Saturday, November 27, 2004
First things first.
The second installment of Three Chicks Talk Football is up, so click the banner and check it out.
Upsetting things second.
Thanksgiving day has come and gone, and we all know what this means. It means turkey and stuffing and carrot cake and other foodstuffs that will make you temporarily forget the horror of dorm food and microwave noodles. It means hanging out with family and watching your little cousins beat the crap out of your brother in after-dinner 'football' games. It means watching the Michigan high school football championships on TV (at least, if you're in Michigan).
More pertinently, it means that it is time to watch the Lions and the Cowboys play at home on Thanksgiving day.
The night before the game was Michigan's first real snow of the year, which meant that when we went out to the car in the morning we found it encased in a shroud of icy snow-crust. This had to be chipped off the windows so that the car could be rendered driveable. It was cold and a bit of a miserable way to start off, although watching everyone in the family try to chip away at the windshield with fingers and plastic scrapers was sort of funny. In retrospect we should have known right then that the weather was foreshadowing the Lions' performance: frozen stiff.
At the time, however, we remained blissfully unaware of our impending doom, so we cheerfully swung out onto the highway and into Detroit. Lunch was consumed at Plaka's, a Coney Island in Greektown. The place was absolutely mobbed with people in for the football game, including a few Colts fans and a woman wearing a stuffed lion head as a hat (with the mane coming down as though it was her hair). For those of you who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon, Coney Islands are little restaurants that are known for selling completely vile things called coney dogs. These are hotdogs slathered in chili or shredded meatbits. It's very much a midwestern thing, and probably goes a long way towards explaining why Detroit is the fattest city in the US.
The food dispensed with, we walked down to Ford Field, gamely shielding our ears from the freezing cold air and looking at the vehicles of the numerous parking lot tailgaters to see if any of them had cool, Lions-themed cars. Later in the game the big video board in the stadium would show a happy tailgater cooking a whole turkey in a deep-frying vat, but we did not, alas, get to see this culinary marvel in person.
Before kickoff the Lions honored three of their former players: Lem Barney, Billy Sims, and Barry Sanders. All three wore the number 20 for the Lions, and all three totally kicked ass in their respective days. We certainly could have used them on the field on Thursday, but unfortunately they shucked their jerseys before the game started.
Lem Barney played defensive back for the Lions from 1967-1977. He had 10 interceptions in his rookie season, and 56 interceptions for his career. He played in 7 Pro Bowls and was voted All-Pro three times. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Billy Sims played running back for the Lions from 1980-1984, when a severe knee injury ended his career. Over that short time he accrued 5,106 yards and 42 touchdowns rushing, 2,072 yards and 47 touchdowns as a receiver. He played in three Pro Bowls.
Barry Sanders played running back for the Lions 1989-1998. He had 15,269 rushing yards and 109 career touchdowns, 99 of which were rushing touchdowns. He was the first person to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his 10 years with the Lions. He played in all 10 Pro Bowls of his NFL career. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was, to put it simply, the shit. He's been called the most electrifying running back to ever play. If you don't know who Barry Sanders is you don't know football.
left to right: Billy Sims, Lem Barney, Barry Sanders-- The Roaring 20s!
Sadly, this feel-good nostalgia had to end sometime, and the game had to start. First, of course, we had to have the national anthem and a pathetically choreographed crowd event that involved everyone holding up colored cards to make stars and stripes around the stadium. Even this mildly cheesy horror paled in comparison to the upcoming slaughter.
It was, as my mother pointed out the next morning in an attempt to make us feel like we hadn't wasted a day of our lives, a truly historic game. It was historic in the sense that it was the worst Thanksgiving day loss ever suffered by the Lions. Hallelujah.
The entire game was mostly summed up in two occurrences. One of the stadium vendors was going up and down the rows, shouting, "Peanuts, beer, soda!" A fan jokingly called out, "Hey, selling any defense?" Pretty much everyone within hearing range got a groan and a commiserative chuckle out of that.
The other thing that truly summed up the whole mess was when the play clock broke going into the second half. The referee flipped on his little microphone and said, "Would you please reset the play clock to such-and-such a time," but nothing happened. Then we all realized that the downs were wrong too. The entire thing had frozen. It turned on and off for a while as the players milled about on the field, waiting for the thing to be fixed. After a bit the referee announced that time would be kept on the field. Disgusted, I got up to get snacks with my mother. The clock was fixed by the time we got back, but it really was just a sad state of affairs at that point.
As for individual players... sigh. I have to say that Peyton Manning's constant audibling is about 5,000 times more annoying in person than it is on TV. When you're watching him do it from the comfort of your own home (or dorm room) you think it's kind of cool and pretty impressive. When you're at a game where he's doing it you start to feel like a Pistons fan and just want to chuck a cup at his helmet. It was probably made more annoying because the crowd was so quickly demoralized that they weren't making much noise, and crowd noise is one thing that can really throw off a quarterback who relies heavily on audibles.
Harrington was very inconsistent. We had some good runs down the field early on, where he would have one good, long pass or Kevin Jones would have one good, long run to give us excellent field position. But he just couldn't finish. Passes into the endzone went uncaught, and we had to settle for field goals when we should have had touchdowns. It was frustrating, and apparently Coach Mariucci was frustrated too, because the second half saw backup quarterback Mike McMahon getting some throwaway playing time. He came out to enormous cheers from the crowd, although, as the post-game radio show announcers pointed out, "The most popular guy in the world is a backup quarterback... especially in this town."
Kevin Jones looked like he was on track to have a pretty decent game, but in the second half he suddenly wasn't on the field. I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for this, but then again I haven't been searching around for articles because I don't really want to relive the agony just yet.
Ford Field started emptying in the third quarter, and by the fourth quarter the place was emptier than I have ever seen it. There were less people there than there are when we show up an hour early. It was pretty sad, but also kind of fun. Everyone who stayed was either a Colts fan or a Lions fan adopting a wry sort of gallows-humor. A small group of people a couple of sections over from us tried to start a wave with almost no one in the stands... another small group of about 10 or 15 people belted out a series of loud chants all by themselves... people cheered and clapped ironically when something mundanely good happened for the Lions, like a completed pass. As I said-- gallows-humor.
Anyways, I've got up the photos from the game, such as they are, so give those a gander if you are so inclined.
The score, by the by, was 41-9. Just in case I hadn't made that clear.
There was not much to be thankful for in this game, but I tried very hard to come up with some good tidbits, so you shall be subjected to them.
Things to Be Thankful For in the Lions Game
-We didn't punt once in the first half. Of course, we turned the ball over twice, but still.
-Rory (the Lions mascot) knocking down the coffee cup, donut, and bagel to win the Dunkin' Donuts race himself.
-A fan getting on the big screen because he was holding up a sign that read, "Give the cameraman a raise! Go Lions!"
-Eating Dippin' Dots in the third quarter. I love those things. Frozen pellets of ice cream-like goodness.
-Not watching the game on TV, so I didn't have to see closeups of The Joey Harrington Face. You know. That face he makes when things aren't going well, where his forehead crumples up and his eyebrows contract and he looks really cute but utterly confused and lost and maybe about to cry. I'm dead certain that he was making it during this game, but without TV closeups I didn't have to see it and feel worse than I already did.
-Getting to jeer at the Colts every time they sent the ball out of bounds on a kickoff rather than risk giving it to Eddie Drummond. Bloody cowards.
-Watching an enormously overweight man in complete pilgrim attire singing along with the stadium sound system.
-Hearing the former Michigan players get cheered when they were announced at the start of the game, even the ones on the Colts. Because this state loves Wolverine football that much.
-The Roaring 20s.
-Being inside, and getting to sit down for most of the game. A nice relaxing break from Michigan games.
-During the United Way halftime show, watching a video of various football players helping small children through the United Way. This was made awesome when Joey Harrington came up and the stadium started booing. Boo for small children! Boo for charity! It was ace.
-Getting free Lions car flags on the way out of Ford Field.
-Listening to the bitter, bitter postgame radio show. Highlights include an insane female caller yelling, "Where yo' run at now? Where yo speed at?"; Mooch stubbornly insisting, "I thought we had a good first half," while the radio announcers burst out laughing; all of Mooch's soundbites interspersed with the 'Brilliant!' clip from those Guinness beer ads; the following radio announcer exchange- "Now, I like McMahon a lot... Sean [other radio show host] has accused me of being McMahon's lover..." "Are you?" "No."
And that's about it. Oh, except for the fact that Eddie Drummond (whom I recently called 'the only reason to watch the Lions play') fractured his shoulder blade in the second half and will probably be out for the rest of year. There goes any chance of us scoring more than three points at a time for the remainder of the season.
To close, have a couple of articles that are both kind of old, but I just realized I forgot to post links to them when they were new. They're still both pretty darn awesome.
Firstly, we have the heartwarming tale of two Michigan State football players being arrested for setting off homemade bombs. That noise you hear is the sound of the entire city of Ann Arbor sighing in vindicated satisfaction. We always knew they were delinquent hick yokels out there in East Lansing, but it's so very gratifying to be proven right.
Secondly we have a hilarious article from NYYFans about how to talk to your children about the Red Sox World Series victory if you are a Yankee fan. Funny even if you're not really a baseball fan. Most of the articles on NYYFan are extremely poorly written, so this was something of a surprise. Read it.
I'm off to watch the Boise St./Nevada game, simply because there's a slight chance that it will have some bearing on the BCS. I don't pretend to understand the system, but I can pretend to understand when other people say things like 'if Boise State wins big tonight, they could force their way into the top 6 and a guaranteed bowl bid depending on what the voters think'.
edit: I just realized this entry is pretty poorly written, but it's hard to be funny/coherent about this game. Sorry. My sarcastic bitterness should be back on track as soon as my caffeine intake gets back up and as soon as I get to read the highlights of tomorrow's Miami/San Francisco game. Two 1-9 teams going at it! I know that I'm pretty pissed that it won't be on TV here. I mean, blimey, what's not to love?
edit again: Just popping up to mention that I absolutely love the Western Athletic Conference ads that they play during WAC games. Techno music thumping, WAC in official collegiate font on the screen, deep male voice intoning, "The Western... Athletics Conference... where actions... count!" It almost makes the Big 10 'fans, please, behave yourselves' ads look like a quality campaign.