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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On football: 'Nothing is possible' Lions on road to nowhere

These are heady times for the Detroit Lions, currently on the Road to XVI. What started as an absurd and pathetic dream has morphed into … well, it's still an absurd and pathetic dream. We like to think that's appropriate. We're not real big on progress around here.

In just 12 days, we will find out if our heroes will reach the mountaintop, then turn around and realize they are actually in a valley and were walking on their hands.

THE HUDDLE: Rookie says he's an exception to 0-14
LIONS TRACKER: The path to 0-16
PHOTOS: A decade of losing in Detroit

Our motto is "Nothing is Possible," so of course we believe. The Lions are 87.5% of the way down the Road to XVI, and as I always told my parents in high school, an 88 is a solid A grade. Nonetheless, this is not a Road to LXXXVII.V%.

We're all about perfect imperfection here. And, as the Lions get ready to play their final two games, we must ask: Where are they most likely to mess this up?

At home against New Orleans?

Or in Green Bay?

It comes down to a philosophical question. Are the Lions more likely to win on the road, where everybody wants them to lose, or at home, where nobody wants them to win?

I think the atmosphere at Ford Field has been depressing, morgue-like and downright eerie, but most people don't think of it as fondly as I do. The atmosphere might explain why the Lions have played significantly worse at home than on the road.

In fact, if they get outscored by six points Sunday, they will be the worst home team in the history of the NFL.

Meanwhile, they haven't won in Wisconsin since President Bush's first term. Wait, I typed that wrong: They haven't won there since the first President Bush's term. That was 1991. Their annual trip to Green Bay is always a loss, though the trips have had their high points. Three years ago, Shaun Rogers got a great deal on a 22-pound wheel of cheddar, which he finished on the flight home.

Seventeen years! It is fair to wonder how a man can withstand that many years of failure. After all, until this year, the Lions were trying to win. How does William Clay Ford Sr. handle it?

Monday afternoon, somebody asked Head Man Rod Marinelli what Ford Sr. is actually like. Most reporters don't really know Ford Sr. Generally speaking, franchise owners only show up for trophy presentations and championship parades, so we'll get to know Ford better in a couple of weeks.

This was Marinelli's answer:

"Obviously he's a great person. We all know that. He does a great job of listening. Great listener. That's the sign of a leader. He knows the questions he wants to ask and he asks them. … He'll ask the questions until he gets the answers he wants."

That last sentence, like the work of James Joyce, needs to be re-read several times to be fully appreciated. He'll ask the questions until he gets the answers he wants. That sounded to me like Ford Sr. likes having Yes Men around, so I asked Marinelli what that meant.

"I just think the questions are very good," Marinelli said. "He knows how to ask good questions, I guess you could say. He's very good at that. That's why he's been so successful."

That's so nice that the owner asks good questions. Maybe he'll help me out at Rod's next press conference.

I wonder if Ford Sr. is studying the schedule, wondering if his team has a better chance to win at home or on the road. After all, with just one win, the Lions will be off the Road to XVI.

"We're trying to win two games here," running back Kevin Smith said Monday, and though I wasn't there when he said it, reliable sources swear he had a straight face. "Not one. We're trying to win two. We're 0-14. Oh, my God."

I plugged "Oh, my God" into the Rod Marinelli Translator, and you know what I got? "Oh, my God." Amazing.

XIV down, just II to go. "Nothing is Possible," and with the next game at home, this week the Lions are literally going nowhere. Just like we always suspected.

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