Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bad Vibrations

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really feel like writing all that much right now. The details of the game itself seem kind of pointless, and anyone who has any desire to revisit them is clearly some sort of masochist. As a Lions fan, I am depressed. I’m not hopeless and I’m not completely beaten down. I’m just sad. Still, the world goes on, the season goes on and it will get better. Right now, I feel kinda like I did after the first game against the Bears only somehow worse. I really shouldn’t, because there have been so many signs of evident progress that I know that everything will be alright now. After the Bears game, I couldn’t necessarily say that. It was more a wish and a prayer, a vague hope supported by an idea that things were supposed to be improving. But maybe that’s what makes it harder this time. Maybe I just feel so damn sad because we were there, you know? We saw it happening. We felt it happening. We saw our team up 10 late in the fourth quarter against a Super Bowl contender and within minutes, our franchise quarterback was hurt – again – our defense failed to stop the Jets when it mattered the most, we had players make critical, critical mistakes at the worst possible time and when it was all done it just kinda felt like the most Lions thing that had ever happened if that makes sense.

And that’s what makes it so horrible. These aren’t the Same Ol’ Lions. They just aren’t. They beat upon the Jets for most of that game until it reached the point that Bart Scott, the Jets linebacker, began mewling like a baby, whining that the Lions were the dirtiest team he had ever played again. This is a team with heart and balls and swagger and a fuck you attitude that I love. No one is going to walk over this team and that’s something we haven’t been able to say in a very, very long time. But on Sunday, the whole world felt like it had stopped for Lions fans. Everything had been pointing to that moment, that crescendo of hope and joy and belief, and all of us dared to dream. And that’s why this feels like such a killer. We’re a tortured fanbase, and it takes enormous strength for most of us to open our hearts to this team in a real and terrifyingly vulnerable way. It’s just so much easier to watch with cynical disgust, to mope and to get pissy and throw up your hands and just say fuck it. I mean, it sucks because your team is still losing, but if you don’t emotionally invest, then it’s just a petty annoyance and you can go to work or school or to your heroin dealer the next day and make the same old jokes about the Lions that everyone else does and ha ha ha, the Lions sure do suck and they’ll never be anything so who really cares and life goes on. It’s easier that way and for a lot of Lions fans – a lot – it’s necessary. It’s the only way to keep from getting crushed. I get it. I do. On Sunday, so many of those fans opened up their hearts and dared to believe, dared to put their emotions on the line for the sake of their team. They invested. You could see it in the way that the game sold out so early in the week. You could hear it in the voices of the people you talked to about the team. You could read it in every corner of the blogosphere or whatever the fuck you want to call it. There was an excitement, a belief and a willingness to surrender to Fate because for once, people were willing to hope that Fate would not hurt them, that this time would be different. And then Fate hurt them in the most vicious way possible. And the result is that countless Lions fans came away from that game feeling like, indeed, it was the most Lions thing ever.

Me, I’m not wired that way. UpHere’s piece yesterday that I posted explains someone like me pretty damn well. It’s entirely possible that I am just a damn fool, but I am incapable of shutting off that part of me that cares. My emotional investment is not an option. It just is. And so I throw myself into these things knowing that my heart might get stomped on. I am a wild optimist at heart. I often joke about that because it runs so counter to the general tone I run with and to the naked eye I often appear to be a vicious acid tongued freak with little regard for anything other than hedonistic excess and the verbal evisceration of the whole damn world. But underneath it all, I am just an idiot boy who wants to love and be loved and this extends to my sports fandom. In fact, it is perhaps here more than anywhere that this optimism is so nakedly true.

And so it hurts like hell to have to go through this. I can’t just say fuck it, throw up my hands and detach myself from all of this. I just can’t. I know a lot of people can – and have already – and it sucks. It sucks because now that optimism feels like it has shriveled up and died, that whatever euphoric wave we were riding crashed and drowned most of us, and here I am still dog paddling desperately, staring at the horizon and a future that I can’t help but believe in.

People are wired differently. They just are. And so it does no good to harangue people and tell them why things are different or why they should still care. You can’t do it for them. That’s something that they have to figure out for themselves. The problem is that I feel like sports and everything that goes with it – the team, the players, the coaches, the fans, the media, all of it – is an organic thing. Everything plays off of everything else. The team plays better and the fans get excited, the fans get excited and the players play harder, the players play harder and the media notices and changes the narrative. The narrative changes and more and more fans start to believe. More fans start to believe and the players become more confident and then they play harder and someone in the media writes a nice piece that causes a hardened factory worker to go out and buy a jersey and a ticket to the next game and he screams and he yells and he forces the quarterback on the other team to call a timeout because no one can hear his calls and the team wins and the fans get even more excited and so on and so on and so on. You need everything to be working in harmony for the world to make sense.

What the game against the Jets did was obliterate that so horrifically that it will take a long time before we get even close to getting that back. Look, I don’t give a fuck what the Chris Bermans of the world have to say. I don’t. But the fragile heart of some fan who just bought a ticket because he feels like it’s okay to get excited again does. And yeah, you can say fuck that fan too and browbeat him for being a fair weather fan or whatever, but man, I want that fan to love the Lions, to believe in the team like I still do. Because, again, I have this odd belief in the organic nature of sports and sports fandom. I don’t want them to believe for themselves. I don’t want the media to say nice things about the Lions so that it makes some dickhead in Flint happy. I want this for myself. I want the fairweather fans to show up because they are part of the package. I want the media to rave about the Lions because it . . . it . . . look, this is all very, very hard to describe. I am this close to ranting and raving about positive energy vs. negative energy and all that kooky shit . The media, the nonbelievers, they can all go fuck themselves. But this isn’t about them. It’s about us. And I’m angry because those assholes have the ability to fuck things up for us.

I’ve already read a bunch of tweets and heard rumblings from people who are ready to fire Jim Schwartz and it just adds so much unnecessary noise. It just adds a bunch of bullshit to the road that we have to slowly pick our way through on the way to whatever future we have in front of us. You can say that it doesn’t matter, that the players or coaches don’t think about that stuff, but fuck man, you think a potential free agent doesn’t think about shit like that? You think that those thoughts don’t at least drift through Jim Schwartz’s mind and take up time and space that might otherwise be devoted to thinking up a way for his knight to murder Rex Ryan’s king? Look, I am a Michigan football fan. I have seen what happens when the fanbase and media are divided. It is brutal and it is ugly as hell and it feels like a vicious impediment to progress. You start chasing ghosts and invisible dragons and the whole thing - goddamn it, I have to go here – psychically wobbles and leaves you miserable and exhausted. You start to forget the whole point because you are too busy dealing with petty battles and arguments. You start arguing about the viability of JaMarcus Russell as a quarterback (yeah, this is happening) and about whether the Lions should tank all of their games so they can draft Patrick Peterson. (Shrugs.) Meanwhile, no one is talking about the Lions actually moving forward the rest of the season. The whole thing has degenerated into chaos and stupid gibbering and bile filled bitchfests and whatever thread of progress we had all been hanging onto feels like it has been lost.

In that sense, it almost would have been easier if the Lions had been blown out by the Jets. Yeah, people would be pissed and some of this shit would still be happening, but I think that it would just make a lot of people realize that we still have a ways to go and hey, that’s alright, you know? But the way it happened just hit at the core of so much of what we fear as Lions fans. It touched an unholy nerve that sent people into a tailspin of hate and utter disgust. It didn’t matter that the Lions looked actively good for large chunks of that game. It didn’t matter that the Jets came away from that game knowing the Lions were a good football team. It didn’t matter that the game actually vindicated all of our hopes and our belief that something good was happening. It didn’t matter because to most people, Julian Peterson is the Detroit Lions and what happened only cemented their deepest and darkest fears, that this is the basic character of the Detroit Lions and nothing will ever change that.

This is why I am so incredibly sad today, because that is such an overwhelming thing to overcome. I still believe in the Detroit Lions – both the Lions of today and the Lions of the future – but I am once again surrounded by howling winds and charred bones. The world outside has grown vicious and ugly and mean and . . . and . . . goddamn, man. You know? We shouldn’t have to put up with this shit anymore. There is very little about this that has anything to do with actual football, and on the one hand, that’s great. The realities of today are still largely the same as the realities of three or four days ago. But the perception of reality has changed so drastically that it’s hard to accept that. Just think of something that makes you happy – a good book, a nice meal, good music. The nature of whatever it is that you are thinking of is still the same no matter the environment. But it feels a hell of a lot nicer when the sun is shining, you’re relaxed and comfortable and the world is tranquil than it does when you’ve got a gang of rabid methed out Huns beating at your door, and the world is cold and gray and mad and ugly.

That Jets game knocked all of us on our asses. It was brutal and terrible and everything just feels different, even if it isn’t. But like I said, I am an optimist at heart and I can recover from that shit. Most people can’t. Or won’t. And that’s the shame of it all, and although a part of me doesn’t care about any of those people and wants to scream “Fuck ‘em!” and wants to bang on my chest and howl at the moon and thunder against Fate, another part of me mourns because it thought that it was done with all that horrible shit. I am strong but there comes a point where I don’t want to be, you know? I just want to eat my meal or read my book or listen to the music in peace. I just want to close my eyes and be happy and comfortable and content while the world smiles and everything is finally and undeniably right.

As for my predictions? Well, here’s a quick summary without any analysis. I apologize, but fuck it, today this just feels brutal and terrible and I just want to move on, you know? So instead, I will just rank the accuracy of each prediction on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being hilariously wrong, and 10 being frighteningly “study this man’s brain” correct. Then again, my brain should probably be studied but for, uh, other reasons. Anyway, let’s just get on with it, and yes, these rankings are hilariously arbitrary and without any real meaning or weight, but fuck it, you know? I may be a man of science, but I am asking you to take these things on faith. That may be contradictory, but then again so is the world.

PREDICTION THE FIRST: Matthew Stafford will be surprisingly effective against the Jets pass defense, throwing for 275 yards on 28 of 40 passing with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.


PREDICTION THE SECOND: Jahvid Best, on the other hand, will be completely shut down on the ground against the Jets, rushing for only 27 yards on 12 carries. He will catch 7 passes for 75 yards however.

ACCURACY OF PREDICTION: Uh, let’s go with a 4? Sure, why not?

PREDICTION THE THIRD: Calvin Johnson will catch 7 passes for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns and Darrell Revis will break down at midfield and have to be taken out of the stadium on a stretcher with a stick in his mouth.


PREDICTION THE FOURTH: Mark Sanchez will complete 12 of 27 passes for 135 yards and 1 touchdown to go with 2 interceptions. He’ll be sacked 4 times and after the game he will be publicly bitchslapped by a disgusted Joe Namath, who will demand that Sanchez hand in his penis as punishment for being a pretender to his great throne.


PREDICTION THE FIFTH: I will be committed shortly after completing this post.





UpHere said...

Dude, you cant carry the weight for us every day. Its one thing to commit to daily writing at the beginning of the season when hope and excitement reign surpreme. Its another to keep going when a good chunk of your alleged colleagues are acting like unthinking, meth-addled retards on the radio. Isn't rage and grasping at straws part of the 5 stages of grieving?

If it were in my power I'd release you from the pledge to write every day.

Neil said...

I am a stubborn fool and damn it all, I am halfway there.

Sadly, the only power on Earth that I would listen to is that of my own degenerate brain and he is a mean bastard.

HillHeeb said...

Sunday was so painful. I work in retail, like the asshole I am, and I have all the tvs on the Lions game whilst having to deal with a strange and terrible woman. Her hair was sort of glued to her scalp with hairspray, whilst her fringe was untouched. She looked like some sort of male monkey and had six front teeth compressed into the space of one.

As she yammered on about bullshit, I noticed the only other football fan working that day trundle over and switch the tvs to the Vikings game. He then turned and flipped me off. Stuck with ape-woman and her fucking inability to buy anything in a timely fashion, I was at least comforted by the fact that at 20-10 with a quarter left, I would be soon able to shout "Fuck Mark Sanchez" from the roof of the building, letting the mongrels that inhabit Calgary know that Mark Sanchez is a bitch.

Finally she fucks off, I see the ol' peashooter lead the Vikings to OT, check my phone... and fucking Stafford is dead and those asshole Jets are in field goal range in OT. I can't even articulate the anger I feel on here, because I keep thinking of Rex Ryan and his stupid bullshit fat head and [pqerwvh[qvbhu[erv[onqvin[3[nrv]nqe]npwdvpoguqr[h0134

I hope Ryan dies of a heart attack pitchside and the last thing his beady eyes see is Sanchez landing on top of his fucking head.

Neil said...

Oh man, I almost forgot about the indignity of having to deal with the Vikings comeback, which just made the whole damn day complete.

I am sorry that you had to deal with the ape-lady, friendo, and your wishes are noble and your anger righteous.

As always, you are a soldier of truth in these strange and terrible times.

Chinks Steaks said...

At least they are entertaining to watch. Sort of like 08-09 Oklahoma City Thunder you can see a big break through about to happen. Just have blind faith in them. Look at religion, not one bad thing has ever come from blind faith. For now at least you have the Pistons. And finally on Thanksgiving the Lions won't be the worst team playing.

CJ said...

So, I don't know what to say, because I really know there is nothing I can say to make it better, you know? I guess I'm sort of a fairweather fan, or at least the closest thing to a fairweather fan that comments at Armchair Linebacker. I took a long lunch hour and went and stared at art at the DIA and now I'm sort of over the Jets game.

I still love this team more than I can ever remember loving a Lions' team in toto. I mean...at the end of the day, players who continue to be a problem and represent 'the same old Lions' (which is way fewer than they used to be) are going to be out the door, like Wade already is (I'm thinking Peterson and Stanton here). Schwartz has problems with clock management and making decisions on the fly (and I think he alluded to this around the time of his hiring with his whole "I think you'd rather have the guy that prepares well during the week") but he's smart and has shown the ability to adjust and compensate already in his tenure. He's going to have to do the same here. Stafford's injury problems are starting to worry me along with everyone else, but the reason that they're so huge in our minds is because he's been so great in all other aspects to my mind. All of this I know you already know...but the duality of the response overall has surprised me. Yes, there are problems, but for the most part they look like surmountable problems and having a team that looks like this is so staggering to me given how they looked only last season. In a good way.

So, I think it will be a long slog to success, but I think given the psychological burden of that long history of failure and pain and losing, I think it had to be. I feel really really badly for the players. However, I look at the roster and the coaches and GM and the only way that I can say that failure is even *probable* long term is due to a curse or some malign influence. And, even though I felt differently on Sunday, while I watched all my worst fears come true, I'm not about to rewrite my entire makeup to start believing in bad juju just because of FOOTBALL and my team. It sucked and now it's over. Nothing is inevitable except for bitching.

So, that probably wasn't helpful AT ALL. This will probably be less so. My response to any and all Lions craziness in the fandom at large and in random contacts with people is this: "I think we should develop Suh into a quarterback." It's ridiculous and stupid and yet lets me use arguments about "talent is talent" and "heart" and "thinking outside the box" that people always use to justify terrible ideas. If it just makes people think I'm too stupid to talk to, and makes them stop saying things like "Jason Hanson's injury is really a blessing in disguise for us" to me, then I'm counting that as a BONUS.

Anyways, great post and I'm sorry life sucks so hard right now.

CJ said...

Oh, and I still wouldn't trade Schwartz for Ryan, or Stafford for Sanchez straight up. Drew Sharp would, I know, and like when he wrote off Kevin Smith, makes me think that my faith will be justified.

Neil said...

Chinks Steaks!

Yeah, man, they've been fun to watch, and good times are coming, but damn, that was still a brutal, brutal loss.

And the Pistons? Goddamn, man, that's just mean.

Neil said...

As usual, that is all brilliantly said, CJ and I agree with everything but you calling yourself a fair weather fan. This is untrue by virtue of your being here. Your optimism has been contagious and completely antithetical to the whole Same Ol' Lions routine everyone else trots out. If more fans were like you - smart, passionate, unafraid to feel both pain and hope - none of those depressing things I just gibbered on about in the main post would need to be talked about.