Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving With The Lions And The Spirit Of Detroit

The Spirit of Detroit

It’s Thanksgiving, and just like the Lions play on Thanksgiving every year, it seems like I devote this post every year to telling everyone who thinks the Lions should be stripped of the Thanksgiving game to shut the fuck up. This usually involves a long, impassioned plea, but I’m not going to do it this year. You know why? Because fuck everyone else, that’s why. This is ours. It’s our day, our tradition and we don’t have to answer to anybody. You can whine and mewl like a retarded deaf baby, but that’s your fucking problem, not ours.

I’m sorry if that all came across as defensive, but goddammit, that’s how I’m feeling right now. Yesterday, I wrote a piece about the weight of time and history and how no one can understand what we have to go through as Lions fans and that has me feeling indignant and filled with righteous white hot anger. Everybody laughs at us, and how dare them. We are the toughest fans in the entire NFL because while everyone else is busy getting pedicures and resting on clouds made of cotton and love, we’re down here in hell, breathing smoke and eating fire. Our pain has made us into monsters and you don’t laugh at monsters. We will take your heavenly harp and we will pluck the strings one by one and we will hang you with them.

People laugh at me because I’m a Lions fan. They think it’s funny and whacky and the sign of a diseased mind and most of the time, I just sort of shrug and chuckle self-consciously because, really, what can you do? They don’t know that underneath that easy going “Yeah, yeah, I know” exterior that I am a Terminator from hell, my bones made of steel and rage, and that the word “fan” doesn’t apply to me because it’s too soft, too casual. I bear the terrible mark of the Detroit Lions, and I am not ashamed of this. I wear it with great pride because it means that I am tough, that I am willing to stand before the devil and laugh because the football world can show me nothing that I have not already had to live through. I have been tortured by the Failure Demons. I have been dipped in fire and burned alive. I have had my flesh torn from my body and my heart eaten by hell vultures, and yet I’m still here. You laugh at me, but you cannot kill me because my heart is made of thunder and fire and I am not alone.

Everyone laughs at Lions fans and everyone laughs at Detroit. Everyone laughs at Michigan. Detroit is our soul, our identity, and to the world, we are a beaten wreck, a hopeless wasteland hurtling towards a grim death. But this is our home. Even people who don’t live in Michigan but who love the Lions have a piece of Detroit. It’s in their souls, just like it’s in mine. And you cannot kill my soul. I turn on the TV and Detroit is just a punch line. I read articles in magazines and in them, Detroit is almost fetishized as some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland, an amusement park for the curious bourgeoisie – “Come, step right up and see what societal decay looks like! You’ve seen the ruins of Ancient Rome, now see the ruins of America!” That sort of thing. But this is our home. Detroit and Michigan, Michigan and Detroit. They are one and the same. The rest of the country looks at us like a cautionary tale, like we’ve already been lost and this is what the rest of the nation must avoid. People joke about giving us to Canada. People see everything about us, about our state, about the city which is its heart and soul, as a failure. We are blue collar idiots who never changed with the times. We are a hindrance to America. Our auto companies are vilified, the Tea Party assholes hate us, and everyone thinks that the United States of America would be better off without us fucking everything up.

But fuck that. We are America. We are its dirty heart, its grimy soul. We built this fucking country. It’s ours. When everything had gone to hell, when the country was in chaos, and war threatened to tear the world apart, Detroit gritted its teeth and thundered against that chaos. Everyone talks about New York and the Statue of Liberty and the famous line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” That line does not belong to New York. It belongs to Detroit. It belongs to a city that was built by the poor, the tired, the wretched, the grandsons of slaves, the put upon sharecroppers, people with nowhere else to go. They came to Detroit, and they gritted their teeth and together they made America strong.

And now people want to laugh at that. They want to look at Detroit and call it ugly. They want to look at Detroit and shake their heads because who would want to live there? That city hasn’t seen sunny days in over 50 years. It has been beset by riots, burned up and its ashes pissed on. Today, coyotes can be seen running through its streets and old people tell tales about seeing a tiny little imp – a literal Failure Demon – running around the city causing chaos before various terrible events, like some harbinger of doom sent from the bowels of hell. I’m serious! That’s one of Detroit’s most enduring tales. And it speaks to an undeniable truth, which is that the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan, and the Detroit Lions are all one and the same.

But Detroit is the city that lives in my heart and has lived there since the day I was born. Michigan is my home. And the Detroit Lions are my team. I am bound to each and every one of them and I’m sick of apologizing for them, for bowing my head while people mock them and dare to tell me that they are irrelevant, sad reminders of a faded past that we can never get back. This is my home, and it will always be my home, no matter where I am in the world, because it is my soul, and while the rest of the world tells me that my soul is no good, that it is rotten and incapable of being saved, it is my soul – mine – and I know that there is a fire that burns deep within it that can never be put out. My soul is tough. My soul is Marvin Gaye, who understood the meaning of the word passion. My soul is Kirk Gibson jumping like a madman and pumping his fist as he rounds the bases, nearly breaking the third base coach’s arm with a thunderous hi-five, long before he became deified in Los Angeles for doing the same thing. My soul is Barry Sanders juking the Failure Demon, breaking his ankles and then running to the endzone. My soul is Axel fucking Foley. My soul is Isiah Thomas refusing to lose. My soul is Rick Mahorn stomping on another man’s already broken foot because winning means so much to him. My soul is a factory worker, the grandson of a slave, working day and night so he can provide his family with the promise that is America. My soul is Motown. My soul is a fucking muscle car. My soul has soul.

You can laugh. And you can keep laughing. You can tell me that I don’t deserve the one yearly tradition that my team still has left. You can tell me that my state is a burden, its heart and soul unworthy of being saved. You can tell me that the auto industry is an embarrassment. You can tell me that Washington should have just let it die. You can tell me that my football team is a national joke. You can tell me that my soul is the past, that the future is endless subdivision after subdivision in the Arizona desert and you can shake your head in pity and you can condemn my city and my state because its proud people are in a bad way and you can raise your self-righteous noses in the air and tell me that we are unworthy of your support. You can do all of this because once upon a time, Detroit was America. Not the America of movies or TV, not the America of the country preacher, not the America of the teetotalers, nor the America of the Klan, but the America that was drenched in sweat, covered in soot and the America that would work its ass off during the day and then go out together and have a beer and listen to music and laugh and that understood that we are all in this together and the things that divide us are petty and meaningless, and that the things that can bring us together are powerful and unbeatable. You can say what you want, you can laugh, you can shake your head in self-righteous pity, but you can do this because Detroit made America great and without it, there would be no America. It is its heart, its soul and there are people here who remember that, even if you don’t.

We have been beaten up and we have been left for dead. Everybody laughs at us, no one believes in us, and they are just standing over our fallen bodies in morbid curiosity, waiting for us to finally die. But we’re not dead yet. Not yet. We’re the city and the state of Robocop. We call soda "pop", because fuck soda, it's called pop. We cheer on the Detroit Lions because they are us. We have hearts of fire and we are survivors. People laugh at us because they don’t understand, because they can’t understand. People underestimate us because they themselves are weak and do not understand what true strength looks like. We are cracked and bleeding and we have been bleeding for over 50 years, but this just means that we are not frightened of the blood because it is all we know. This means that you can cut us and we will just laugh in your face, because we know that we cannot die, we will not die, and that all we have to do is survive, just as we have survived for over half a century now because one day, one glorious day, it will be our turn again, and when that day comes, the fire of our hearts will be seen in the farthest reaches of heaven and you will finally realize that we’ve been here all along, and that we are still strong and that we cannot be beaten.

So . . . football.

Goddamn, what can I say? The Lions are facing the Patriots and, well . . . I fully expect our boys to go down in a hail of bullets. There are just too many damn things to overcome right now. The Patriots are playing at the highest level that they’ve played at since their 16-0 season and they seem to be separating themselves from the rest of the league right now. That’s, uh, that’s not so good, you know?

Offensively, they still have Tom Brady, and although his hair makes him look like he should be playing in the Lingerie Bowl rather than the Super Bowl this year, he still has the arm and the brain that were both forged in the furnace of Michigan, and he has enough weapons around him to do some serious damage. No, he doesn’t have the big name Randy Moss type player, but he has Wes Welker and he has a host of underrated playmakers at his side to turn to whenever he needs to make something happen. They will be hard to stop.

I think the Lions would be able to hang with the Patriots in this game if everyone was healthy. But they’re not. Matthew Stafford is still dead. Jahvid Best’s toes have been possessed by a Failure Demon. Hell, even the kicker is being helicoptered off of the battlefield. And that’s not even taking into account the brutal soul crushing events of the last few weeks, which have us once again on the brink of disaster, staring down into an abyss filled with the corpses and the howling ghosts of Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, Chuck Long, Andre Ware and every other cursed member of our family who was dragged to hell before his time. It’s tough to look down into that abyss and think that everything will be okay. But like I so cheesily slammed home earlier in this post, we are tough and we will not think this way.

Thanksgiving is a special time of year for all Lions fans. And so if there was ever a day that the team would bust its ass and play like the team that we deserve, it would be that day. There is still enough talent on the field for the Lions to at least make things interesting. This is still the team that throttled the Rams and should have poleaxed the Jets only a few short weeks ago. The Lions can beat the Patriots. They just have to remember that.

Unfortunately, that’s the battle the Lions and we, their fans, always have to fight. It’s a battle against history, against Fate, against time, against perception. It’s so easy for all of us – from the coaches to the players to the fans – to fall in line with that “Same Ol’ Lions” shit. It’s something we all have to constantly fight back against. Any success we may have is fragile – as evidenced by the horrible events of the last few weeks – and it’s so hard for us to get that back once it starts to go. It’s easy – far too easy – to allow your self-image to be defined through the eyes of others. You have to remember that underneath it all, you are proud, you are strong and you don’t take shit from anybody. You have to remember handing it to the Jets. You have to remember that you are the heir to the men and women who put this country on their backs when America needed it the most and carried it to glory. You have to remember that the past is not the future, and the present is decided here, today, on its own merits. Bobby Layne and his 50 year curse can go fuck himself. The refs can eat shit. I will see Marion Barber’s hair in hell. Fate is, after all, just a word. We are men and lady men, and we are tougher than anyone else and damn it all, it’s about time we remember all that.

I’m not expecting the Lions to win. I’m expecting them to fight, though. I’m expecting them to punch the Patriots in their smug faces and I’m expecting Ndamukong Suh to rip Tom Brady’s rat’s nest off of his head and then throw it at the ref’s feet. I’m expecting a team that is outgunned and outmanned to stand and fight and laugh in the face of Fate even as the bullets tear through them. I’m expecting the Detroit Lions – my Detroit Lions – to be Detroit’s team, to be Michigan’s team and to remind the whole world that Thanksgiving is our day and by God, you will not ever take it away from us.


1. Shaun Hill will throw and throw and throw, completing 31 of 52 passes for 355 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.

2. Jahvid Best will play, but he won’t be anywhere close to effective, running the ball only 8 times for 15 yards. Maurice Morris will receive the bulk of the carries, but he’ll still only run for 35 yards on 10 carries as the Lions will largely abandon the run game in favor of the pass.

3. St. Calvin will catch 7 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.

4. Tom Brady will complete 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns.

5. No one Patriot will have a huge game. Instead, the Lions will be slowly picked apart by a variety of weapons, from Wes Welker to Danny Woodhead. The Lions will actually do an admirable job defending the Patriots attack, but Tom Brady will sniff out the weakest point of defense enough times to make the difference.



HSOMGF said...

Extremely well-said, Neil. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Neil said...

Thank you, kindly. And Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, HSOMGF.

jstimber said...

We the brothers of hell, speak in hushed tones around the fire tonight. For we know that tomorrow, we'll engage the shining people's most hardened troops with our rag tag group of beat up old men and boys. The battle will be fought. They are here, there is no turning back. No more time to lick our wounds and prepare. By dusk, we're either in glory, dead on the field or being lead in chains naked before the smiling throngs with their shining faces, our people humiliated, our women defiled. As the flames flicker lights this weathered old face, I ask the eternal power for forgiveness of the sin that we started to sing and dance with pagan glee to "another one bites the dust" way before we earned that right. I ask that mercy be extended to us for our transgressions. I ask that the ref's leave us alone (as we ruthlessly murder the poor bastards). Also, that our leader be endowed with the in game management skills we know are in there somewhere. Now...let's go kick their fucking ass!

Neil said...

Fuck yeah!

JP said...

I'm not sure if I should expect fate to find a new cruel way for us to lose the game, or if the NFL is just going to take matters into their own hands and make a new penalty called "Personal foul on Detroit for actually playing competitive football"

In the end I'm with you. They're my team, they're a part of me. And all of this bullshit about taking this game away from us is just that, bullshit. We gave this game to the nation and if they don't like it then they can shove it. I still have faith that our boys are gonna come out tomorrow and play their asses off, even if it is just to spite Goodell. I mean, not to make excuses, but to schedule the most successful team against the least successful team of the last decade in a nationally televised event? Why would the NFL do that, unless they were looking for excuses to take it away from us.

Anyhow, my thoughts and actions feel out of equilibrium, and I think I just need to not overthink what's going on too much. Worst case scenario, I have all the comfort food and alcohol that I can handle readily at my disposal tomorrow.

Hopefully come friday we can all talk about having a truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Neil said...

"I have all the comfort food and alcohol that I can handle readily at my disposal tomorrow."

These are the wisest and truest words anyone has said about this game so far.

Andrew TSKS said...

This post made me want to salute a flag. Thank you.

Neil said...

Fuck yeah

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