My fascination with the Detroit Lions and their quest for 0-16 knows no limits. It probably says a lot about me that I did not have one-tenth the same interest level when the Patriots were on their 16-0 crusade a year ago. I guess I've always had a pretty good outsider sense of 16-0 -- why it's so hard to do, what kind of luck and determination it takes to get there, what it means.
But 0-16 -- that's a whole other thing. Anyone who watches the NFL closely realizes that there are plenty of lousy teams in this league, and there are many, many more teams that CAN BE lousy on any given week. It seems to me that to go winless in this environment takes something more than awfulness.
Of course, it isn't just the team that fascinates me ... it is also the fan reaction to the team. In many ways that intrigues me even more. How do fans handle a potential 0-16 season? Do you, at some point, root for bad history? Do you rage against every loss? Do you simply pretend it isn't happening? This is especially poignant in Detroit, where times are tough, and the harsh winter hits, and the Tigers just had a miserable season and time seems to have passed the Pistons by (though the Red Wings seem about as good as ever).
My good friend
I know quite a few Lions fans want their team to beat Green Bay and be just another 1-15 team. But based on anecdotal evidence, I can tell you that a lot of fans are rooting for the team to go 0-16 -- far more than you would find if, say, the 49ers or Raiders or Bears were 0-15. These are people who have embraced
We often say that fans here love their Lions, but the truth is that they love football, and the Lions happen to be the team that play here. Obviously, fans have great affection for a lot of the Lions' players, but they have none for the franchise. The Lions are not lovable losers; they are just losers. In 2003, when the Tigers threatened to eclipse the 1962 Mets' modern-day record for losses, most fans pulled hard for them to win games in the final week. At the time, owner
This is different. Many Lions fans think it would be a nice change if their franchise is embarrassed. Some of them figured that 0-16 would shame Ford into meaningful change; I never bought that, and Ford's announcement last week that he is keeping the team president and interim general manager show he is still the same lousy owner he always was. That was never really the point, anyway. Lions fans have tried to love this team for years, but the team never loved them back. After a while, you don't expect to be loved any more. You just want the team to feel the way you have felt for all these years.