Without a doubt, one of my favorite things in the world is the annual cheesy NFL Films team yearbook. No matter how bad, every team out there gets one, and no one in the world does a better job in the fine art of polishing a turd than the NFL Films crew.
After watching just 10 minutes of propaganda highlights from your team’s previous season, you are looking for the nearest broker to see his most reasonable prices on tickets for this year’s Super Bowl. Even if your team was completely woeful and is destined to be once again this year.
For instance, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning ESPN2 showed us the 2008 Cincinnati Bengals team video. The title?
“Finish Strong: The Story of the 2009 Cincinnati Bengals.”
Because as we all remember, the Bengals turned around from an 0-8 start and finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the league, closing with a 4-3-1 record in the second half of the season. Woo hoo! Who dey! Who dey!
Again, no matter how crappy a team may be, they at least make it seem plausible that future victory is imminent. I mean, hey, let’s not forget that Carson Palmer was injured last season. And Cedric Benson is showing the promise to develop into a feature back. And, um… anyway, you get the point. There’s always something nice to say. Unless there’s nothing nice that can be said.
Which brings us to the NFL Films 2008 Detroit Lions Yearbook. Good luck finding it, because it doesn’t exist.
One of the first things I wondered when the Lions put the exclamation point on their 0-16 season was how the NFL Films team yearbook would look. The thoughts danced through my head like the makings of a good SNL sketch before I promptly forgot them for the next several months.
Then, following “Finish Strong,” I got the answer I had been waiting for.
“On The Prowl: A Preview of the 2009 Detroit Lions”
Even NFL Films knew they couldn’t put whipped cream on top of the atomic diarrhea that was the 2008 Lions.
Never was the phrase 0-16 so much as muttered. 2008, it would seem, never actually happened. This was the dawning of a new era for the Lions.
Curiously, this new era includes a high amount of black-and-white footage as much of the focus was on the “hard-hitting defense of legends like Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane” rather than anyone who has worn Honolulu Blue and Silver in the past decade. (Sadly, there was no footage of Wayne Fontes, the last Lions coach to actually win a playoff game).
And as good as the Stalinist treatment of ’08 was for a laugh, at least the forward-looking prism was realistic in letting people know that this rebuilding project isn’t just going to happen overnight. So in a way, it was a refreshing change of pace for NFL Films.
Now, I just have to patiently wait a year for “The Autumn Win: The Story of the 2009 Oakland Raiders.”