With one week to go in the National Football League's regular season, several questions remain unanswered, but at least one fact is pretty much assured - this year's edition of the Detroit Lions is by far the worst team of the decade. The Lions, who have had several dismal seasons recently, have never reached depth like this. As of yesterday's 42-7 drubbing at the hands of the New Orleans Saints (and the score wasn't that close), the Lions are 0-15, a first in the NFL's nearly 90-year history. If they lose their season finale next week against division rival Green Bay, Detroit will complete the first winless campaign since 1976, when Tampa Bay went 0-14. (Of course, the Bucs had the "excuse" of being a first-year expansion team at the time. This is the Lions' 80th season. So much for experience.) All parts of the organization have collapsed, and it doesn't help that the city surrounding the team is crumbling thanks in part to the near-death experience of the auto industry. In fact, there were reports that scalpers outside of Detroit's Ford Field were trying to sell tickets to the Lions-Saints game at a fraction of the face value - as low as $10 - and still were having trouble passing them along.
And through all of this misery, much of it self-inflicted by the inept coaching and management sides of the Lions, they may not be the biggest idiots in Motor City. Nor, for that matter, are the arrogant car executives who didn't think twice about taking private jets to Washington to ask for billions in bailout money. No, the top S.O.B. in Detroit is probably Rob Parker, a beat reporter for one of the struggling newspapers, the News. It seems that Parker has made a season-long issue out of the Lions' coach, Rod Marinelli, hiring his son-in-law, Joe Barry, as his defensive coordinator last year. Granted, Barry's tenure has not been successful - Detroit's defense ranks 30th out of 32 NFL teams - but Parker's criticism has crossed the line when it comes to getting personal about the familial connections involved here. And at the post-game press conference yesterday, Parker obliterated that line. After several inquiries toward Marinelli about why Barry was still employed, the intrepid reporter threw this final question out for good measure:
On a light note, do you wish your daughter would have married a better defensive coordinator?
To the credit of Marinelli, who looks like the kind of guy you don't want to annoy in a bar, he simply ignored Parker's crass question rather than the natural reaction of most, which would be to rip off the reporter's scalp and piss on his brain.
Now, let's be clear - Rod Marinelli, his son-in-law and maybe just about everyone on the Lions' coaching staff will be sacked within two week of the Lions' final game on Sunday. Because, basically, they don't seem to know how to coach football in the proper fashion. And it's Parker's job, as it is the job of any beat reporter worth his or her salt, to hold the team they cover to the fire if the players or coaches or ownership deserve it. Bu there was absolutely no reason for Parker to go there with Marinelli other than to show off how clever he could be. Well, Parker is now way more famous nationwide than he was 24 hours ago - that much is certain. But not for being a clever or tough journalist, but rather for being, to paraphrase a line from the beloved series Gilmore girls, a buttface miscreant, not to mention an embarrassment to his profession. And it also doesn't help Parker's case that he was caught making false statements about a Michigan State football player during a TV broadcast not too long ago, for which the News should have fired him right then and there. Or before that, when he called Henry Aaron a coward for not speaking out about Barry Bonds' quest to break his all-time home-run record. Overall, Parker has much in common with the Lions and the auto industry. Congratulations, Rob.
P.S. Oh, Parker now says, in a column that seems designed more to save his own bacon than as an actual mea culpa, that he was just "joking" with that final question to Marinelli. ("Marinelli ... just ignored my attempt at humor and moved on.") Ha ha, Rob. Don't quit your day job. No, actually, do.
Here is a video of the Q-&-A, along with the repsonses of Fox Sports' NFL commentators.