DETROIT - Poetic justice, n. The rewarding of virtue and the punishment of vice, often in an especially appropriate or ironic manner.
To begin the day, Joey Harrington was booed unmercifully by the home field fans. By the end of the day, he was tugged from the ball game as the Lions were thrashed, 27-10.
To the uninformed listener, it might have seemed like another Harrington-esque day in Detroit. Right up until he celebrated with the opposing sideline, as he was showered by his new teammates.
Not with insults. Not this time, and not with this team. But with gatorade, congratulations, and other expressions of praise. And nationally -- anyone other than bitter Lions fans -- could appreciate the drama that accompanied Joey Harrington on a day reserved for thanks.
Against his former teammates, and before a nationally televised audience, the player wearing No. 3 -- this time with a white jersey and aqua and coral orange trim -- put on a clinic. The Dolphins' starter tossed two first half touchdown strikes, one interception with 213 yards overall on 19-of-29 passing. But Harrington's third touchdown completion on the day was the most crippling to Detroit. Late in the third quarter, Harrington scrambled away from Lions' defenders before finding receiver Marty Booker on the run. He signaled 'touchdown' immediately after releasing the ball, following Booker into the endzone to celebrate a 21-10 advantage.
But Harrington's performance required a bit of a comeback.
Strapped with an 0-10 deficit after Jon Kitna led the Detroit offense to two quick scores, Harrington pushed the Dolphins offense to 27 unanswered points.
Late in the fourth quarter, the former No. 3 overall pick was removed from the game mid-series -- a move by Dolphins' head coach Nick Saban that gave Harrington an appropriate exit, and perhaps a slap in the face to the Lions organization.
And maybe a deserving one.
During the pre-game introductions, Detroit's public relations department was responsible for playing Billy Joel's "Piano Man" as Harrington's name was announced -- a reference to Harrington's piano playing ability and assumed "soft" nature. The Lions also frequently displayed close-ups of Harrington on Ford Field on the video boards, a tactic to draw a large chorus of boos from the crowd.
It didn't work.
By the end of the day, and for the first time in Detroit, Harrington got the last laugh. Upon exiting to the applause of his teammates, Harrington's offensive line doused him with a celebratory dumping of the gatorade bucket.
"It's not something that I sit and dwell on but when I came back onto that field I definitely remembered what had happened over the last four years," Harrington said after the game. "I'll tell you what: it felt good to walk off a winner."
The poetic conclusion likely places closure on Harrington's tumultuous four-year career in Detroit, and if he was ever responsible for the team's shortcomings. Because, as the Lions (2-9) continue to fall further into oblivion after a third straight defeat, Harrington has marched his new team into the playoff picture with a fourth straight victory.