Thursday, September 24, 2009
Idiot Hope and Savage Desperation
Since 2002, the Detroit Lions are 31-99. I should just stop writing now, post this and go play in traffic for a while, but I have come this far and I will see this bitter journey across the desert of despair through until the (likely) bitter end.
Loss number 100 in this apocalyptic stretch will come, and it will come soon, and hopefully once it comes we can just close the door on this awful chapter and finally move on. The pieces are being put into place for that to happen and the demons which made that number a reality have mostly been exorcized. But right now we're kind of stuck in a strange place. We're ready to move forward, ready to celebrate the rebirth of Lions football after years of decay, but we just can't seem to get there.
I was on Yahoo's sports page, and on my page I have it set up so that there is a little capsule for each of my favorite teams in each sport. If there are any articles written about the Lions, they will show up in this capsule so that I know they are there without having to hunt for them. A few days ago, in my Lions capsule, there was a new article. It was just a kind of odds and ends, news and notes kind of article with no specific focus that sort of bounced around the league. I knew the Lions would be mentioned somewhere in the article by virtue of the article's appearance in my Lions capsule and so I patiently read until I saw the one time the Lions name appeared. It was in the power rankings, and of course, we were dead last. I kind of shook my head and told myself that I should have known better. I mean, of course the only mention the Lions would get would be one that would be in reference to their supreme futility. I kept reading, though, and was surprised to find at the end one last little piece that had relevance to Lions fans. What was it? An update on Matthew Stafford's progress? A gushing report on the physical wonder that is St. Calvin? Nope. It was a little note reminding everyone that Monte Clark, the Lions former coach, was dead.
That about sums it up, doesn't it? As much as we want to escape the past and start embracing the future, every time we open an article, it is all failure and dead coaches. The depressing reality that we have to face every game and every season is that when we read these articles, this is all we will find. There's simply nothing else to write about. Failure and dead people. The Detroit Lions.
And that's what makes the desperation to win and win now even more palpable. Every week that goes by that the Lions don't win even one measly game, more of us descend into brute savagery and begin grunting and hurling abuse at one another, cannibalizing one another in our own madness. Say you are hopeful and someone calls you a dumb motherfucker and questions whether or not you are a true fan. Say there is no hope and you are decried as a heretic and possibly a witch and whether or not you are a true fan is again brought into question. All that's left is a mushy middle full of misery and doubt, of vague hopefulness that never quite blooms. Instead misery comes flowing back down like a terrible ill wind from some shit pile over the hill and smothers that tiny bud of hope right the fuck out. Every week it gets tougher to believe that better times are ahead, and every week it's hard to not feel like a damn fool for cheering on these shitbirds. I mean, how many times can you watch the retarded kid fall of the bike and crack his head open before you have to shield your eyes? I mean, if you are an asshole you could point and laugh, and I suppose I have done plenty of that, but after a while even the thickest layer of cynicism isn't strong enough armor for warding off the misery and sadness of seeing that poor son of a bitch topple over and cry again and again and again.
And yet, the dumb and the faithful continue to pick that retard up, put him back on the bike and root for him to make it to the end of the street. Last year was an absurd year, terrible and ridiculous and in some ways it was easy to just stand back, hold my nose and point out the rank incompetence of everyone involved. There was no hope, no thought that they could turn it around and it was easy to just shit all over everything and fiddle my ass off while Rome burned. But then hope somehow crept into the equation and now it all feels that much more desperate, that much sadder. You can be a man stranded in the desert and know that you are going to die. You can accept that. You can understand that you will never get out and that some Bedouin will find you desiccated and alone, broken and ruined by something larger than you. But then there are those times when you're alone in that desert, dying and afraid and you see those palm trees in the distance, some green shrubbery, maybe some water. It's a goal, something to believe in. And so you work and you scratch and you claw and you allow yourself to believe that it's not over, that, in the end, you might make it after all. You can walk for hours, for days, and never reach that wonderland. And when you collapse in the sand, unable to move even an inch closer to what might be salvation or what could just be a terrible mirage conjured up by a broken brain incapable of accepting grim reality any longer, it's a terrible death, cruel and ugly. Up until that moment when your brain shuts down for good and melts under the terrible sun, you still hope, you still believe, you still want.
So why keep going? Because it's human nature. Because, in the end, you think that the world is good and right and fair, and that you will make it because of this. And it's because it's all you know, because you've been taught to move forward from the moment you first crawled off your belly and scooted a couple of inches across the floor.
I have been a fan of the Detroit Lions all my life. It's all I know. I have no choice in the matter. It is cruel and usually terrible. I could tell myself that I don't care anymore, but even if I just fuck it, threw my hands up and walked away, it wouldn't matter. One day I would be watching TV or reading the newspaper or whatever and I would come across the score from one of their games or I would see a highlight and if they lost I would feel disappointed. And if they won, I have a feeling I would find myself smiling. It's there and it's not going anywhere. Besides, that pesky motherfucker named hope keeps me in line, keeps me from coming to terms with the harsh reality of the situation. I am terrified that if I turned away now that the sweet rewards of the nirvana that my dumb optimistic self can't help but believe in would be lost for me. I believe because I am an idiot, and I believe because somewhere down deep, I believe that the day will come when we will all be smiling and laughing and high fiving and cheering our dumb drunk asses off for our Godzilla of a team. I can't help myself.
This weekend, the Lions play the Washington Redskins. Last weekend, I picked the Lions to upset the Vikings and ended up looking like a fool. And I did so because I couldn't help talking myself into a victory. My mind has become deluded and warped by the horrors of the last seven years, by the numbers 31-99, and by the parade of jackasses and simpletons who have called the shots over that span of time. It wants to win, it needs to win, and if it has to start inventing oases to keep itself going, then BY GOD that is what it is going to do.
Even while the Lions were losing to the Vikings, the score on the top of the screen for the Redskins game would pop up. I noticed that they were barely beating the lowly ass Rams - this year's Lions. Well, that is, unless the Lions are this year's Lions but that is too terrible a thought and makes me want to go bounding into the night like some degenerate werewolf, stealing chickens and eating babies. Or maybe it's stealing babies and eating chickens. I don't know. I am a vegetarian. Either version is odious to me. Anyway, as soon as I saw that, and then remembered that the Lions were playing the Redskins this week, I began to believe that we could take those fuckers. And then, I remembered Raven talking shit on his ass of a team, and I began to think YEAH THIS SHIT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. And then Raven flat out told me we had a good shot, and even though that is his own disillusionment with his shitbirds coming through, I don't care and I am running with that motherfucker.
The Lions defense has had one terrible game so far against a team that looks like it could put up 50 points on the '85 Bears, and they have had one pretty decent game against a team with the best running back in football and a hall of fame quarterback. Sure, that running back only carried the ball 15 times but I will attribute that to the Lions being able to contain him. And okay, that hall of fame quarterback might be 163 years old and be made out of dust and GRIT and smiles, but fuck it, he is still a hall of famer and I am grasping at whatever straws I can here.
Meanwhile, the Redskins offense is centered around Clinton Portis, who looks like he can see the glue factory looming on the horizon. If the Lions can contain him and force Jason Campbell to run wild on them, I think we've got a pretty decent shot of keeping them from running away with this thing. Santana Moss might break loose for a deep one, and Chris Cooley will probably drive us nuts because we can't ever seem to stop a decent tight end, but Jason Campbell is, well, Jason Campbell and if he has to win the game for his team then that shit looks pretty promising for us.
That means that our offense has to take care of business. Unfortunately, they have been somewhere between a hangover shit and a wet fart in terms of their overall rankness and so I'm not expecting big things. It looks like the coaches are determined to play it safe with Matthew Stafford, which I have, uh, expressed my disappointment in. Meanwhile, Kevin Smith was terrible against New Orleans and actually pretty decent against the Williams Wall and the Vikings, so who knows what he will do? St. Calvin will make a few plays because that's what he does, and if they can get him the ball deep at least once, that could spell the difference. This will be an ugly game, full of incompetence and gross buffoonery, and in the end it might come down to who has the best weapon, who has the guy who can rise above the stench of it all and make a big play. I think Calvin Johnson is the best player on the field, and in the end, that's why I think the Lions will finally win a fucking game.
1. Kevin Smith rushes for 80 hard earned yards on a lot of carries and ends up right around 100 total yards for the game. He'll also score a touchdown.
2. Clinton Portis rushes for around 100 fairly nondescript yards. He never makes a really big play and the Lions do just enough to keep him from making a real difference.
3. Matthew Stafford makes fewer mistakes this game and adds in one big play. The final result is a modest game, completing somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of his passes, which isn't really all that good, but it's better than nothing. He throws for 175 yards or so and a touchdown. He also throws an interception, but just the one. Progress!
4. Chris Cooley catches 10 passes for 110 yards and is the single biggest headache the Lions face all day.
5. St. Calvin ends up north of 100 yards for the first time this season and scores a touchdown on a huge play at some point. He then ascends to heaven where he spends the rest of the week chilling with angels before coming back to work next weekend.
Predicted Final Score: Lions 17, Redskins 14.