Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Nice Guy" Ford Will Always Finish Last, So Why Worry?

Mickey Rivers was clearly never a Detroit Lions fan.

If the former MLB ballplayer and resident oddball was, he wouldn't have been so footloose and fancy-free, when it came to this meandering observation about the act of worrying.

"Ain't no use in worrying about things you have no control over, because if you have no control over them, there's no sense worrying about them. And ain't no sense worrying about things you DO have control over, because if you have control over them, you shouldn't have to worry."

And I only paraphrase ever-so-slightly, believe me.

So how do I get from Mickey to the Lions? Usually the only Mickey associated with them has big ears, white gloves, and lives in Orlando.

At this time of the year in the NFL, when free agency is at a crescendo and the draft looms, being a Lions fan is bittersweet. OK, mostly bitter. But what I mean is, you want things to improve, you think they might, and then you see who the Lions have signed and who they've lost and it all boils down to this:

It just doesn't matter.

Mickey Rivers

It doesn't matter because of one fact that none of us has any control over -- hence my Mickey Rivers quote from above.

Bill Ford still owns the team. And that simply is not a good thing.

Ford -- the league's Nice Guy. How many times have you heard that? Even the poisonous Drew Sharp, on the radio the other day, conceded this.

"When you take football out of the equation, Mr. Ford really is a good guy," Sharp said.

And what did Leo Durocher say about nice guys?

Matt Millen, I hear, is a nice guy. I've never met him, but I'll take it on everyone's word.

But as long as Ford owns the Lions, the team will never be successful. He's had 43 years to prove otherwise, and hasn't done so.

Yes, I know this conclusion goes right alongside the notion that water is wet, but I bring it up because of what has happened in our very own town. And to point out the double-edged side of this sword: you can't change who the owner is, so you might as well not worry. Right, Mickey Rivers? But yet, you DO worry, BECAUSE you can't change who the owner is.


But let's jump into the wayback machine and set it for the summer of 1982. The Red Wings, at the end of the Norris family ownership, were in the thick of a wretched stretch in which they made the playoffs once in 12 seasons. And it wasn't all that hard to make the playoffs in the post-expansion NHL, yet the Red Wings managed to fail 11 out of 12 times. There were moments when I truly never thought I'd live to see the Stanley Cup won by my team. The Cup-less streak was 27 years and with no end in sight.

Then Mike Ilitch bought the team.

He didn't get it right at first; his directive to GM Jimmy Devellano to sign aging veterans and unproven college free agents was a disaster. His hiring of coach Harry Neale was a disaster, as was his successor, Brad Park. Long story short, though, Ilitch got it right eventually -- largely because he hired Devellano in the first place.

The Pistons were foundering, owned in absenteeism by Fred Zollner, who brought pro basketball to Detroit, made a series of curious moves, then finally settled into 90% retirement in Florida, attending maybe one game a season. Bill Davidson was part of a consortium of folks who bought the team from Zollner, in 1973. Then Davidson bought out his partners, becoming sole owner. He, too, made some bad decisions before bringing Jack McCloskey into the fold in 1979.

The Tigers have been blessed with mostly good ownership, going back to John Fetzer buying the team in 1960. Fetzer was followed by Tom Monaghan, who may have been slightly strange, but who didn't do anything too foolhearty; the Tigers remained winners on his watch.

So it's all a waste of time and breath -- and worry -- when you think about it, to fret over the Lions. To suggest draft choices. To suggest free agent signings. To suggest offensive and defensive systems. To pay attention to them at all, frankly.

I know, easier said than done.

But it really is all a waste. Except for the most masochistic.

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