Column: Mad Dr. Lionstein's Laboratory

Each coach has his good and not-so-good points. Why not add up the best qualities of each? Hey, a little thought exercise can't hurt. Besides, now's the time in this season for a little experimentation. A word of warning: This story is not for the squeamish.

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Mad Dr. Lionstein’s Laboratory

Frank J. Bunker -

A loyal Lions Fan who goes by the great handle "1991 Detroit Lions" asked a most interesting question: "Who is the best Lions coach in recent memory?" He listed five of the six immediate past coaches and asked the regulars their thoughts on how they rate.

Each coach has his good and not-so-good points. Why not add up the best qualities of each? Hey, a little thought exercise can’t hurt. Besides, now’s the time in this season for a little experimentation. A word of warning: This story is not for the squeamish.

So, to answer 1991’s question, why not try to assemble their best qualities into one head coach? We’d create an NFL Frankenstein! No — better! He’d be Detroit’s own Dr. Lionstein!

Can you imagine? The scene: a secret laboratory, located in a castle dungeon.

The mad scientist, a football doctor clad in a white lab coat and black rubber gloves, is bathed in an eerie green light reflected from the glowing dials. Thick protective goggles shield his eyes. The corners of his teeth-clenched mouth peek out from behind his surgical mask.

"Ha ha ha ha!" laughs Lionstein maniacally. "Tonight ve vill create der ideal head coach of der NFL! Igor! Prepare der shtiffs, um, I mean der shpecimens!"

"Yes, Master," intones the loyal Igor. The solemn assistant is hunchbacked. He stands on a withered leg, supported by a special shoe with a 10-inch thick sole and a stubby steel toe. Igor speaks in a vague middle-European accent that sounds permanently depressed, as if 44 years of his life were spent in some sunless dungeon laboratory. He wears a weathered Lions cap.

Igor turns to the grim line-up. One big eye surveys a motley, if not eclectic, group of bodies, clones made from the DNA of the former Lions head coaches. The DNA was recovered from hair samples found in the Head Coach’s office at the Pontiac Silverdome. The six figures lie parallel to one another on a series of stainless steel tables, inclined at 45-degree angles relative to the floor.

"They look like what pops down the output end of the little slide at fast-food restaurants," Igor says. "Cooked in five minutes and ready for consumption an hour-and-a-half later."

"Ja. Dass ist how long some of der careers lasted!"

Igor grabs handles on the first table and tilts the table flat. He re-positions the figure underneath giant operating room lights. A toe tag is marked with the letters "MC."

Dr. Lionstein approaches and says: "Diss von vill zupply der guts needed to make der tough decisions!"

The doctor proceeds to remove the organs that provide the intestinal fortitude needed to play the game at the highest level. He carefully carries the tissues over to a sheet-covered body on a second table — the Monster Coach.

The Monster Coach was cloned from a specially selected football player. They used DNA found inside a sweat sock.

Lionstein drops the guts from MC into the body, giving the tray a final shake to make sure every bit gets in.

"He’s going to need it," observes Igor.

The doctor reaches into the cavernous body with an electric stapler secures the transplanted organs. A hand-held sewing machine makes quick work of stitching the abdomen closed.

"Brink out der next fellow! Stat!"

The figure marked "DR" is shoved into position. As he moves the figure, Igor thinks: While the original may not have led the team toward the promised land, his failure to meet success did create the chain of events that led them to the third pick in a draft that yielded a Oklahoma State running back by the initials of ‘BS.’

"Ve’ll mark diss von down as ‘Lucky,’ Igor," the Doctor says as the former coach is slipped unto the operating room slab. "Make sure you remember to grab his green-and-white rabbit’s foot, too. Do you zee it? It’s got ‘Pasadena’ on it."

Lionstein approaches the figure and brings out a circular saw. He proceeds to transplant a clenched fist. As he attaches it to the Monster Coach, it loosens and Igor notices the hand has crossed fingers.

Next in line is a smiley fellow by the initials "WF."

"Ve’ll take diss von’s toothy grin und sunny dizposition," the Doctor observes.

"Why not take his vocal chords, too, Master?" Igor asks.

"Vell, his communication skills with the players vere legendary, Igor. He'd stand up for them in front of the press — take the blame for der losses, and give them credit for der times when things go right. Just the prescription for today's all-too-common fragile sports millionaire's ego. Unfortunately, he must’ve said the wrong thing to his ‘dates.’ They never took him to ‘Der Big Dance.’"

"Oh," says Igor, looking away with his small eye. He limps back to the row of tables and the next phase of the operation.

The clone marked "RR" yields a strong and pure character, providing the self-discipline and self-sacrifice that make a good soldier and a great football player. Before he sews closed the opening in the Monster Coach, the doctor reaches in and takes out a small piece of gristle.

"Ve’ll just put back dat tiny bit of self-recrimination, though," Lionstein says.

"A guilty conscience?" asks Igor.

"Not if we don’t get caught," replies the doctor.

From the form marked "GM" comes the spinal column. The large back-bones are streaked in a pattern of maize and blue that indicate which end is up.

"Dis ve can use to create zee ‘can-do’ attitude needed to inspire the troops and get the maximum out of each player," Lionsten observes. "Vin von fur der Gippet und all dat."

The last figure is slid in position. From the "MM" clone, the mad doctor first takes a right arm and all the nerves and sinews.

"Ve haff needed someone who understands offense for a long time, Igor! Now, ziss man’s arm vill become a true weapon!"

"Yes, Master," replies Igor, using piano wire and a knitting needle to sew the limb in place on the Monster Coach. He applies an antibiotic ointment to the seam.

"Ve’re not done yet, Igor. Ve also need his brain!"

"His brain, doctor?"

"Yes! A brain who understands offense is a rarity around this league. We must guard this treasure!"

Thus, Igor and the doctor prepare for the most delicate part of the operation. Using barbecue tongs they grasp and lift the three-pound organ.

The brain’s new home awaits. The Monster Coach’s enormous cranium lies open, a hinge at the back. The two plop it in place. Lionstein flips the lid closed. It makes a soft "click."

"Zat should about do it," he says.

The doctor grabs what appear to be two jumper cables. He attaches the grips to two electrodes that stick out from the sides of the creature’s neck.

"Hmmmmm. Let’s zee. Red to positive. Black to negative?"

"Shouldn’t they both be the same?"


A spark jumps from the cable to the electrode. The laboratory’s lights grow dim as the noise from the generator grows from a hum to an ear-splitting dynamo drone. Tesla coils sizzle and generators hum as the air crackles with lightning.

"Igor! More power!"

The hunchbacked assistant flips up one more switch — the kind used at the state penitentiary to extinguish life, used here to create it.

The dynamo is really humming now! The entire lab seems to crackle with energy. The doctor and Igor seem to glow, as their giant shadows are cast flickeringly on the lab wall.

A final, gigantic bolt of lightning sears across the room and discharges into the creature’s neck bolts. The monstrous body arches, held on the table by three thick leather restraints. As the generators wind down, quiet descends.

Nothing happens. Igor approaches the side of the table and gives it a good kick with his custom shoe.

Slowly, the Monster Coach stirs. He flips open red-rimmed eyes. "What down is it?" the creature asks. He looks around and sees a Lions pennant on the lab wall.

Suddenly, the creature tears off the restraining harnesses and lurches toward Dr. Lionstein. As he puts his enormous hands around the terrified doctor’s throat, the Monster Coach says:

"Why me? Why would you do this to me? I wanted to coach Ohio State!"

Reaching up with his own gloved hands, Lionstein vainly tries to loosen the monster’s grip. He rasps, "Igor! You idiot! Vot host clone did you use?"

His faithful assistant replies: "I did what you told me to, Master! I went to the birthplace of professional football and found the missing ingredient — the heart and soul of football, born and bred in Masillon, Ohio. For the Detroit Lions, I cloned the specimen marked ‘Chris Spielman.’"

Those are the last words the doctor hears.

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