Detroit Lions: Worst NFL Team Ever?

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The Detroit Lions have become the first NFL team to finish the regular season with zero wins and 16 losses. The Lions' season ended Sunday with a 31-21 loss to the Packers in Green Bay, Wis.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Detroit Lions have entered the National Football League record book, and they're not happy about it. Yesterday, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Lions lost to the Green Bay Packers 31 to 21. Detroit became the first team in NFL history to finish the regular season with zero wins, leaving it with 16 losses. NPR's Tom Goldman reports from Detroit, where Lions fans were absorbing Sunday's infamous defeat.

TOM GOLDMAN: When a team hasn't won a game all season, it's a bit of challenge to find the fans. It's not like every sports bar in the Detroit area was teeming yesterday with people proudly wearing Lions' blue, silver and white.

(Soundbite of football game broadcast)

GOLDMAN: Word was we might have a shot at Nemo's Bar & Grill in downtown Detroit, but when we showed up a little after kick-off, the place was dead. So, we drove on and kept tabs on the game.

Unidentified Announcer: Second and 13 from there...

GOLDMAN: Early in the second half, it got interesting. After a season of numbing losses, magnified, of course, by hometown Detroit's economic slump, the Lions were showing some fight.

Unidentified Announcer: Orlovsky from the shotgun, sets and looks. Got Calvin at the 10, out of the tackle at the five. Diving - end zone - touchdown, Detroit Lions! How about that young man?

GOLDMAN: It was 14-all as we walked into Excalibur Park Bar in Grosse Pointe Park and hit pay dirt, greeted by a cloud of cigarette smoke and noisy chatter. The bar was hopping, in part because a local power outage had forced Lion's fans out of their houses and into the bar, which had a couple of big-screen TVs going on generator power. Twenty-six-year-old Marko Masherry(ph) was getting a jolt of his own, watching the Lions stay close to Green Bay.

Mr. MARKO MASHERRY (Resident, Detroit, Michigan): Sometimes, you see boneheaded, grade-school mistakes that inevitably leads you to realize that this team could not succeed under any circumstance. But some guys play hard. They - I mean, they do play - a lot of them, somehow in spite of it all, play hard, play their hearts out and do make the stop. The question is, can they keep doing it? Let's watch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

(Soundbite of groaning)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MASHERRY: And you know, right on cue.

GOLDMAN: Right on cue, the Lions failed to stop the Packers, who took a 24-14 lead. Detroit made it 24 to 21 before Green Bay scored a final touchdown for the win.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

GOLDMAN: In case you can't tell, that cheering, as the clock ran out, was dripping with sarcasm. One bar patron proclaimed the Lions a "loser powerhouse. "Back in 2001, Detroit hired former player Matt Millen as president. He had no experience running a team. During his tenure, the Lions had the NFL's worst winning percentage. He was finally removed this season, which appeased angry fans. After yesterday's loss, though, there were more calls for cleaning house, from the longtime owner, William Clay Ford Sr., to other top Lion's executives, who Ford recently said he'd retain. But at least one person at Excalibur Park was pleased with the outcome. Erin Rentanback(ph) said a perfect season in reverse means it's not going to get any worse.

Ms. ERIN RENTANBACK (Resident, Los Angeles, California): No matter what happens, the Lions have bottomed out. But I kind of feel like with the way the economy is going and everything that's going on globally, this is just very poetic and it's all going to be on the up and up in '09.

GOLDMAN: Rentanback is a Detroit native, but now lives in Los Angeles, which probably explains her rosy optimism. L.A., by the way, no longer has an NFL team. At least Detroiters still can boast that they do, kind of. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Detroit.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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