By Dan Leach
As Calvin Johnson just surpassed one of the NFL’s most hallowed records, he did what you would expect from one of the classiest players in the NFL. He celebrated briefly with teammates on his way to the sideline to give the historic ball to his father, the man who taught him the value of being humble, the value of showing respect. He doesn’t have to act that way because in today’s mode of “bigger, better, and louder” top athletes, it would have been acceptable if he was cocky, but that is just not who Calvin Johnson the man is. The fact that he is the exception and not the rule is one of the saddest realities of sports these days, but that is why what Megatron represents needs to be celebrated.
Johnson is easily the best player on a team that is doing him no justice. There are other talented players on the Detroit Lions, especially Matthew Stafford, the man who got the ball to him as he chased 1,848 — most of the time with him being the only legitimate receiving threat. There is defensive talent as well, of course when healthy or not in trouble with the law or the league office. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Louis Delmas, even though at many points of the season they were as underwhelming as the Lions’ record. The Lions are a team that isn’t as far away from success as many feel they are. The truth is that the 2012 season is competently unacceptable, but it takes absolutely nothing away from what Calvin Johnson did and what he means to this team, this city, and to the game he loves so much.
Many Lions fans know the pain they felt when Barry Sanders abruptly retired on the eve of training camp in 1999. Many more feel even more pain when they think that the Lions had the greatest rusher of all-time and aside from all the highlight reel runs and crowd fevering cuts, won just one playoff game. Which has always had so many asking, “what if?” That simply can’t happen to Calvin Johnson. This team needs to demand more out of itself. Yes, this season didn’t make a lot of sense , but this team must move forward and must do it with the most focused sense of purpose possible.
They need to go into the offseason with the highest level of fervor, knowing that they each must be willing to do whatever it takes to make success a reality and no longer a dream. Everyone in the organization from the security guards at Allen Park, to the videographers, to the coaching staff, to the players, to the Fords themselves, have to demand their best everyday.. They must demand greatness. They must be willing to do whatever it takes to show this city, its loyal and loving fans, and the NFL, that the Lions are no longer going to be a laughing stock, a “Clown Show”. That they are a team to be reckoned with, that decades of frustration can be changed and barriers can be broken.
It needs to be done to honor the greats that have worn the Honolulu Blue and Silver like Calvin Johnson, who is simply one of the best in the game and absolutely the best at his position. When all is said and done Johnson will likely go down as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of cleats, and it will be well deserved. What can’t happen, what would be so unfair to a player and such a great ambassador for sport like Calvin Johnson, would be if he had no postseason success to show for it. Whether or not it’s fair — that is what the greatest are judged on. It didn’t happen for Barry Sanders. It needs to happen for Calvin Johnson. To think what Johnson just accomplished is a hollow record is insane, what would be hollow is if Johnson plays out his days toiling on teams of mediocrity. Surely he deserves better than that, surely we can learn from a man as humble, as he is good. Good guys do finish first. That this franchise can ask more out of itself if they demand and expect nothing but the best.
They don’t have to be the “Same old … you know the rest … ” anymore!