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How to Win

The Losing Culture

Last year, the Detroit Lions became the first NFL team to go 0-16 in one season. The other day, the Pittsburgh Pirates set a big-league record for most consecutive losing seasons.

How did it happen? And where do they go from here?

Their fans should not expect miracles. As Vince Lombardi said, “Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.”

For the Lions, the problems go even deeper than last year’s disaster. Not since 2000 have they won more games than they have lost.

In a losing culture, everything falls. Expectations do. So do attitudes and hopes. Without a sense that they have a chance, players lose their emotional investment. People expect the worst.

Remember the Steve Bartman incident? In the 2003 playoffs, Bartman and other fans attempted to catch a foul ball. In doing so, they hindered Chicago Cubs left fielder Moises Alou, who was trying to make the catch. If the incident had taken place in a game involving a team with a winning tradition, it may not have mattered. But for the Cubs, who have not won the World Series in 101 years, the play took on a dark aspect. Sure enough, the Cubs lost the game and the series.

That’s the mental and emotional side. As for the practical, tangible side, it’s apparent that the Lions, Pirates and Cubs have been doing the wrong thing for some time now. When will that change? Does it change with a new quarterback, as as the Lions have this year in Matthew Stafford? Does it change with a new coach as they have in Jim Schwartz?

Detroit opens its season on Sunday in the New Orleans Superdome. Fans will get their first indication on whether the franchise has changed its culture at all.

It won’t be easy. Because losing is a habit.


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