Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lions' Only "Curse" Has Been Their Tendency To Make Bad Decisions

The haggard pub owner traipsed down to the ballpark, as had been his wont, and brought his sidekick with him, as he'd done several times before.

Only this time, the sidekick wasn't allowed in.

It was the World Series, and seats were at a premium.

Besides, the sidekick was a billy goat, so a line had to be drawn somewhere.

The pub owner, Billy Sianis, was outraged.

"Them Cubs, they aren't gonna win no more," Sianis was said to have muttered in his disgust as he trudged away with goat in tow.

This was in 1945 as the Cubs were playing the Tigers in the World Series. The words of Sianis might have been apocryphal, but it has been confirmed that Sianis and his goat were asked to leave Wrigley Field that day.

The newspaper people jumped on Sianis' supposed words of fury, and turned them into a "curse."

Chicago-based syndicated columnist Mike Royko was one of the biggest instigators of this malarkey.

That the Cubs haven't been to a World Series since '45 is proof, the conspiracy whacks say, of Sianis' curse still in effect.

Fast forward from '45 to 1958.

The alcoholic, carousing quarterback leaves town after being abruptly traded, just one season removed from a championship year.

In his shock and anger, the QB shakes his fist and yells at team management that they won't win for 50 years.

The Curse of Bobby Layne, allegedly.

If common folks had the ability to "curse" people, or teams, or companies, can you imagine the chaos in this country?

CEOs would be dropping dead like flies. Big box retailers would have moths eating all their clothing and cockroaches infesting all of their food. The guy who cut you off in traffic would turn into a donkey at your command.

Sianis and his goat are denied entry into Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series, according to the Chicago Tribune's description of this photo

There are no curses.

Bad luck? Sure.

The Lions are 51 years removed from Layne's "curse", which has never been properly confirmed, by the way. Not that it matters that we adhere to the facts. That's no fun for the conspiracy whacks!

The Lions aren't cursed, unless it's been by poor decision making and bad hires and miserly approaches to the business---all of which has dogged the franchise in various stages since Layne left.

The question was put to me by my partner, Big Al, on Monday night's episode of "The Knee Jerks" on Blog Talk Radio.

The Lions have been running into some injuries during training camp, which is less than two weeks old. Even the superstar receiver Calvin Johnson found his hand in a cast briefly, due to a jammed thumb.

Al wanted to know: Are the Lions snakebit?


No more than any other NFL team, all of which are navigating through player injuries of various types right now.

It's called training camp. Guys pull up lame. Some joints get tweaked. Thumbs get jammed.

Or defensive ends pop their Achilles tendon, as the Lions' Jared DeVries did, now lost for the season.

It happens.

Depth is key to any successful team. The Lions don't have much of it right now, but they'll still have to answer the bell on September 13 when they tee the footballs up for real.

If one man, Bobby Layne, was able to plunder the Lions for five decades because of some angry words he may or may not have said, then that's a world I'd be petrified to live in.

The Lions have done themselves in, thank you. They haven't needed much help from the outside, or from the netherworld.

There were no mysterious forces at work when Joe Schmidt resigned in a huff as coach in 1973, fed up with GM Russ Thomas' meddling. No one held a gun to the Lions' heads when they plucked Darryl Rogers from Arizona State University to coach them in 1985.

You think the Lions were "cursed" when Barry Sanders dropped into their laps in 1989, after the Packers took leave of their senses and drafted tackle Tony Mandarich instead?

Hmmm...the conspiracy and curse whacks never talk about that, I notice.

Did Layne come into Wayne Fontes' dream one night and tell him to draft Andre Ware in 1990?

The Lions' bonus baby QB of today, Matthew Stafford, has been blessed, they say, with coming from the same Texas town and high school as Layne and fellow Hall of Fame Lion Doak Walker.

Blessed, or....cursed?


Stafford graduating from Layne's high school has been more fodder for the conspiracy and curse whacks.

But now it's a reverse curse.

Stafford must surely be "the one", because he went to the same high school as the great Bobby Layne!

If it wasn't so funny, it'd be sort of pathetic. That's how desperate Lions fans have become.

If Matthew Stafford is "the one"---and he just may be---it'll be because the kid is something special. He's making lifelong football people stumble over themselves with effusive praise. The media are having a love-in with him.

But Stafford could come from Timbuktu, for what it's worth. That he hails from Layne's school is nothing more than a wonderful coincidence.

And a delectable piece of bubble gum for the media people to chew on, long after the flavor has vanished.

I've been to the Billy Goat Tavern, by the way---Sianis' pub in downtown Chicago, which was also immortalized by the zany, original cast of "Saturday Night Live", who made fun of the staff's "cheeseburger, cheeseburger" shtick.

They really do say that at the Billy Goat. It's funny.

The walls are adorned with blown-up photos of legendary Chicago newspaper men from over the years, as the tavern is across the street from the Chicago Tribune building.

No doubt many of the men whose images stare at the patrons of the Billy Goat Tavern were willing participants in the propagation of the "billy goat curse" legend.

And the folks bought it---hook, line, and sinker.

The power of the press, people!

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