We’ve seen franchises handle their all-time great players differently. Some have rocky paths that need to be paved like the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre, while other teams treat their players like gods, the way the Patriots treat Tom Brady. How do the Lions thank one of the greatest players to ever point on a Detroit jersey in Calvin Johnson? By locking him up in football purgatory and throwing away the key.
It’s incredible that you can find pettiness in the sports world. These are cash cows run by rich and powerful men who get insulted by certain actions and throw a temper tantrum like a 9-year-old that just so happens to have access to billions of dollars. We see it all the time. There is no better example than what Calvin Johnson is currently going through.
After the 2015 season, Johnson claimed he was hanging up his cleats for good. After nine season in the league, we heard the artist known as Megatron cite health reasons as why as he walked away from the game. Football can bring a lot of pain on the body. Apparently, that pain is enhanced when you’re bashing your head against the wall because of how bad your team is.
— FanSided NFL (@FanSidedNFL) July 12, 2017
Football is hard enough to deal with when your team isn’t an absolute joke. The money professional athletes get is a pretty gigantic plus to playing football, but Herm Edwards was right all those years ago. You play to win the game. You know what the Lions didn’t really do when he was on the team? Win the game. The team went 54-90 with only two playoff appearances while he was on the team.
If you actually enjoy winning, that sounds like a fate worse than death. You might as well play for the Washington Generals at that point, at least you get a decent view of the Harlem Globetrotters. So instead of willingly losing on a yearly basis, Johnson realized he didn’t want to play for nothing anymore. It was Super Bowl or bust, and that wasn’t happening with the Lions.
“I didn’t see the chance for them to win a Super Bowl at the time, and for the work I was putting in”
Sure, there are probably some reasonably hard feelings if you’re the Lions. The illusion that you can be competitive is always there, so when a future Hall of Famer and the best offensive weapon on the team walks away you have a right to be pretty pissed off. Yet Detroit quickly got over it, making the playoffs the one and only season since Johnson’s retirement.
The interesting part about the Calvin Johnson/Lions winning thing to me is that his QB is a better player without him there.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) July 13, 2017
So the Lions are still successful without Megatron, so it would make total sense to reward the man who’s racked up over 11,000 yards and nearly 100 touchdowns in nine seasons by setting him free right? Nope, no way. Not for the Lions at least. They’re still making sure he can’t play football unless he’s playing for the Lions. It’s like taking your ball and going home when the other kids won’t play by your rules. It’s the closest thing to a legal hostage there is.
It doesn’t even come close to ending there. Not only are the Lions locking up Johnson and throwing away the key, but they’re making him give them their money back. According to ESPN, Detroit decided to ask for $1 million of the prorated signing bonus back. They were legally allowed to ask for up to $3.2 million back, so it seems like they’re cutting him a deal if you look at it that way. You know how else you can look at it? That kind of money is huge for one person. It’s like finding a penny on the ground for a franchise worth a billion dollars.
So guess what? Johnson is pissed. That’s what happens when you take a man’s job and money away from him. He’s only rationally responding like any single human being on this planet would act. The Lions could’ve allowed him to keep his money, or they could’ve freed the best receiver in franchise history and allowed him to chase a ring since he clearly isn’t interested in ever playing for Detroit ever again. You know what the Lions then did? Invited him to come back and play for Detroit.
— BlackSportsOnline (@BSO) July 18, 2017
If the Lions brought Calvin Johnson onto the Ford Field, went on the loudspeaker and screamed “F**K YOU”, it still wouldn’t be as loud as the f**k you they just issued by extending that invitation to camp. “Oh you retired because of us? Here’s an offer to come out of retirement and play in the exact same place that made you quit football.” That is peak pettiness. It is the Mount Everest of f**k yous.
Yes, Johnson technically gave up on the Lions. It’s still hard to blame him. Over a two year span, his team won a total of two games. It’s the same amount of playoff games he played in his entire career. Nobody likes losing. Sure, athletes are supposed to remain professional and understand this is part of the game. You’d still hope your relationship with your employers over nine years would be good enough for them to release you to chase your dream.