentricities inherent to Detroit, has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with sports. This is the “Fire Millen” movement and its aim is to topple the regime presently holding the reigns of the Detroit Lions and pass them to someone who does not have the worst record in the National Football League.

This movement has all the components crucial for success. It has a popular cause. It has the backing of the media. Thanks to Duncan deBruin, the fan who, in a burst of spontaneity undoubtedly fueled by multiple cups of warm stadium Pabst, held up a cardboard sign reading “Fire Millen” and, with several security guards in pursuit, dashed through ten spectator sections before being brutally tackled on national television, (one of the few solid tackles the Lions’ organization has made during the 2005 football season), it has a martyr. Still Duncan deBruin, while obviously impaired, running through a crowded venue and lacking blockers, managed to make it at least 60 yards on that single play, something no Lions’ rusher has managed to do yet this year. Mr. deBruin has not disclosed whether or not he is going to sue yet but listening to him on the radio, I would bet the whole matter could be settled with five years’ worth of free season tickets and an autographed picture of Matt Millen.

My prediction is that once the Lions sing their swan song on January 1st and close out a season that is sure to be one of most spectacularly dismal sessions in football history, Matt Millen will be offered, naked and quivering, to the angry mob clamoring for his blood. The fans are in open revolt right now, right across the board, and the cries for change are far too loud and passionate for the Ford family to ignore. If they fail to act on it, the fans will see that their banners, antics and they mayhem they are creating is good for nothing and they will be forced to employ a tactic that the Lions organization cannot possibly withstand: indifference.

The fans have been promised a playoff caliber team for my entire lifetime. They’ve gotten it only once, in 1991 I believe and if I remember correctly they were wiped out of the first round (I could look it up but I’m on a roll). The soap opera we got this year was no doubt morbidly entertaining, but not quite the performance that I would shell out $400 for a season ticket on. If the Lions can not take the field in September and at least demonstrate that they have a chance of winning more games than they lose (or at least win more than a quarter of them, which they’ve been hard pressed to do since I’ve been following them), they really do not deserve the sold out stadium they enjoy game after game after game.

And to the Lions organization, who seems to have taken such great exception to the way the fans have acted in the stands over the past few games, I have one question to ask you. What would you rather have, a stadium filled with 60,000 people cheering wildly when the other team scores, booing your quarterback’s multitude of mistakes and chanting for the firing of your general manager, or a stadium housing 500 people trying to stay awake during yet another uninspired performance by a team that has no problem cashing extravagant paychecks but just is not motivated to show up for work?

Firing Millen is definitely not going to solve the team’s problems over night, but as the Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You guys need to get walking.

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