Good Lions, bad Lions

Good Lions, bad Lions

Published Jun. 4, 2012 10:41 a.m. ET

While the Lions deal with the fallout of four members of their 2011 draft class doing their best to make the FBI Ten Most Wanted list, the one question that keeps popping up in my mind is: Do you have to be bad to be good?

Without recounting the past decades of horror that has been Detroit Lions football, the last couple of seasons have been encouraging. The Lions are beginning to put together a legitimate team.

It’s been refreshing to watch Detroit’s on-the-field progress with the development of Matthew Stafford, the emergence of Calvin Johnson into superstardom and the unlimited potential of Ndamukong Suh.

But the Lions' sudden rise has not been forged without a negative vibe. Arrests, suspensions, fines a stomp and post-game handshake have tarnished the franchise, labeling the Lions as immature, out-of-control and dirty.

Perhaps the Lions are a bunch of punks -- a team made up of nasty men who play a violent game right to the edge of mayhem.

It’s football, after all, and as long as they keep improving (winning), does it really matter how they choose to conduct themselves?

Some of our most-gifted athletes have tap danced with the law, and for the most part, their punishment is the adoration of their fan base. Even a stint in prison is heralded. Any scrape with authority is a merit badge.

People get into trouble all the time, especially when they’re young. Most of us have done a lot of stupid stuff during our growth spurt into adulthood. For a number of athletes, it seems that their timeline for being dumb is limitless.

Many of them have been coddled their whole lives because they possess a special talent that creates a false sense of entitlement and immunity. When you’ve always been patted on the back, it’s human nature to buy in to your own hype.

Football is America’s game, and being a modern gladiator is a life consumed with extremes -- violence, addiction, sex, breaking the law. Being a straight arrow who chooses to blend into the mundane routine of everyday life is rare.

Most of our ‘problem Lions’ are young men who have become instant celebrities with fame, fortune and enormous pressure.

Even though they haven’t shown the best judgment, they’re astute enough to realize that they play for keeps in the NFL, and in the end, all the team and their fan base care about is if you’re part of the plan or not.

Some will make it and some will wash out. What Detroit’s young Lions must figure out is how to juggle their indiscretions with a successful football career.

As long as you’re a player, you can do or be anything, which is really criminal.