Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving With Tantalus

Me on Thanksgiving. What can I say? My family has weird traditions.

There was a point in yesterday’s game where I had a moment of pure serenity, where nothing mattered because I realized that everything was going to be okay. I can’t remember exactly quite when it happened, but I remember looking at the TV, nodding to myself and thinking “You know what, they fought hard, they just aren’t quite good enough yet, but I’m proud of them.” In my mind, I planned on breaking out a mildly lazy overmatched gunfighter metaphor, which I have done before, but it was Thanksgiving, I was feeling lazy and hey, fuck it, my team just lost again, you know? There are only so many ways to explain defeat.

But then the game refused to end, and everything went straight to hell and by the time the whole damn sordid mess was over, everything felt ugly and mean and I felt unclean, fouled by the vicious stench of whatever the fuck that fourth quarter was, and instead of proud and optimistic and upbeat, I was left feeling hopeless, irritated and ready for Godzilla to storm Ford Field with a bazooka and a heart full of hate. It was a stunning shift in tone, and I’m still not quite sure what happened. I mean, the Patriots were going to win that damn game. There was little doubt about that. Even when the Lions were leading at the end of the first quarter, it seemed obvious. When they were winning at the half, it still seemed incredibly likely. When it was tied at the end of the third quarter, it felt like we were already dead but just didn’t know it yet. And I think that is where the sense of optimism came from. We were dead but just didn’t know it. There is a kind of honor in that, you know? You keep fighting even though you are standing in a casket with the Grim Reaper pointing at you and chanting some weird gibberish in Latin. Smile and empty your guns.

I think that all disappeared the moment the Lions knew they were dead. Then they just pissed their pants and began acting like frightened children. We wanted them to smile, empty their guns, maybe flip the Reaper the bird and dance themselves down to hell. Instead they embarrassed themselves, dropping to their knees in a puddle of piss, gibbering and weeping, begging for mercy. They tossed their guns at the Reaper’s feet and then offered to suck his dick. It was shameful.

And that is what overshadows everything, all the progress, all the “Ooh, close but not quite” games, all the glimpses at the future, all of it. When the game ends, the only thing we know is that when it matters the most, our Detroit Lions will revert back into the same old sad sacks of shit they’ve always been. Ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on.

Following the game, the Lions depressingly began to do what they always eventually do – cannibalize each other. Both Chris Houston and Corey Williams – both first year Lions, by the way, which I feel is somehow significant here – bitched to the media about how there are some people on the team who are quitters and just playing for a paycheck and all that happy bullshit. Basically, they accused a bunch of their teammates of having Lions Disease.

And that is where we’re at, here, 11 games into the 2010 season, 27 games into the Schwartz/Mayhew era. Our players have quit, our fans are depressed and resigned to failure, our coaches are saying the exact same things our coaches have always said, and the few of us that still dare to believe in a better world are staring down the barrel of a gun, wondering if and when a bullet tipped with failure and madness is going to come screaming out and burrow its way into our brains. It’s terrifying. This whole thing – the whole damn thing – is falling apart. It’s falling apart and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We just have to stare into that gun and watch with wide eyed horror as the hand holding that gun squeezes the trigger in slow motion. They say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes, time is meaningless, and you live in that moment for a lifetime.

A lifetime. That’s what we’re stuck inside of right now. A lifetime of failure and pain and brutal disappointment. A lifetime of horror and regret and missed opportunities. A lifetime that feels unfair and maddening and just . . . just . . . wrong. And we know that this is it, that if that finger finishes squeezing that trigger, all we can do is close our eyes and hope and pray that those people who say that are wrong, that it will be over in just a millisecond and that we won’t ever have to experience the terrible pain of that life again.

Because we can’t do this again. We can’t tear this whole thing apart and start over because . . . we just can’t. Too much has happened, too many years have passed. We’re old. We’re tired. 0-16 left us crippled and reaching for the razor blade. 0-16 nearly killed us, nearly destroyed our will, our spirit, but we took a deep breath and we decided to try again, one last time. There was still time enough to salvage something out of this life, and even though we would always be crippled, we could look forward to a day when we would smile and feel like maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright. But we can’t do it again. We just can’t. We can’t fail so utterly, so completely, again. It’s just too horrible, too painful. Being a fan shouldn’t have to be like this. Like I said a few days ago, no one understands what this feels like. No one knows what it’s like to be a Lions fan. It’s incomprehensible and ugly. I try my best to explain it, and yet I know that I don’t even come close. Because, honestly, it’s impossible to explain it. It really is. It’s impossible because there is nothing to compare it to. The most savage metaphors are still just that, metaphors. They’re colorful and they’re funny and they at least roughly sketch the outline of something resembling the pain and horror that goes along with being a Lions fan, but they don’t explain it, don’t really illustrate it, don’t reveal it, and that’s because it is unexplainable and, really, unknowable.

We don’t understand it and we’re the ones living it. I mean, I’m a pretty smart dude, very perceptive, and I can’t get a handle on the damn thing. And that’s because it never coalesces into anything tangible. Instead, it just sort of dances on the fringes of our consciousness, terrible and dark, something horrible and unreal, the sort of thing that creeps up on you like a thief from hell and makes you shiver before it slips back into the cold shadows that lie deep within your soul. You always know it’s there but you can never touch it, can never catch it, can never look it in its ugly and terrible face and simply confront it, which means that you can never fight it, which means that you can never defeat it, which means that all you can do is keep running, running, running, and try to stay one step in front of it.

I know that is hyperbolic as hell, but that is what being a fan of the Lions reduces a man to – wild gibberish and maudlin ranting and raving. I’m not even sure what I’m saying anymore. I talk a lot about pain, about suffering – I mean, hell, I just did – but even those words aren’t right. They don’t explain it. What I feel – what a lot of Lions fans feel – is something more akin to a cold, dreadful sense of resignation, a feeling that the world is not for us, and that no matter how much we want it, no matter how much we dare to dream about it, this is all that there is. It is not a flashy sort of emotion. There are long periods where we just sort of shrug apathetically and shake our heads in quiet disgust and tell ourselves and each other that this is what we expected and hell, it doesn’t hurt so bad. But that, that resigned sense of doom, is somehow worse, somehow even uglier and crueler and colder than the immediacy of pain, the immediacy of the fire of anger and rage. Pain, anger, rage, and suffering are children, little babies from hell who hit and then leave. What we feel doesn’t go away. It just sort of lingers. It never lets us go, eats away at our hope, our dreams and leaves us in a sort of dulled haze. We are drooling idiots staring at a team incapable of truly breaking our hearts because our hearts have been frozen in ice and are in the hands of some terrible Failure Demon born in the darkest, most hideous depths of hell.

Jesus. I’m sorry. I don’t even know what I’m rambling about. I disappeared beneath the surface of my own brain a while back and I’ve just been trying to claw my way back out for the last several paragraphs. The only thing I can say in my defense is that this is what the Lions have driven me to, to weird, incomprehensible bullshit that barely makes sense even to me. I am a slave to my own madness, to my own desperate desire to understand this . . . this thing known as Lions fandom. I don’t know. I just don’t. All I do know is that I feel like Tantalus right now. The fruit bearing branches above my head are perpetually out of reach and the water just beneath my chin always recedes when I try to drink. Everything I want, everything I need, is so close but I can never have it, can never touch it, and it has driven me insane.

And right now, I even envy poor Tantalus. At least he always has some sort of vain hope that he will one day be able to grab that fruit or drink that water. I, on the other hand, am just stuck in wide eyed horror, watching as the fruit gets further and further away and as the water keeps receding and receding and whatever tiny flicker of hope lives in my heart is dying, dying, dying and I am panicking because I know that when it finally goes out, I may never be able to rekindle it.

The Lions lost on Thanksgiving, but more than that, they are unraveling – yet again – and the fruit and the water seem so, so far away now, and inside of me, the answers are getting muddled by horrible gibberish and everything is so, so confusing and I am just a child, staring in wide eyed horror, standing alone in the dark and I don’t know where to go or where to turn and I try to scream but all that I hear, hovering on the edges of reality obscured by the blackness, is a dull echo of the past and it is growing louder and louder and louder and now it is screaming towards me from the void and . . .


UpHere said...

To be honest, I'm not only good with the meltdown, but also with the locker room finger pointing. What's the better option? "We'll be in the film room tomorrow looking for answers"? No, fuck that. Frustration and rage are the only sane responses from the players at this point. It's not working, who cares who gets hurt.

Neil said...

Oh man, don't get me wrong. I really don't have a problem that dudes are bitching each other out because fuck the quitters and paycheck siphoners, you know? I'm just dismayed that it has come to that, you know? It's like, come on, really? I thought we were done being so horrible that this would even be an issue anymore, but here we are.