The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kevin Smith, the running back who’d just rolled over Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins for 101 yards, was undergoing tests; per the Twitter feed of Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, he’d suffered a shoulder subluxation.  Ernie Sims had a shoulder problem of his own, and missed the first of what might be several games.  Starting cornerback Patrick Buchanon was again a late scratch, and his replacements Eric King and Will James were scorched for 340 yards.

The game was played before the smallest Lions home crowd since 1989--and many thousands more were prevented from watching the game at home by NFL blackout policies.  Afterwards, the Lions’ record sat at 1-2; once again looking up at the rest of the NFC North.  So why were all of the Lions’ players out on the field, celebrating with the fans?  Why did owner William Clay Ford say  “we got King Kong off our back”?  Oh yes, that’s right—the Lions hadn’t won a game since Brett Favre played for the Packers.

Center Dominic Raiola perfectly captured the emotions of both the players and fans: "All those people out there have been through a lot more than we've been through. They're fighting for their life out there, buying tickets to come to the game, losing their jobs," he said.  About celebrating with the fans, he said “It's something very little that we did just to show our appreciation."

It’s an important point: Lions fans have continued to support this team, throughout the second-longest losing streak in the history of football—one that capped one of the longest periods of futility in NFL history.  It speaks volumes about the dedication and passion of Lions fans that they came out 40,000 strong to see the streak get snapped.

“It had the feel of a post-season win--the jubilation,” said head coach Jim Schwartz.  “Players went back on the field and wanted to go celebrate with the fans that stayed. I thought that sends a strong statement about the kinship we feel with the city of Detroit."

However, this win is just that: one win.  The first words of Schwartz’s statement to the press were, “We'd like to get to a point where a regular season win isn't celebrated that much,” and he’s exactly right.  If the Lions are to turn the positive momentum of ending this nightmare into anything that will last, that’s the approach they have to take today.  The Lions are 1-2, alone at the bottom of their division, and are sandwiching a game against the reigning world champions with contests at Fields Soldier and Lambeau.

With key starters like Smith, Sims, and Buchanon out, and five rookies starting, the Lions have a mountain to climb just to get to the bye.  But with the confidence of this win under their feet, and the weight of King Kong off their backs, who knows how high this young, talented team can climb?

Discussion here, in The Den!