A Life Lived Under the Curse of Bobby Layne
All Motor City football fans have pondered the following question at one time or another……
“How can the Lions continue to do this year after year?”
There are many theories. It is not as simple as good year, bad year. We have had some good teams (’62, ’70, ’83, ’91), although most have been mediocre or just bad. We have had some great players (Schmidt, Barney, and a couple guys named Sanders), or good players (Sims, Moore….even Scott Mitchell) that had great years. We have hired coaches (McCaffrey, Ross, Mariucci) that went all the way to the NFL title game, but can’t do it here. We have a billionaire owner who has spent the bucks, although not always wisely. We are an enigma wrapped in a riddle with no logical answer. So the answer must lie elsewhere.
Why Do the Lions Always Lose?
This is where we cross the threshold into the world of the mentally unsound. I for one have to go with what others have stated across the web. We suffer under the COBL or Curse Of Bobby Layne.
Bobby Layne was a college all star from the University of Texas. He was raised in the Dallas area and always remained true to his Lone Star roots. His childhood friend was another college all star, and future Lion’s teammate, Doak Walker. Layne was a 1st round draft choice by the Bears, but was stuck behind future HOFer Sid Luckman and former Heisman trophy winner Johnny Lujack on the depth chart. He saw limited action with only 52 pass attempts. In 1949, Papa Bear George Halas signed yet another QB in HOFer George Blanda, and Layne was dealt to the New York Bulldogs. Yeah that’s right the NY Bulldogs. They lasted a total of 1 season before folding their tents. Before packing up, the Bulldogs dealt Layne to the Lions for end Bob Mann. A trivia answer for the question of “Who was the first African American to play for the Lions?” Mann was an All American from U of M.
How Did the Curse of Bobby Layne Start?
Bobby’s Lions career was legendary as he led them to 4 trips to the NFL title game with 3 victories. To call him a free spirit was a gross understatement. In todays PC-NFL environment Bobby probably wouldn’t last a week. While not racist, he wasn’t above flinging ethnic slurs as frequently as his passes. He liked his cocktails also. Driving his Cadillac convertible down Michigan Ave., after belting back a few Cutty Sarks, was the norm. His passes sometimes wobbled, but then again he was known for his leadership and winning attitude, rather than classic athletic ability. When Bobby said block, you blocked and when he said drink, you drank. Doak Walker uttered the famous line about Bobby that “He never lost a game but sometimes ran out of time”. In the Lion’s last championship year of 1957, Bobby suffered a badly broken leg late in the season. Tobin Rote subsequently led the Lions to the title. The Lions dealt Layne to the Steelers during the 58 season for Earl Morrall. According to legend, Bobby read about the trade in the papers and then cursed the team.
We can speculate forever about the variables that have gone into the 55 seasons of ineptitude since the curse’s inception. Throughout my lifetime they have fumbled, bumbled, stumbled, and ultimately crumbled their way from season to season. In the coming weeks, I will attempt to portray through this forum, some key moments in history when just a small nudge would have voided the curse. The bad news is that Bobby passed away in 1986, and I guess no one in the Lions’ family thought to have him lift his spell. Yet another example of failure by the Lions, because as we learned by watching Samantha on Bewitched, the only person who can lift a spell is the one who cast it.