The Detroit Lions Are the New Bad Boys and Should Carry On the Al Davis Counterculture Tradition

Al Davis is gone, but that same spirit of rebelliousness, tough attitude, and counterculture to the NFL is now alive in the Motor City. It’s quite a change from the last futile decade in Detroit. This last week, the NFL’s website billed the Detroit vs. Denver matchup with a headline of “good vs. evil.” The Lions weren’t too thrilled with that representation by the league’s website, and took it out on the field.

Some of the players openly mocked Tim Tebow’s move, the so-called Tebowing, including linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tight end Tony Scheffler. They called out Tim Tebow after the game. There’s all the instances of Ndamukong Suh accused of being a dirty player and being fined, sometimes appropriately and sometimes in questionable cases, for hits. We had the Schwartz-Harbaugh post-game slapshake. The Falcons accused the Lions of taunting while Matt Ryan was hurt.

You know what? The NFL needs a little George Atkinson attitude. Atkinson was the safety for the Raiders in the 1970’s, who among other things, engaged in a war of words with Steelers coach Chuck Noll that ended in a lawsuit after Noll referred to Atkinson as “the criminal element” in the game. Those Raider teams had a lot of characters, and they weren’t all choir boys. Ben Davidson is still reviled around Kansas City for his cheap shot on Len Dawson in 1970. Those teams would have scoffed at the things for which the Lions are currently being criticized as dirty.

As for the Tebowing thing by the Lions, I can see different sides there. Mocking an opponent’s celebration after a successful play is an NFL tradition almost as old as the ritualized celebration. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Hines Ward do a mock celebration of just about every team out there. We’ve seen teams mock the Dirty Bird, the Lambeau Leap, you name it. So I guess your view may depend on where you fall on the confluence of Matthew 6:5, sincere expressions versus celebrations, crossed with the NFL tradition of celebration and mocking of opponent’s celebration.

But whether you agree or disagree with whether it was appropriate, I think the Lions just need to own it. Yeah, they were mocking a move by Tebow, who the league had just pitted against them in some false good versus evil narrative. So run with it. Be the Bad Boys. Be the Laimbeers and the Rodmans of the NFL and take on the establishment. Be the heirs east of the Mississippi of the Al Davis’ attitude. And if the NFL really wants you to be the evil portion of the promotional machine, then surely Lord Goodell won’t fine you for doing his bidding.

[photo via Getty]

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