Wednesday, July 12, 2006

July No Longer As Full Of Football Talk

Sometime, probably by the first week of August, at the absolute latest, the Tigers will win their 71st game of the season. It, by all indications, will come when the number to the right of "71" in the standings reads something less than 40.

The number 71 is significant because it is the number of games the Tigers won all of last season. Took 'em 162 games to get to 71, an ending win total that puts teams squarely in the category of mediocre. A step below pedestrian.

But this year, 71 will come early -- oh, so early -- and it figures to be one of many win totals the team will pass, like so many orange cones on a freeway.


The Tigers' success this season is also changing the July routine around here.

April- Opening Day
Mid-April: Pennant elimination
May/June: Pistons/Red Wings playoffs
July: Lions camp opens

Whoa -- cross that last one off the list. At least add this next to it: Tigers hunt continues.

Right about now, in Julys of recent past, the Tigers would have long ago fallen off the radar, and we -- nothing else to do -- would be drinking our annual cup of Kool-Aid and raving about the Lions' chances. Some of our raves would turn into rants, but you feel me -- it was all about football, at the baseball All-Star break.

Not this July. Not this August.

Not this September, even.

Maybe not even this October.

The Lions could never, truly, be pushed off the fans' agenda in this town. It's a right of passage, Lions fever. If you think that's strange, indeed, for a team who has one playoff victory in 49 years, well there you are. But it's true.

In 2006, however -- this summer of dreams -- Lions talk has been properly placed on some backburner on a stove that surely must be 40 feet deep. You can't even hear the sizzle; can't smell the aroma, of Lions talk, and here we are, two weeks and some change from training camp -- and with a new coach, to boot.

Blame it on the Tigers. They won't mind.

The pan will be moved up to closer burners as the summer moves along, certainly. You can't keep the Lions fan quiet forever. The bleating will begin soon enough. But it won't begin as soon, you get the feeling. The talk is still likely to be starting pitching, Curtis Granderson, Pudge Rodriguez, that ever-mentioned left-handed bat, Joel Zumaya, Justin Verlander, and Carlos Guillen. To name but a few. Good muffling, I'd say, for whatever Lions talk you choose to muster.

July -- the vacation month. The swimming month. The car washing month.

But not the Lions' month -- no more. Not this year. Uh-uh.

Now, where'd I put my pouch of Big League Chew?

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