Lions Fan Reflects On Dismal Season

Here's quite possibly the most redundant statement in the history of sports: The Detroit Lions are bad. With a loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers, the Lions completed the first 0-16 NFL season ever. Longtime and long-suffering Lions fan Leonard Lark weighs in.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block. The Detroit Lions ended a perfect season yesterday - perfectly awful, that is. They ended up 0 and 16, which gives them the dubious distinction of having the worst season ever in the history of the NFL. The Lions snatched the all time losing record for a full regular season from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost all 14 of their games in 1976. We've called Leonard Lark, he's a lifelong Lions fan from Livonia, Michigan. And Mr. Lark, 0 and 16, does that seem like a perfect season to you?

Mr. LEONARD LARK (Fan, Detroit Lions): I guess that all depends on what you call perfect.

BLOCK: Yeah.

Mr. LARK: 0 and 16 to me is a perfect mess.

BLOCK: Yeah, I guess so. And I'm sure you were watching the game yesterday. It was not pretty.

Mr. LARK: Actually, it was quite entertaining. They almost disappointed me and won.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: This was the game against the Green Bay Packers. They were in - at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin. And at one point, I guess, going into the fourth quarter, the game was actually tied, 14 to 14.

Mr. LARK: It was tied, yeah. And Green Bay came back and added another 10 to it - easily, may I add.

BLOCK: Yeah, well, what were you thinking when the game was 14-14?

Mr. LARK: Well, I actually thought that they would still lose. I mean, they've played a lot worse teams and couldn't beat them.

BLOCK: So, why would they start now, in other words?

Mr. LARK: Exactly.

BLOCK: You know, I've seen a photo of you after last Sunday's game. It was at Ford Field in Detroit when the Lions got really killed by the New Orleans Saints. They lost 42 to seven. And after the game, you're standing there, you've got your arms raised high over your head, and you've got a t-shirt on - and it's a blue t-shirt with white letters - and why don't you tell us what it says?

Mr. LARK: Well, that shirt said, "0 and 16, yes we can."

BLOCK: And what were you thinking wearing that t-shirt?

Mr. LARK: That, even though that game was the 0 and 15 game, I knew, based on that game, that we definitely could go 0 and 16. It was unequivocal.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Lark, why is this season's Detroit Lions team so bad, do you think?

Mr. LARK: Oh, that's a loaded question, but of course, when anything's bad, you start at the top. I mean, take for instance the Tom Lewand and Marty Mayhew, the president and the GM.

BLOCK: Both of them got promoted today.

Mr. LARK: They got promoted for the ineptitude.

BLOCK: They did fire the head coach, Rod Marinelli. He's gone.

Mr. LARK: Big deal.

BLOCK: What does it take to be a Lions fan when they're losing throughout the season so badly? There must be sort of a fraternity of fans who support each other during all this.

Mr. LARK: Yeah, absolutely. It's like - my son and I were walking through the stands at the Saints game with both the same shirt and getting 99.9 percent approval rating.

BLOCK: Well, help me understand that. Why is that something to be proud of?

Mr. LARK: It's history. Whether it's good history or bad history, it's still history.

BLOCK: You know, I wonder what you and your fellow Lions fans say after defeats like they've seen this year. What's the conversation like?

Mr. LARK: You've got diehards who look at it as, you're insulting me because I'm from Detroit and we've got a lousy team. And you've got the pragmatics who just say, hey, it's a hometown team, we back them, win or lose.

BLOCK: Or lose and lose and lose.

Mr. LARK: Whatever. You know, I've been waiting a long time. I was three years old the last time they did anything notable. I'm still waiting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LARK: I don't mind. I've got 20, 30 years left in me.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Lark, it's good to talk to you and best in 2009. It can only go up from here.

Mr. LARK: Absolutely. But now, here's an advantage I have to the shirt that I have - I can probably wear that again next year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You think?

Mr. LARK: Anything can happen.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Lark, thanks, again.

Mr. LARK: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: Leonard Lark, diehard Lions fan from Livonia, Michigan.

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