Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fighting the Past and Embracing the Future

It's Saturday afternoon, and it's been raining all day, and right now, a couple of hours away from me, the Lions are practicing and a legion of fans are tweeting away about every mundane detail, breathlessly racing one another to be the first to report that some third string defensive tackle has a hangnail or that a backup cornerback had his pants fall down on the fifty yard line or that after dropping a pass a receiver was beaten with a cane and then taken back to where no one could see him, where God only knows what went on, but the screams, oh the horrible screams of the suffering and the dying drifted to every dark corner of Ford Field, horrifying the innocent, terrorizing the impressionable youth. Holy shit, was that ever a run on sentence.

But, we are used to horrible wails and dying moans, and Ford Field is filled with the whispers and echoes of the ghosts of beaten players and tortured fans. This is a new day though, and we have been told that the exorcism performed by Father Schwartz and his crew of rabid monks has cleansed the collective soul of this beaten and fucked up franchise. The good thing is that most everybody seems to be buying into this new dawn. Sure, there is still the requisite hair pulling, gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts, but this is as much a reflexive act as anything else, a defensive measure intended to protect what's left of our fragile and battered psyches from the ravages of Lions fandom.

There is hope, real and genuine, but that just makes it all the more curious that there is still a large section of the fanbase who think that Daunte Culpepper should start the season at quarterback instead of Matthew Stafford. For a fanbase so eager to erase the horrors of the past so that we can finally move on as fans of a real, live football team, why would we want to revisit that past, even for a few weeks?

Daunte Culpepper is a ghost, a reminder of that horrible thing called 0-16. Every time we hear him rattling in the attic, a shiver will go down our spines and we'll start having horrible flashbacks to wild coaches duck walking down the sideline, opposing players waltzing free through our defense, laughing like children on their way to the endzone, and to quarterbacks being crushed under the weight of an opposing defensive line, or heaving shitty pass after shitty pass that either fall to the turf or are snagged by a giddy defensive back. Why would we want that?

Look, the Lions are going to struggle this year. Again. But this is the struggling of the toddler learning how to walk. Soon, we'll be able to run. In the past, the struggling has been that of a senile old man stumbling into irrelevance, falling down and shitting himself. Daunte Culpepper is merely a symbol of that old man. Matthew Stafford is the new, and he's not going to learn to walk by sitting on the bench and chucking some out routes during practice.

Much of this CULPEPPER MUST START gibberish seems to be just a kowtowing to conventional wisdom, which says that you don't want your young, inexperienced quarterback to be ruined by the horrors of a National Football League defense. But I have always found this curious, curious and stupid. If your quarterback is such a fragile entity that he can't handle getting beat on a bit when he starts out, then do you really want that guy being at the helm of your franchise? I'd rather find out what the dude is made of now, rather than waiting a year from now or two years from now and then realizing that we have to start all over yet again because the quarterback is terrified of playing, you know, football.

The good news is that so far during camp, Stafford has looked impressive. He doesn't seem like a rookie learning at the feet of the wise sage veteran quarterback. Instead, he's out there competing with him, besting him in most respects. So, again, given all that, why would we want Daunte Culpepper to start? Because he's older? Because, once, half a decade ago, he led a horde of fantasy football teams (including mine) to championship glory? Well hell, why not sign up Jeff Garcia again? I wonder what Randall Cunningham is up to? His magic season was only five or six years before Culpepper's. That's not that long ago. And while we're talking to Randall, maybe we can try again to convince Steve Young to come out of retirement. Sure, his brain is currently owned by Campbell's Soup, but fuck it, he's a Hall of Famer.

The past is the past, both the horrible and the sublime, and to revisit it would be to take a monstrous step back from any progress that we are so desperate to make. As Lions fans, we want change, and we want it badly. Well, here it is. Embrace it. Quit trying to look for safety, because it's just not there. We went 0-16 last season. There is nothing to build upon, no foundation. Except for the one that's being built right now. And that has to have all new bricks, whole and unblemished, not bricks made from the rubble of old buildings that were dynamited. Matthew Stafford is our future, and Daunte Culpepper is part of our past. Embrace the future and fuck the past.

No comments: