Sometimes, when I’m drifting off to sleep, my mind starts to compose and write and paint gorgeous little word pictures, and in between dreaming of werewolves wearing top hats and masturbating bears and electric sheep gnawing on the bones of ol’ Phil Dick, I occasionally come up with a coherent and beautiful thought and I get all excited and tell myself that I should get up and write it down but I never do because I promise myself that this time I will remember it in the morning. Of course, 99% of the time, I wake up and I can’t remember just what that thought was and then I spend large chunks of the rest of the day vainly trying to piece together my twisted dreams in the hopes that it will somehow all come together and then whatever the fuck it is I have to write about will just write itself while I drink Southern Comfort out of the bottle and chase invisible dragons down the street.
Today was one of those days. I knew that I came up with something good last night – something about how all your heroes will disappoint you and about how hope is a personal thing that is reflective of who you are as a person and not an external thing dependent upon the performance of others or some such bullshit – but all that remained in the light of day was a hazy outline of that idea. Since we are in those terrible days in which we are already dead and are just waiting for someone to come along and toss the first shovel full of dirt on us, and in which Inspiration is just the name of some obscure deodorant or feminine hygiene product, I figured it was enough. I could work off of that and as the game against the Packers wore on, I was still planning on building a heaping pile of dumb pig gibberish around that idea. And I did this because I never suspected that the Lions would actually win the game. I mean, in some remote corner of my mind it struck me that it was certainly possible but every other part of me – my reason, my intuition, my memories, my common sense – shouted down that teeny, tiny part of my brain and I went back to mentally composing my ode to perseverance in the face of overwhelming disaster and despair.
And really, that’s kind of the point here. I have settled into a kind of wearied acceptance of the situation this season. My spirit and I have been thrown into a prison located in a deep, dark hole in the innermost circle of hell. I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. Well, other than the cackling of the Failure Demons anyway. I’m already dead and, hey, at least I have come to terms with that. This season is dead and its horrors are indelible. They cannot be taken away, they cannot be erased and they cannot be changed. They exist now as their own special chapter in the Necronomicon that is the history of the Detroit Lions. Reading it will cause future generations’ eyes to boil out of their heads and their inner organs to explode and their faces to melt like the Nazis’ at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. There is nothing that can happen the rest of this season that will change any of that, nothing that will somehow make it okay, nothing that will make it feel like it was worth it. We are already dead and the rest of the season just feels like a sick exercise in Necrophilia. Quit defiling my corpse, damn it!
Which made the events of the game feel more surreal than anything else. Of course I was glad that the Lions defense came to play and of course I cheered when Raven Mack was avenged and Aaron Rodgers was sent to Valhalla. In the moment, even a condemned man can feel joy, can taste food, can appreciate a joke, can smile at some distant memory and can forget, if only for a moment, that his end is inevitable because right here, right now, he is still alive and until he is dead, until the final ethereal thought evaporates in his mind and drifts forever into the cosmos, he is responsive to the world and all that it entails.
And so it was with that as my reality that I watched the Lions play the Packers today. I was condemned to die – in my mind, in my heart, I was already dead – but I was technically alive, technically still breathing, and so I was still at the mercy of the vagaries of this world, be they cruel or merciful. And somehow, they were merciful. For once, almost miraculously, they were merciful and I smiled as our defense somehow survived. It was a smile tinged with the bittersweet words “what if?” and it was a smile that contained both the terrible weight of history and the ineffable and indestructible atom of pure hope which lies at the nucleus of my being. It was a smile that existed in a heartbeat, a smile that was fragile, and yet it was a smile that encompassed every thought, every feeling, every memory that I had ever had as a Lions fan, and so it was a smile that was both temporary and forever, beautiful and terrible, happy and unfathomably sad, and I lived inside of that smile, that last tragic, beautiful smile of the doomed, until the end of the game, when the clock ran down to zero and the Lions walked off the field, survivors, 7-3 winners.
Ol’ Plucky was awful, and this game just reinforces what I wrote last week – that his game against the Bears was him at his peak and that it wasn’t something he could build upon because, really, this game, this ugly, terrible game, is closer to the average for Drew Stanton. I will talk more about that later this week. For now, it is enough to say that he was utterly rancid and that the Lions won despite him, not because of him. But even though all that is true, it wasn’t so horrible, because like I said, I had already accepted death. I had already accepted Ol’ Plucky. There was no sense of disappointment. Instead, there was just a sense that this was what was supposed to be happening and that everything else that was happening – the play of the defense, the dominance of the defensive line, the emergence of a functional running game – were merely small, sweet things to be savored in the face of death. They would be what would make me smile even as my spirit horse dragged me off to The Great Gig in the Sky. Death was inevitable. It was unavoidable.
And so I kept waiting to die, kept waiting for that moment when one of the Failure Demons would reach a monstrous paw into the hole, pull me out and then suck the life from the withered husk of my body before discarding it like an old, gnawed chicken bone. It was nice to have something to smile about in the moments before my inevitable death, but I harbored no illusions either.
But then the game ended and the Lions were ahead 7-3. The game was over and there was no one reaching down into my hole. There was no grotesque paw, no lizard hands, no slithering hell beast come to take me to oblivion. There was no Mike Pereira flicking his serpent tongue at me, no yellow flag blinding me while Ed Hochuli or whoever jammed red hot pokers into my ass. There was just . . . nothing. I climbed out of my hole and I looked around and the hellfires smoldered and then went out and I took a couple of tentative steps and I wondered “Why aren’t I dead?” And I kept walking and I kept walking and I kept walking because no one was there to stop me. There was nothing in any direction for a million miles. No civilization, no hope, nothing but the outskirts of hell. The world is gone, burned away and it is too late to get that back, but somehow I’m not dead and somehow I am still walking and no one is stopping me because the Detroit Lions won and . . . they won?
Indeed. There is no meaning to it. There is no excitement, no hope that this means that I have been saved, that my life and my spirit have been somehow spared, but being alive, right here and right now, is better than being dead. And I suppose that’s what it all comes down to. Being alive is better than being dead. And so I will keep walking and I will keep walking and I will keep walking and I will keep smiling that bittersweet smile that is both temporary and forever and I will live until I die because as a Lions fan, that is all I have left. That is all any of us have left. We are already dead and we know it. We will not live again until we are reborn sometime next September, and yet our hearts still beat and our minds still think and our hearts are still capable of smiling. We live in this world until we don’t and while we are still here we must search for whatever kernels of happiness we can. It may seem meaningless. It may seem pointless. It may seem empty. But joy, no matter how small, no matter how fleeting, is never empty. It is never pointless and it is never meaningless. Even to the condemned man. It is its own point, it is its own world and for now anyway, for today, and maybe only for today, for this tiny sliver in time, it is our world.