A MAN MADE OF GLASS AND WISHES
So, Matthew Stafford was killed again against the Jets. Huh. Whatever tiny little Failure Demons live in his shoulder gnawed through the sinews and just waited for him to roll over one more time and then celebrated as he staggered off the field and we all wept and began speaking in tongues and punching our pets and children. I’m just kidding, I would never punch a pet.
Right now, as I write this, no one has a fucking clue when Stafford will be able to play again. There have been reports that he is out for the season, reports that he might only miss a game or two, reports that he was seen hanging around Ford Field without a sling, telling people he was fine, reports that he is currently in a coffin due to be shot into the sun by NASA, reports that he is in a secret lab somewhere in the Negev Desert getting his shoulder reinforced with titanium or adamantium so that when someone tries to sack him, spikes will shoot out of his shoulders Wolverine style.
Okay, so I may have made up a couple of those, but the adamantium thing is better than the alternative, which is that Matthew Stafford is indeed made of glass and the wishes of starving Somalian children and that he will likely miss six games next season after cracking his head open on his diving board or cutting off his big toe with a weed whacker or after tearing his ACL after his bicycle attains sentience and attacks him or after he gets his dick somehow caught in the garbage disposal or . . . sigh. You get the point. The terrible, terrible point, which is that there is no getting around the fact that Matthew Stafford is terribly, horrifically injury prone.
I’m not sure what it is. I’m not sure if the dude is cursed, or if we’re cursed or if there is something mechanically wrong with him or if someone has a voodoo doll or what, but fuck, you know? Just . . . fuck! This isn’t fair. I mean, it’s not like he’d had a history of this shit before the Lions drafted him. He got hit in college – a lot – thanks to a shitty O-Line at Georgia, and he never had his shoulder rise up in furious anger and smite him before the Lord like it has THREE DIFFERENT TIMES IN A YEAR AND A HALF with the Lions. His shoulder never ripped itself apart while he was rolling around drunk, with kegs and coeds falling on him like in those infamous pics from a few years back. I mean, what the fuck happened? Is there a way that this can be rationally explained or do we have no choice but to collapse into the fetal position, rock back and forth like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman and start gibbering about Failure Demons and curses and God hating us, yeah definitely God hating us, three minutes to Wapner, three minutes to Wapner, I’m an excellent driver Charlie, an excellent driver, yeah definitely God hating us.
Someone, somewhere – I can’t remember who, it might have been Ty, but shit, maybe not – brought up the dreaded ghost of Charles Rogers and his hollowed out collarbone in the wake of this latest injury to Stafford and I shuddered and felt my soul scream. My God. Why? How is this something that is happening? Why, Oh Lord? Do I have to find Doc Brown and the DeLorean, go back in time and bitchslap Hitler? Is there some sort of epic quest that needs to be fulfilled here before shit like this stops happening to us? Does Willie Young need to stop the crucifixion? I mean, what? I’m asking you, God, my dude, what do we need to do? Is an exorcism of some sort in order? Do we need to bind Matt Millen in chains, drag him down Woodward naked while people toss feces at him, whip him ceremonially at midfield in front of a sold out crowd (no blackouts for this one) and then encase his feet in cement and dump him to the bottom of the Detroit River? Because we’ll totally do that one.
Okay, relax, Neil. Yes, I’m talking to myself. Leave me alone. I just called God “my dude” so really, nothing should surprise you at this point. Anyway, all of those are maddening questions better left to philosophy majors and to the clergy of all the world’s major religions. Perhaps an attempt to answer them would be the thing that could bring everyone together in peace. Yes, perhaps our pain can be the driving force that unites the world in . . . Jesus, I am just rambling incoherently now.
Okay, okay, moving on. We still have to deal with the immediacy of Stafford’s injury because, fuck, we’ve still got a game this weekend and nothing but Ol’ Plucky and Shaun Hill’s broken arm to lead us. I guess the best case scenario here is that Hill’s arm is mended enough so that he can gut this one out (Well, actually the best case scenario is that Matthew Stafford is miraculously fine or that we go back in time and an angel with a bazooka and a samurai sword guards him from ever getting hit, but even then let’s face it, the angel would probably just trip and end up cutting Stafford’s arm off so hey, nevermind.) I really, really don’t want to have to go into a game with our hopes resting upon the shoulders of Ol’ Plucky. Do you? Even his boosters, those fans who have insisted all along that he just needs a chance, have given up on him. He is a dead man walking, a living, breathing mistake, a reminder of all things unholy and Millen. No one wants him to play. Ever. And no one thinks that we will be any good. Ever. So why is this dude on the team? What’s the fucking point?
The Lions also yanked a dude off of waivers named Zac Robinson, who is most famous for being tangentially involved in the infamous “I’m a man!” rant by his head coach at Oklahoma St., Mike Gundy. Robinson is an intriguing prospect, someone with a live enough arm and the athleticism to perhaps be something someday, but this Sunday is not that day and really, Robinson is a non-factor.
So what happens from here? Fuck if I know. The Lions showed that they could play with Shaun Hill in the lineup and if that’s the case for the rest of the season, then okay. It kind of dims the star shining behind the Lions right now, but whatever. There is enough still there to make the rest of the season feel worthwhile. The only problem with that is we will go into next season with a (hopefully) healthy Stafford who is still basically in his rookie season. That’s a problem. He will be a third year player still trying to master being an NFL quarterback and the Lions really, really can’t afford too many more delays. There is a window here, and if it closes because Stafford’s shoulder is a horrible cocksucker, then that would be tragic.
NO, NO, DON’T THROW THAT BALL OL’ PLUCKY! NO, DON’T DO IT . . . NO, NO . . . NOOOOOOOOOO!!!
So, watching Ol’ Plucky roll out, get chased by a blitzer and then toss a big bag of grit at Jerome Felton’s feet was a special kind of torture, wasn’t it? All the Lions needed to do in that situation was run another play, let 35 seconds roll off of the clock and then punt the fucking ball. The Jets would have likely run out of time before they could get into position to attempt the field goal that tied the game.
In the aftermath, everyone slammed the shit out of Jim Schwartz, and hey, the dude has to eat this one, you know? He got too cute and we got fucked. I mean, I can understand his thinking there. Let Stanton roll out against a defense that isn’t expecting it and then let him victory walk to the first down in celebratory bliss while the crowd goes wild. That’s a nice thing to visualize. The only problem was that the Jets were expecting it and Ol’ Plucky is Ol’ Plucky not Ol’ Einstein and the slow motion hell we were all forced to endure played itself out. This wouldn’t have been such a bad idea if Stanton would have just done the smart thing and went down once he saw he had no play. That would be just as effective as the one yard run into oblivion that was the safe play there. Sure, he could have diagnosed what was happening quicker and hit Felton in the hands for an easy catch and first down, but that’s not Ol’ Plucky’s thing, that whole competence deal, and so he should have just fallen on his ass and let the clock run. After the game, Schwartz basically said that this is what he told Stanton to do, that if the play wasn’t there to just eat it, and so I’m not as down on him as some people are right now. Still, he took responsibility for the call and hey, I commend him for it. Ultimately, it’s on him and he knows that. He probably should have known better than to trust Stanton not to fuck up.
But still, that leaves Ol’ Plucky. That moment basically was the final nail in his deplorable coffin, the moment that took him from being the lovable underdog to most of the fanbase to the embodiment of failure. No one wants to see Stanton again. That was his pathetic Waterloo, the moment where the whole tragically stupid narrative of his career coalesced into a giant ball of failure and exploded in an ugly storm of incompetence. That moment is a moment that will live with us forever. It’s an ugly moment, a scarring moment, the sort of moment that breaks like an ugly wave made of acid and hate upon the cliffs of our fandom and causes them to erode and crumble into dust, and it is a moment that is his and will be his until the Earth races into the sun.
TACKLE HIM, JULIAN. COME ON, GET HIM, OKAY HE’S OUT OF BOUNDS NO JULIAN WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOOOING???
As dumb as Stanton’s mistake was, nothing will haunt us more than Julian Peterson’s inexplicable late hit, which gave the Jets an extra 15 yards and set them up for the game tying field goal. I don’t know what the fuck Julian was even thinking there. I mean . . . honestly, I’m at a loss for words. I don’t even know what to say.
I guess the only thing I can say is that it utterly ruined Julian Peterson for most Lions fans. That’s it. That’s what he’ll be known for around here until the end of days. Every time he pops up to make a tackle, every time he bats a pass out of the air, every time his name is even mentioned during the course of the game, our minds will flash back to that moment and our hearts will darken. It won’t matter if we’re winning 50-14. If Julian Peterson shows up, we will be sad. That is a hell of a thing, and I don’t wish it upon the dude, but shit, that’s just the way it is, you know? One moment, one fraction of a second, can fuck your whole world up.
HEY IT’S JUST AN EXTRA POINT WHAT CAN IT HURT?
And with those words, The Devil cackled maniacally, and sent his Failure Demons screaming towards Ford Field like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Really, though, I think all of us had at least a sense that we would look back upon that moment and cry tears of blood. The announcers laughed, but we knew better, didn’t we? Sure, sure, it was fun to see Ndamukong Suh line up for an extra point, but fuck fun, we just wanted to win. It kind of felt like the whole game was altered by that one moment. And I’m not just saying that in hindsight. Throughout the second half, it felt like it was critically important because it changed the possibilities. Suddenly, the Jets were within a field goal of tying it up. Even after we scored to go up 10, I remember thinking – shit, I remember saying – that 11 was better than 10.
There is a case to be made that it wouldn’t have ultimately mattered, that the Jets could have just gone for two after their touchdown to make it a three point game anyway, but fuck man, at least that would have given us another chance to stop them. In the end it mattered if only because it felt like it mattered. Perhaps that doesn’t make much sense, but fuck it, I’m going to say it anyway. And I’m going to babble on again about psychic energy and about how the mood wasn’t quite right because of it and because that game drove me batshit crazy, I will even say that somehow that contributed to the Jets ability to come back. Yes, that is kooky as fuck and I am embarrassing myself here, but I am a naked man covered in shit and the indignity of being a Lions fan. Embarrassment is irrelevant.
I’m not going to slam Schwartz for letting Suh kick that extra point. I mean, he is the team’s emergency kicker. Who the fuck else was there? Nick Harris couldn’t even kick off. Schwartz had no choice. I’m more upset that this is a thing that can happen at all. It’s always ridiculous to me how people marginalize the kicking game. Ha ha, stupid kickers, they don’t matter. What the fuck? I know no one respects the kickers because they aren’t roided out Mongoloids who will smash their heads into another man’s skull and then punch out a horse, but man, is there anyone else in sports who is more disproportionately disrespected relative to his importance? I mean, everyone treats the kicker like he’s an annoying fly, a waste of a roster spot that must be kept around for some unknown ridiculous reason. And yet, at the end of the year, who leads almost every team in scoring? The fucking kicker. And yeah, yeah, that’s just because he has so many chances to score, from extra points to field goals, but shit, doesn’t that just kind of prove of my point? The kicker has so many chances to impact the game – positively or negatively – that you think teams would put a premium on making sure they had somebody who could do the damn job. It’s fucking crazy to me that teams are willing to go without a kicker if theirs gets hurt. Don’t tell me that it doesn’t matter, because I just watched it matter. I watched it matter a lot.
And yeah, yeah, I know, I know, who are you going to cut to make room for a backup kicker that you probably won’t even need? Good question. But shit happens, as we very, very well know as Lions fans, and when it does, you better have your ass covered. The Lions didn’t. Most teams don’t. And they don’t because of conventional wisdom, because you just don’t do that. That is something that always drives me crazy, that adherence to the same ol’ same ol’ simply because it’s just the way it is. I mean, okay, don’t carry an extra kicker if you know you have somebody who can step in in case of an emergency. But it’s fucking crazy to me to assume that nothing will ever go wrong and to put such an important position in the hands of a dude who fucks around at practice occasionally and might be sorta okay because he used to play soccer. What kind of haphazard bullshit is that?
I know a lot of people won’t agree with me here. They will say that you can’t cut a potentially useful player because of something that probably won’t even happen. That’s fine, but shit, it did happen and we were fucked because of it. And I know there are people who will say that I am being unfair to Schwartz and Suh, but really, I’m not attacking them here. Schwartz just did what everybody else does and Suh was put in a position he should never have been put in in the first place. And finally, I know that there are people who will argue that point with me, who will say that it’s not unreasonable to believe that Suh is capable of being a kicker, that I’m being a slave to my own conventional wisdom by refusing to believe that a kicker can’t be a scrawny white guy. That would be fine, and hell, you would be right, but Suh missed the fucking kick. I mean, clearly, if he can’t make an extra point (and yeah, I know he can, but consistently I mean) then we essentially have no emergency kicker, just a dude who is vaguely capable of occasionally kicking an extra point. Again, it’s not Suh’s fault. I love that he is athletic enough to even be considered in that situation. This is not about him or his appropriateness as the emergency kicker. It’s about the fact that we essentially have no emergency kicker.
Okay, I’m done ranting and raving. Honestly, there are several more things I could probably talk about – I kinda wanted to abuse some people for bringing up the name of JaMarcus Russell in the wake of Stafford’s injury, and I had a whole thing in my head about how mentioning his name three times would cause him to appear and destroy everything good and pure about the world - but shit, this is 3,000 words already and although that is just sort of average for me, I need to stop myself before I go completely crazy. This was an eventful and stressful week for Lions fans. There’s kind of a lot going on, you know? Everyone’s gone crazy and viciously turning on one another and . . . okay. Tomorrow, I am going to chill the fuck out and vainly attempt to heal the world with a tale of The Great Willie Young. I am but a vessel through which his healing presence flows. Join me and we will rejoice together in the warmth of his glow.