Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
There is a report making the social media rounds regarding Lions center Dominic Raiola and his negative interaction with the University of Wisconsin marching band before the Lions game in Green Bay.
If you want to read the initial report, you can find it here.
Here’s what I know:
The author of the piece is Tom Melton. His is a colleague here on the Draft Sites network, serving as the lead scout for DraftFalcons.com. I interact with Tom almost daily on Twitter, but we’ve met a few times in person as well. We’ve been drunk together (Tom’s a rum-and-coke man, I’m a tequila guy) and we’ve collaborated on work projects together.
I know Tom well enough to know he would not make this up. He would be both surprised and insulted at that suggestion. I trust in his word and his relationship with the band members in question. I reached out to Tom and he verified some things for me, including offering access to the aggrieved parties.
I’ve reached out, as has Tom, to the Lions Media Relations department for comment and a request to interview Raiola and Louis Delmas, who was mentioned in the piece as a Lion who tried to apologize for the actions of his teammate. Neither Tom nor I have heard back from the Lions at this point.
I also texted a teammate of Raiola’s for comment, a player who I have a good relationship. His exact text response, “Sorry man, but no way I’m commenting on that”.
I’ve had limited interaction with Dominic Raiola. I met him at a Lions training camp in either 2008 or 2009 (I can’t recall which) and did nothing more than exchange pleasantries. I ran into him again over this past summer and got the look of “I know we’ve met but I don’t know where”. That’s it. So I’m far from an authority on Raiola’s personality or how he might feel about a tuba player.
I know Louis Delmas a little better. I interviewed him while he was at Western Michigan and spoke with him informally at the Renaissance Hotel in Mobile during his Senior Bowl week. The way he is characterized is 100% in line with the Louis Delmas I know. He’s a good guy who takes both his own and his team’s reputation quite seriously.
A longtime friend of mine who is a Badger alum and a level-headed Packers fan (yes, they do exist) reached out to me on Facebook with a link to Melton’s blog. His intimation is that Raiola’s act directly reflects upon the cavalier and arrogant (those are my words, not his) leadership style promoted by Jim Schwartz.
I have to say I had a hard time reconciling that. Schwartz has enough on his plate trying to keep the Lions bound together and staying in first place to worry about how one of his players acts off the field. But I quickly realized that was a hypocritical stance. After all, I’ve criticized Schwartz at length for his inability to foster discipline and respect for the rules in his players on the field.
It’s ridiculous to suggest that Jim Schwartz advocates demeaning and bullying fans of other teams as a motivational tactic. Yet the culture he has worked very hard to foster in Detroit does bear some culpability. He wants his players to push the boundaries and to play on the edge. Schwartz himself is often truculent and vapid with the media, even in unofficial situations; I’ve seen it firsthand. He is the example to which he holds his players, and his standards of behavior are not all that desirable.
For the Wisconsin band members and for the Packers fans, I want to issue an apology. No, I don’t work for the Lions. But I do cover the team for two major media conglomerates, and when the team does something poorly I often have to face the blowback music.
While I was at Ohio University, I became lifelong friends with scores of members of the Marching 110. Many of them are fraternity brothers who I remain close with despite being out of school for nearly 20 years now. I know how hard they worked to put on great shows and how much pride they have in what they do. In fact, while I was at Ohio, the band was the best part of the football games, certainly better than the miserable teams which won 5 games in my first five years in Athens.
Please don’t let the actions of one Detroit Lions player misrepresent the Lions as an organization or the fan base as a whole. Most Lions fans have for years felt about Raiola the way Badgers fans felt about Bret Bielema in his later Madison years; we know he’s a jackass, but he’s our jackass so we tolerate him. He’s always among the leading vote-getters for dirtiest player and most unlikeable opponent in league player polls. This allegation certainly falls in line with that reputation. We are universally hoping this is his last season in Detroit.
If Raiola was looking to motivate himself, he failed. This was one of his worst games in a long time, and his inability to do much of anything really inhibited the Lions offense. Perhaps it was karmic justice that he played such sour notes on the field after spending the pregame accosting the Wisconsin band…