The NFL’s divisional playoffs were contested this weekend. That’s a round the Detroit Lions haven’t visited since 1991-92. Given what’s happened to the franchise in the meantime and the luck of plenty other franchises in the process, this should be enough to cause fans to wonder if a supernatural curse hangs over their team.
Consider this: Saturday afternoon, Lions’ fans watched a team who fired their offensive coordinator midseason (Baltimore Ravens) beat a team who replaced their inept quarterback with one of the game’s greats (Denver Broncos). Later at night, a team from Detroit’s own division that had injured starters most of the year which let their quarterback develop behind a legend for years (Green Bay Packers) were beaten by a team who once whiffed on taking a quarterback with the first overall pick and haven’t missed a beat starting his young replacement (San Franscico 49ers).
Sunday afternoon, a team which had a recent Sports Illustrated article chronicling their endless playoff misfortunes (Atlanta Falcons) beat a team which has turned things around not two seasons after hiring a college coach (Seattle Seahawks). Then, an expansion team that’s only been in the league since 2002 (Houston Texans) went toe to toe before bowing out against football’s self made dynasty (New England Patriots). Each one of these teams has relied on plenty of good fortune recently to get where they are in addition to smarts. Sometimes, it feels like the Lions will never be able to join their secret club.
Generally, I’m the type of person who doesn’t do curses, but in special cases, that’s literally all there is left to explain such a run of bad luck and misfortune for a franchise. Are the Chicago Cubs really cursed by a goat? Probably not, but it’s convienant to blame every subsequent failure on an obscure animal. Were the Boston Red Sox actually haunted by Babe Ruth’s angry ghost? Who knows, but having that excuse in the back pocket sure helped to justify plenty of mistakes along the way.
So what can explain the Lions? Since 1957, literally nothing has gone right for the franchise. Owners have botched numerous hirings and firings. Draft picks that were thought to be sure things have failed mierably. Games have been lost in embarassing fashion. Promising seasons and talents have gone to waste. Two players have even been horrifically injured on the field of play.
Sure, there was the “curse of Bobby Layne,” but that was supposed to die out in 2009, and many believe it to be a hoax. Around 1958, Layne supposedly put a hex on the Lions for 50 years following a trade to Pittsburgh. This curse apparently concluded following the 2009 season. Those determined to claim the curse died out also point to the fact that Matthew Stafford was from Layne’s home town and also attended his high school. He was the first pick of the 2009 draft for the Lions. Voila. Demons satisfied. Curse broken.
Not so fast. It seems to me the Lions are perhaps the most cursed franchise in sports without the appearance of an actual, acceptable curse. What else could explain the 2012 season? After hope was abound following 2011′s fantastic finish, everything went wrong in a hurry from the minute the offseason began, from arrests to discipline problems. During the year, there were mistakes, incompetence and injuries galore. When the dust settled, a 4-12 record had everyone thinking another corner backward had been turned despite a few meager steps forward.
Only some type of curse can explain this dynamic in Detroit, be it Layne’s or someone else’s. Too many bizarrely negative things have happened for too long for it to be anything else. Quite frankly, Lions’ fans could use some type of excuse other than the fact their team has perpetually stunk. That line’s getting old. Give me an old fashioned curse to fall back on with every failure from here on out. After watching this play out for 25 years, now, I’d rather blame a goat or an old dead guy anyway.
Are the Lions quietly the most cursed franchise in sports? Like me, are you now content to blame their constant failures on an unknown hex, or is that merely a cop out?
To send any ideas for future question of the week topics or leave your opinion on this issue, find Max DeMara on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax and let him know what you’ve been questioning!