This is a harsh standard that few athletes can measure up to but the bar is never higher around here than it is for a member of the Detroit Lions. The standard for excellence in honolulu blue is set by none other than the ultimate anti-diva: Barry Sanders. For 10 glorious seasons Sanders was the most dangerous offensive player in the NFL and the only reason the Lions were relevant at all. No matter the down or distance Sanders was always a threat to score; often with a mesmerizing series of spins, jukes and superhuman dekes that would ruin the body of mere mortals. It wasn't just Sanders' all world talent that endeared him to Lions fans however; he was our hero because of his work ethic, relentless determination and respectful if not outright humble personality. Barry Sanders worshiped at the church of football and he left the task of building the church of Barry Sanders to the fans and media. Ask any Lions fan why he loves Sanders and I guarantee that before long he'll mention Barry's ritual of quietly handing the ball to the referee in lieu of a touchdown celebration as a key selling point. It's not enough to dominate, when you represent the 313 area code, you're expected to act like you've been there before; even if you haven't. This is why Calvin Johnson will go down as a legend in Detroit sports even if he never catches another pass for the Lions; we see some of Sanders in Megatron but more to the point we see some of "Detroit" in him and it makes us whole. This town has neither time nor love for a selfish, "look at me" type of athlete and so it's really not surprising that Titus Young's career as a Lion was an unmitigated disaster.
noted curmudgeon was upset because Young had just taken a 15 yard misconduct penalty while the desperate Lions were on the 2 yard line. More importantly the penalty was both stupid and selfish; Young punched a Saints player in full view of the refs for reasons that were never entirely made clear. After the game Young offered the first of many revealing apologies to Lions fans by saying "I kind of let my emotions get the best of me. I really wasn’t thinking of anything but myself at that time." In hindsight it could be said that Titus was damned by his own words but at the time the incident was largely ignored in the face of Young's clearly burgeoning talent. In the words of Tomy Petty; the future was wide open. The only problem was that Titus Young would turn out to be a rebel without a clue.
strangest news conferences in NFL history later, Titus Young would be placed on injury reserve; he would never play another down of football for the Detroit Lions again. As the weeks went by details of Young's strained relationship with team-mates and coaches began to emerge, finally culminating in coach Jim Schwartz revealing that Young was scheduled for knee surgery "if he shows up". Around about this same time Young went on his now infamous series of disjointed Twitter posts where he:
- Suggested that he wasn't selfish but that if he wasn't going to get the football he wouldn't play anymore
- Declared that he had never run the wrong route, he just put himself where the ball was going to be
- Refuted those who called hm greedy, saying he would play for a dollar while simultaneously suggesting he was a Hall of Fame level talent
- Fought with Lions fans about his faith and his talents as a football player
- Demanded that the Lions stop threatening to release him and simply do so.
Today, Titus Young sits in a California jail cell facing 11 charges including vandalism, burglary and assaulting a police officer. The judge in his case recently increase his bail from $25,000 to $50,000 dollars after a bizarre hearing in which Young refused to acknowledge the judge or his own father despite being spoken to directly by both men. His lawyer claimed it was Titus' right to remain silent while the judge said he "poses a danger to the community." Frankly it doesn't seem to matter what Young's bail is set at; right now his family is refusing to pay, feeling that Young is better off behind bars and receiving the mental care he clearly needs. In a classic example of covering it's backside, today the NFL revealed that the league reached out to Young as far back as 18 months ago but pulled away when Titus made it clear he didn't want their support. There are no winners in this story and the only hope for a happy ending lies in Titus eventually winning back his self control and piece of mind. The question of whether or not Young will ever play in the NFL again is now largely irrelevant.
Like most true stories, the one about the Lions drafting a crazy wide receiver who thought he was better than Calvin Johnson ends with more questions than answers. At the end of the day all I can tell you is that there's no crying in football and when it comes to the Lions, there's always plenty of blame to throw around.
- Sportsball Chic