The Lions focused their attention on him as a replacement for Jim Caldwell from the start of their search, if not before. Wood said earlier this year that general manager Bob Quinn had been touting Patricia’s merits as coach for two years; Quinn and Patricia spent 12 seasons working together with the New England Patriots.
And the Lions, in a statement released jointly by Wood, Quinn and owner Martha Firestone Ford when news of Patricia’s arrest first surfaced Wednesday night, seemed to provide mitigating factors for whatever did happen back in 1996.
Teams knew politics were polarizing. Sept. 11 posed no such risk. Not only did America seem to be in lockstep in honoring the military, but the cultural pressure against dissent was so strong, opponents didn’t dare speak out against 50,000 flag-wavers still waiting to get their collective mitts on Osama bin Laden — and that was the danger. After the initial pain, when fans needed to look fellow Americans in the eye and feel safe, the ballpark brought out the dangerous side. Sports was rooted in conflict, confrontation already in place. Two sides wore different colors, Us against Them, home vs. road, good guy vs. bad, winners and losers and no backing down.
It was the province of machismo and competition, of imposing will, and every other sports cliché the broadcasters had ginned up over the past 50 years. The line was delicate, but in the moment, the country felt itself in the fight of its life, and those not on board, even if they were Americans, were not particularly welcome. Fans expected every other fan in the ballpark to go along with the spectacle, to act right. Hand on heart. Sing along or you were the problem.
Numerous mistakes were made, including by Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the draft. He missed some throws, especially early in the two-hour practice, but improved as the practice progressed. Near the end, he completed a pass of 65 yards or so to receiver Christian Kirk, the second-round pick and Rosen’s friend since the two met as high school stars on the football camp circuit.
You could tell he probably had some little jitters early on, coach Steve Wilks said,and you could see that. He’s so confident, you could see that as he went on with practice. He settled in. The throws were on time. The accuracy was there. Everything that we know about him, you saw later on in practice.
Of all American social institutions, 9/11 most radically altered sports, from the place where fans escaped the world and its problems to the definitive staging ground for the nation’s war effort, the restoration of its wounded spirit, of taking back everything Osama bin Laden took from it.