North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Karma and Fate in the Motor City

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I don’t really know if I believe in stuff like karma or fate. If you want to throw all caution to the wind and say this will happen because it is supposed to, like you have no sense of free will, feel free.

But I wonder sometimes since things can even themselves out over time and twists can sort out if you let them. And when I think about the Detroit Lions, I think about if karma and fate are really a thing.
The Lions have long been a pretty awful team. I can remember watching a Thanksgiving game played in Detroit a few years ago where the most interesting thing was when security chased a guy with a “FIRE MILLEN” sign around the stadium. I remember that fan popping up two, maybe three different times in different places at Ford Field.
Meanwhile, what was happening on the field became secondary. I don’t suspect this is an unusual circumstance in Detroit.
A lot has been written this year about a renaissance of sorts in Detroit recently. One-time resident and author Jeffrey Eugenides recently praised the city and said he’s trying to convince his wife to move back to the city with him. There’s that Chrysler ad you’ve probably seen, too.
More recently there’s a story in Sportsnet Magazine about the success of the Lions and Tigers this fall; one of whiom got off to a hot start and the other finished the season strong. Justin Verlander’s not only a likely Cy Young winner, but is getting serious MVP talk, too. And the Lions won their first five games in row too, their best start since 1956.
Things have not gone quite as good in the interim, though.
The Tigers fell apart in the championship series, losing in six games. They dropped three of the first four and lost game six 15 to five. In four postseason appearances, Verlander’s ERA jumped to 5.31 and his WHIP to 1.45, both much worse than his regular season numbers. His first start now seems like an omen: a game in the pouring rain, delayed after an inning until the next day.
In so many words, the Tigers ran aground against one of, and maybe the, best teams in baseball. This isn’t meant to disparage what they did. It’s more of a “hey, things even out sometimes.”
The Lions are doing their own evening out, too. Since a 5-0 start, they’ve dropped two games in a row: a surprising loss to San Francisco and a more maddening one to Atlanta.
Granted, the Niners are their own good story. It used to be a given that whatever NFL preview magazine I picked up would always ask “IS THIS THE YEAR THE NINERS PUT IT ALL TOGETHER” in breathless hyperbole and big, bold letters and every year the answer was usually no, it wasn’t. They haven’t had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2002. Remember, Seattle won the NFC West last year with just seven wins.
So it was inevitable that when two good stories met, one would stop being so good. That’s fine; the Niners were the better team that day. Sunday, it was a more traditional loss: the Falcons got to Matthew Stafford, sacking him three times, picking him off once and generally banging him up.
That Falcons defence shut down the Lions. Atlanta held the ball for nearly 10 minutes more and picked up nearly twice as many first downs. No Detroit running back picked up more than 50 yards or scored. Indeed, Detroit was one-for-12 when it came to third downs. Later, Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh is said to have taunted and mocked Matt Ryan after the Falcons quarterback went down hard, kicking his feet and saying stuff like “get the cart.”
Admittedly, it’s pretty tame stuff (I’d be surprised if this wasn’t said all the time, really). But Yahoo Sports’ Mike Silver put it best: “If you believe in karma, you are cringing as you read this.”

Any football fan will remember that Stafford is pretty fragile, as far as athletes go. He’s never played more than 10 games in a season. He’s hurt his knee and both shoulders in his three-season career. And he’s got hurt against Atlanta, too, limping off the field as the game ended. A MRI was negative, but still, this is someone with a history.
Ultimately, the two losses make me wonder about the Lions’ hot start. Stats like Simple Rating System or Point Differential suggest they’re one of the better teams in the NFL, not just the NFC. They’re there largely from a great passing game (Calvin Johnson’s season is an underreported story, I’d argue) and a good passing defence (10 picks, 17 sacks and about 204 passing yards allowed per game).
But last year, I thought they looked like a good team. And after injuries to key players they finished with six wins. It could easily happen again this year. It could happen any year, really.
I don’t know if I believe in karma. I don’t know if ALCS was more about the Tigers settling down than it was about powerful hitting by the Rangers. I don’t know if a few taunts led to a MRI on Monday. I don’t think they did and they probably didn’t. I just know that if I was a Detroit fan, I wouldn’t want to chance fate


Written by M.

October 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm

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