Addendum 12:30PM: What I was afraid of happening, has. This story is starting to blow up. Scott's post and video are making the web rounds, picked up by Deadspin, The Big Lead, and ESPN, to name just a few. It's been a hot button hot topic on Detroit sports talk radio as well. I just heard some tape of Kitna's explanation on WXYT, in that he was just "Trying to win a contest." He also said that another Lion (Paraphrasing) "Showed up as me, a bible thumper." As we thought, it was all in fun. Unfortunately, it was not thought out all that well by the Lions QB, not realizing there would be some blowback...
You know what great about being a Detroit sports fan? It's never, ever dull.
Between having the 4 major (Or does the NHL only count as 1/2 a major?) pro sports represented,and two Big 10 schools (I won't make a NHL style joke about Sparty, things are bad enough after the Iowa debacle) within an hour drive of southeast Michigan, there's always something going on, to root for, and write about.
The D being a big time sports market also allows more opportunities, to put it bluntly, for strange shit to happen. And happen it has, even though for Lions fans it's deja vu all over again.
A tip o' the cap to Quo Vadimus for directing me to the video of the latest Lions controversy. Let's roll the video (Also available at the website of WJBK FOX 2), and pay particular attention at the 20 second mark.
Yes, that's Lions religiously righteous QB Jon Kitna at a team costume party, costumed as the infamous naked, drunk, fast food eating, assistant coach, Joe Cullen, with his wife as a Wendy's drive-thru worker.
I'm not sure what to make of this, but I'm sure your first thought is of the much reviled, happy footed QB Scott Mitchell, and his Wayne Fontes in Mickey Mouse ears costume of a decade ago. It sure was mine, as it would be for anyone who around Detroit at the time. Mitchell's costume became a national story, and helped grease the skids for the end of the Fontes era.
Yes, hard as it is to believe, the Fred Flintstone lookalike in that distinguished picture was the head coach of an NFL team. For some reason, don't envision Bill Belichick or Tony Dungy ever wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
Well, as you might think, the MSM was quick to condemn Kitna. Drew Sharp, unusually positive over the past few days, couldn't wait to get his proverbial knives out, and do a little QB carving.
What was Kitna thinking? Was such brazenness another example of the swashbuckling cowboy attitude that has made him the emotional and spiritual backbone of the Lions locker room? The stunt was consistent with Kitna’s in-your-face style. If you don’t like what he says or what he does, that’s tough. He’s not changing. But he crossed the line this time and owes Cullen an apology, if for nothing else but for pushing that embarrassing evening back to the forefront of local consciousness.
Terry Foster, on the other hand, was a little more forgiving. He takes more of a live and let live view, that it's nothing more than a boys will be boys sort of thing.
We joked about it but was it OK for Kitna to joke about it and was it disrespectful of a position coach? It was in bad taste. He probably shouldn't have done it, but it is not the end of the world. Kitna loves to joke around. We know he is religious, but he is also a big kid and enjoys having fun at the expense of teammates and coaches.
Over at Pride of Detroit, Sean doesn't like what Kitna did, but won't "Completely throw him under the bus" either.
One thing I will say is that none of us know the specifics of the Lions locker room. That is what makes this situation so complex. For all we know, Cullen could be way past the incident and may even laugh about it himself. I really doubt that is the case, but we just don't know. I guess with that being said, I can't completely throw Kitna under the bus for wearing the costume he did, but I still don't think it was in good taste. Was it funny? To an extent, yes. But it still doesn't change the fact that Cullen had serious problems when the incident occurred.
If a friend of mine had done something as stupid as the naked coach did, he'd never hear the end of it. And I mean NEVER. Trust me, there's things I did in my somewhat wild youth that I still catch shit for from buddies, 20 years after the fact.
That's why my thoughts are more in line with Quo Vadimus (Scott thinks the costume was not that big of a deal) and Foster, in that Kitna intended the get up as good natured, if thoughtless, ribbing.
In the big scheme of things, Kitna's costume really isn't a big deal. But you know what? I bet it will become one anyway. We live in a 24/7 media driven world, and that video is tailor made for the 4 letter network, and their pundit squadron of screaming talking heads. Hell, the Mitchell-Fontes costume crapfest made national headlines, and there was nowhere near the media and web presence around at the time. So yeah, I expect some shit to hit the fan.
This wouldn't have ever have been an issue if the Lions had done what they should have a year ago, and canned Cullen's drunken ass after getting busted in that Wendy's drive-thru for naked drunk driving. I know, I know, he was forced to get help, and has been (For all we know) a good citizen since. Thing is, it's the NFL, where 2nd chances for anyone but super talented athletes are few and far between. Why? Because a stunt like the one Cullen pulled can come back to bite you in the ass. Which it now has...
With the team playing their best football in 7 seasons, the last thing they need is even a hint of controversy. I have a feeling Kitna's costume faux pas may dominate the buildup to the Broncos game.
If there's one truism in Detroit sports, it's this... "Wherever the Lions go, trouble follows."