Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Lion Guaranteeing Victory? Thatta Roy!

The Lions have won 21 games in the past five seasons. They have one playoff victory since 1957 – and none on the road. They are about as far removed from winning football tradition as Star Jones is from Barbara Walters’ Christmas list.

“We will win this game,” wide receiver Roy Williams says. He’s talking about Sunday’s tilt in Chicago. “You all can take that as a guarantee or whatnot, but we will win this game.”

Something about a Lions player guaranteeing a victory makes me think of Charlie Brown guaranteeing he’s gonna finally kick the football out of Lucy’s hold.

The Bears shutout the Packers 26-0 on Sunday. They are the class of the division, mainly because they possess one of the best defenses in the NFL. The won 11 games last season, and will probably win as many, or more, in 2006. But no matter, according to Williams.

“When we play the way we’re supposed to play, like our defense played Sunday … I don’t think there’s no team in this league that can beat us.”

Already he’s qualifying his “guarantee.” The Lions are 21-59 since 2000 because for at least 59 games in 2001-2005, they haven’t played the way they’re “supposed” to play.

Look, I think Roy Williams’ confidence is admirable. I’m happy that he feels so strongly about his team’s chances in Chicago on Sunday. But then he says things like this:

“We watched film today. It was stupid how close we were to putting 40 points on the board, and it’s ridiculous…”

“No defense can stop us, in my opinion.” (No defense HAS to stop them; the Lions usually take care of that graciously).

And when he says things like that, I tune out.

Guarantees in sports are high-risk, low-return propositions. They mainly serve to fire up your opponent, and put more pressure on your teammates. Just ask Rasheed Wallace. If you actually back one up, it’s mainly considered to be out of happenstance than anything inspired by the actual guarantee itself.

We can all blame Joe Namath for this, you know. Sports guarantees were unheard of until that night a few days before Super Bowl III, when Namath stood up in front of a banquet crowd in Miami and declared his Jets would be the victors over the heavily-favored Colts. It is legendary stuff today, but did you know that the event at which Namath puffed out his chest was so lightly regarded that the only newspaper that had the story was the Miami Herald?

Ever since Namath’s successful guarantee, athletes have tried to duplicate it. Most have failed. And even the ones that turned out true haven’t gotten nearly the mileage as Broadway Joe’s declaration.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first such guarantee by a Detroit Lion.

Tackle Lomas Brown, high from the nectar of a seven-game winning streak to close the 1995 season, told us that there was no way the Lions could lose their playoff game in Philadelphia. Uh-uh. No way, no how. Book it, and I’ll see you in the next round, Lomas said.

The Lions fell behind the Eagles 51-7. They lost 58-37.

That was the last guarantee of victory by a Lions player. Until yesterday.

The fans have guaranteed plenty – mainly Thanksgiving Day game wins. Or games against supposedly suspect opponents, especially at home. They’ve been wrong most of the time, too.

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