Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders And Escaping Mediocrity

"Mama, as soon as I get the chance, I'm moving out of Oklahoma and I'm never coming back." -- Young Ed, circa 1992.

My mom will tell me that story all the time, usually when I'm homesick or she's missing her only child who lives 1,500-plus miles away. I knew at 9 years old that I didn't want to live in my hometown of Lawton anymore. It's not a diss to my hometown, because I love my hometown and am fiercely loyal to almost everything in the Sooner State (I still hate Lawton High, Go IKE), but the reality is that I was always enamored to other cities and cultures across the country and/or world. Now that I'm 30, I have lived in the Eastern and the Western time zones and have proved to be prophetic in my claims as a wayward fourth-grader.

I was studying the fantasy football rankings the other day, and I started reading up on Calvin Johnson, the only offensive weapon worth a damn on the Detroit Lions roster. He is seemingly the lock of locks when it comes to picking players for your team, as there is no doubt that the all-time single-season record holder for receiving yards will be given every opportunity to go for 2,000 again. But good grief, have you seen the Detroit Lions lately? Here are seven random thoughts that went through my head when I was thinking about this putrid team:

1. Is Matthew Stafford fat or nah?

2. I can't name four players on the Detroit Lions defense right now. (Suh, Fairley, Delmas, uhhhh …)

3. I'm incapable of taking Jim Schwartz serious ever again after he got sonned by Jim Harbaugh.

4. The Detroit Lions are really relying on Reggie Bush. This makes me laugh.

5. The second best receiver on the Detroit Lions last year was Titus Young Sr. The guy who fell asleep in the cell phone store, the guy who tried to steal his own car after it was impounded, the guy who agreed with O.J. Simpson on why killing his wife was okay, is sorely needed in Detroit still.

6. Matthew Stafford is probably going to get Ryan Broyles killed with one wrong pass over the middle.

7. Can we just bring the old Detroit Lions jerseys back?

I think it's safe to say that I, along with all the people who don't live within a close vicinity of 8 Mile, don't believe in this current iteration of the Lions. It's not that they can't get better, but man I'm not pushing my chips in on that being a possibility anytime soon. It sucks too, because football fans deserve to see Calvin Johnson turn into Megatron with the brightest of lights shining down on the football field he plays on.

Of course, this reminds us of the tragic side of Barry Sanders and his time as a member of the Detroit Lions.

While Calvin Johnson will take aim at the loftiest of titles (greatest receiver of all time), for Barry Sanders, it is a claim he can rightly own. There's no need to regurgitate the man's accolades, but with every statistical category there is in the rushing game, Barry's at the top or near it on every single one of them. However, what Barry Sanders is also known for is the fact that the man was only able to "lead" his team to victory in the playoffs but one time in five chances. With only mediocre quarterbacks to lead the charge and a defense that largely featured players that 99% of the football world can hardly remember to this day (Chris Spielman, Jerry Ball, Chris Doleman … that's all I got), all eyes turned to Barry.

In one win, he had a below-average day by his own standards (99 yards on 17 touches) in a 38-6 drubbing of the Dallas Cowboys in the '91 playoffs. In one other game he had a prolific day (169 yards on 27 carries) in a 28-24 defeat to the Green Bay Packers in the '93 playoffs. In four other losses, Sanders put up a grand total of 148 yards on 51 carries. The Lions failed to score more than 12 points in three losses and were defeated by 21 points in the fourth.

Barry deserved better.

We know the quarterbacks that Barry had to play with, not because of how prolific they were, but because of their ability to be completely mediocre when the time called for a higher standard. From Rodney Robinson-Peete to Scott Mitchell to Erik Kramer and Charlie Batch, shittiness oozed out of these guys' pores and it was sickening to watch year after year after year.

I fear that this same shittiness will ooze out of the pores of Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Reginald Bush, Jim Schwartz, William Clay Ford and every other wide receiver on the depth chart that isn't named Calvin Johnson while being a member of the Detroit Lions. Megatron was put on this Earth to be one of the greatest wide receivers who ever lived, and he still can possibly. Too bad his inability to escape mediocrity might prove to be tougher than eluding double coverage while running a nine route.

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