I won’t just be cheering for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday; I’ll be cheering against the Detroit Lions. For reasons of history, the antagonism Green Bay fans feel for Detroit has never matched that which we feel for the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. But Detroit’s quickly making themselves at home in the black little corner of my heart reserved for sports hatred.
It wasn’t always this way. I actually used to like the Lions in a condescending, good-for-you-little-brother! kind of way. I felt bad for them when they were being trampled on by every team in the league on their way to an 0-16 record.
I like Matthew Stafford. I like his attitude coming into a team that bad with dedication and determination, rather than pulling an Eli Manning and refusing to play for a team he didn’t pick. I think he’s an excellent passer, and I always defend him, even when he’s struggling.
Calvin Johnson is another Lions player I do like. He’s insanely talented and, by all reports, has a great attitude on and off the field.
But my amiability towards Stafford and Johnson is not enough to overcome my vitriol for Ndamukung Suh and Jim Schwartz. Suh is not the only Lions’ player I have a problem with, but he exemplifies the bad attitude and immaturity that irritates me. He seems to have troubles with the law every time he gets into a car, and repeatedly refuses to own up to his mistakes.
Suh’s gained a reputation for being dirty by tip-toeing the line between illegal and legal-but-really-not-cool. I don’t begrudge a defensive lineman crushing, emphatic tackles and sacks, but it’s the little extras that Suh does that earns him his reputation: the extra push into the turf or the extra twist of the leg. It’s unnecessary and likely to injure. I don’t care if it’s technically legal, it’s outside of the rules of sportsmanship, which is why Suh’s peers have voted him the dirtiest player in the league two years in a row.
Last year’s Thanksgiving Day game is a prime example. Everyone saw Suh stomp on Green Bay Packer Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm. Everyone. Suh watched the play after he was ejected, yet he still maintained that he was peaceably trying to disentangle himself from the fray and did not stomp Dietrich-Smith. Just admit it! Say your emotions got the best of you! Say you’re sorry and it will never happen again! Don’t stand there and try to tell everyone that they did not see what they clearly saw. Be a man and own up to it.
But what I really hate about the Lions is their coach. I think Jim Schwartz is what’s wrong with the team. His petulant attitude – handshake gate, anyone? – is one that his players can’t help but pick up on.
After an offseason which included seven arrests of his players, Schwartz’s response was, “If you look at all the incidents that happened, not one involved a player who was actually in Detroit at the time.” And your point would be … what, Jim? Don’t sell me “accountability” when you’re talking about seven arrests in the span of a few months.
Schwartz has made his team successful by getting them to believe in a nitty-gritty, underdog, bad boy attitude. That’s all well and good, but Schwartz can no longer control the atmosphere he’s created. He doesn’t know how to rein in his players. They have passion, but not discipline. You see it in every pre-snap penalty. You see it in every stupid, 15-yard personal foul penalty. You see it when players like Nate Burleson blame their on-field difficulties on the players gaining off-field maturity and how becoming better men compromised their “bad boy” identity.
I hate the Lions for the attitude that I believe separates the men from the boys of the NFL. Maybe when the Packers beat them on Sunday, the Lions can take notes from the Green Bay players, on and off the field.