You take enough philosophy, you wind up hearing that the most irrational of the fucked up things people do and believe in are to combat the fact that what happens in life is mostly random. Take the Greek and Roman gods for instance. All of them were put in charge of the important things in peoples lives - agriculture, war, the ocean, whatever -so that, if you made them happy by sacrificing a goat or something, your crop wouldn't get destroyed by hail, you'd win wars, wouldn't get drowned by a freak storm during a long sea voyage, and your baby would be born healthy. The act of paying homage to the gods gave the illusion that the poor bastards had some small amount of control over their lives.
Sports, and football in particular, are good examples of this psychological fight against random. During the week, the boss' drooling moron of a kid can get promoted against all the tenets of human decency and justice. But on Sunday, there's rules that can't be broken. You don't get 5 downs because your uncle owns the team and you don't get 9 points for a touchdown because the ref's in a good mood that day. Its structured. They took a lot of the random out of it and that's one of the reasons we've shown up in front of the set for every football Sunday since we started wearing pants.
With this in mind, the current Lions season is not only an appalling torture chamber of fan abuse, it's also an affront to sports at large and basic human psychology. When you catch the fucking ball in the end zone with both feet on the ground, that's a touchdown. Week one, we find out that we were misguided on this point. The best medical minds in the country tell us Matthew Stafford is perfectly healthy and not made from pipe cleaners and Russian-made duct tape. Wrong again. Against the Cowboys, they get a free touchdown because some dude's hair apparently counts as shoulder pads, another unpleasant new addition to our knowledge base. Most of us have been watching football a long time and never seen any of this shit happen before, never mind to the same team in one year. This isn't supposed to happen on Sundays - it's too fucking random to bear for long.
I don't think we're cursed, so my neighbourhood goats are safe. For now. One problem is that the refs, (and the fans to some extent but that’s another story) expect the Lions to lose, like its an unalienable law up there with death and taxes. So, when something good happens to the Lions, particularly in the fourth quarter, without thinking about it the ref's reaction is, "Waaaait a minute, that can't be right. The Lions suck and always will" and they're throwing a flag or going to the replay booth before they know what for. That's might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there's been some strange and terrible shit happening with the refs this year, to borrow a phrase from a great and wise man.
The players’ attitude is tougher to figure. We watched them mail it in after they got down in Buffalo. Its nice, by the way, that we could provide the Bills with the confidence boost they needed to beat the Bengals today, so we got that karma going for us. On the other hand, the defense fought like animals all game today despite the deflating freak show calls and the NFL’s first ever “ball downed at the five no it’s a touchdown the other way” sequence. I didn’t notice the offense rollover either, outside of some more first half stupidity from Peterman.
If there’s a positive in all this, its that the Lions are now good enough that these weird occurrences are a lot of times the only things keeping them from getting wins. Even last year, bad calls weren’t that notable because we were down by 28 points, so, you know, who gave a fuck? You yell at the screen once and forget about it. This year, the team is competitive enough, the games close enough, that a bad call or one stupid Julian Peterson penalty is much more notable because it’s the only difference between winning and losing. Its progress, if a twisted, sad, psychologically-debilitating from of progress.
The Lions have six games left and I for one, have a morbid curiosity to see what happens. Some type of instant polio that renders the defense unable to walk? Anything’s possible at this point. (Note: I tried to think up some type of bizarre animal attack, but after 10 minutes I realized its impossible here. Neil really, really has that shit covered). We cant forget though that as ridiculously, biblically tortuous as it been this year, the Lions are a lot better than twelve months ago. And, if they make the same amount of improvement in the offseason this year, we will be having much happier conversations at Turkeytime 2011.