Beat writer bingo: Are the Lions a good team? Depends on which paper you read

As a parting shot as he heads off into a hard earned retirement, the News’ Mike O’Hara stirred up a hornets nest here in Detroit. His predicting a very good season for the Lions, a team that normally has trouble reaching mediocrity, has everyone atwitter.

One paragraph in particular has fans and writers alike wondering if O’Hara knows something, has drank too much of the Lions’ Kool-Aid these past 30 years or is just plain off his meds…

From what I’ve seen so far, I was wrong. The Lions will win nine games, maybe more. They’re super fast on defense, they will build a running game, protect the quarterback and have talent at wide receiver. I say 9-7 is the standard. Whether that earns a playoff spot remains to be seen, but this team will not fall apart, unless shredded by injuries.

A surprising admission, to say the very least.

It had me wondering what I was missing, and I said as much yesterday. The Lions look as if they’ve improved, but 2 exhibition wins haven’t sold me on their being a playoff contending team, let alone a 9-10 win team. It’s too damn early, and too much can happen between now and January, to buy into the cornbread the Lions’ have been cooking.

The article was surprising enough, in coming from a highly respected beat guy, for writers at the Freep to respond, even if they don’t mention O’Hara by name.

The Freep’s hit man columnist, Drew Sharp, responded, opening with a line fitting his reputation.

The Lions are better. That doesn’t mean they’re good.

Which is what I said, in so many words. I can’t believe it, I’m actually agreeing with one of the most despised columnists (for good reason) in Detroit.

Then Sharp says something I’m (amazingly) totally in agreement with…

In the past, the Lions could always count on a new year’s optimism, but it’s apparent now that many are holding out for unimpeachable results.

It’s about time.

And it’s the right choice.

It’s not an example of “Lions hating,” that annoying characterization of how unless you smile through your perennial tears you can’t be a “true” Lions fan. Those who often scream the loudest are the ones who want success for this team the most.

Sharp hit a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Just because you “hate” on the Lions doesn’t make you any less of a fan. Far from it, despite what yahoos in places like the Mlive forums would believe. In fact, the passion shown by those leading the “FIRE MILLEN” brigade (Or in my case, the “FIRE KWAN” squadron), shows just how much they care. I’m not about to sit passively by and say all is well, when the team is far from it.

Much of the Detroit fanbase has finally reached that point, and they are showing their lack of faith by keeping their wallets closed. Why else would the Lions now have trouble selling out? Sure, the awful Michigan economy has something to do with it. But tough times never stopped fans from buying Lions tickets before. What has stopped fan is when they’ve had their fill of bad teams. (Look back to the Daryll Rogers era, when the county morgue was livelier than the Silverdome) They’ve reached that point.

The Freep’s beat guy, Nick Cotsonika, also responded to O’Hara’s piece, saying yes, the Lions have improved. How much remains to be seen. In other words, he pretty much agrees with Sharp.

Can you tell the Lions have improved overall? I think so. Just in the way they go about their business, they look like a real football team. They play hard. They play physical. They look organized. Whether that translates into more victories, though, remains to be seen.

My position: The Lions look better. They are on the right track. But they still have a long way to go.

It was said in a less controversial way, likely because Cotsonika has worked the same beat as O’Hara for several years. Still, he’s in agreement with conventional Lions wisdom. It’s too early for anyone to know how good the Lions can be.

We’ve all been burned by the Lions, and we’re all gun shy when it comes to predicting success. Remember Killer Kowalski predicting over the WFDN airwaves in 2006 the Lions would win 20 games in 2 seasons? Exactly.

In the end, Cotsonika writes what I consider the God honest truth.

The truth is, you don’t know what a team is until the season is over. It’s just so hard to wait.

Indeed.

I’m fired up for the new season, but I have no idea how the Lions are going to do when the put the pads on in anger in 3 weeks time. They could finish anywhere from 5-11 to 10-6. Even their beat writer has no idea, and just admitted it print.

I hope O’Hara is correct. You fon’t know how much I hope he’s correct. But common sense, past history and an extremely tough closing schedule tells me otherwise.

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