In retrospect, the special brand of gibberish I trotted out this past week seems eerie and oddly prophetic. Go back and read it. It’s fucked up. I spent all week horsewhipping Drew Stanton before I finally laid it all out and purged my strange and terrible soul of all the bilious rage that had been brewing in there for the past several years. I nailed Drew Stanton to the cross and made him die for the sins of the Detroit Lions over the past decade. I said that he was Matt Millen. I said that he was Rod Marinelli. I made him the living, breathing avatar of everything that I hated about the Detroit Lions and what they had done to my poor, battered psyche. I did this and as soon as I was done, I felt oddly better, like I had just taken a terrible yet necessary step towards acceptance and my eventual salvation as a fan.
A couple of days later, I sat down to write about the Lions game against the Buccaneers and I felt surprisingly upbeat. Something had changed inside of me. I’m still not sure what it is. My prediction piece was ugly and bloodthirsty, vicious and terrible and in the end, I whipped my nuts out and slammed them on the table and predicted a Lions victory. It was the height of hubris, it was embarrassingly delusional and yet, I felt confident enough to stick with it. Even in my heart, which often betrays me just before kick-off, I still felt that confidence. Fuck everyone, we were going to do this thing. I had come to terms with Drew Stanton and therefore with the horrors of the past decade and I was ready to move on. And, then, it actually happened.
Yes, for once, Fate smiled upon me, nodded its head and granted me my freedom. Of course it happened this way. I had to die as a fan before I could be resurrected. I had to believe in something and then have my spirit crushed before I could reap the beautiful rewards of Hope. This was the final crazed piece of gibberish from my preview piece:
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LIONS 17, BUCCANEERS 14. THE STREAK ENDS IN TAMPA, BECAUSE THIS IS THE WAY THINGS LIKE THIS HAPPEN – RANDOMLY AND WITHOUT REASON. THE FUTURE MAY NOT HAVE BEGUN BUT ON SUNDAY, THE PAST DIES, ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Indeed. I’m not even sure what else to say. I mean, that sort of sums it up, doesn’t it? Randomly and without reason, what I had been looking for all season long found me. It found me after I had already abandoned my search. It found me once I was willing to stop, look at the past that I had been running from as a fan for so long, and accept that it was there. The future still hasn’t arrived. It won’t until Matthew Stafford is back on the field next September and the record book shows that we are 0-0, but the past is what it is now. It’s there and that’s okay. I don’t have to be frightened of it anymore. We will never be friends, but we don’t have to try to destroy one another anymore either.
The Lions had never won a game on the road in the three years that I have been doing this. In many respects, that’s what this blog has been all about for me: chronicling the long and terrible road out of hell. There is still a long way to go, but we are on our way. We are on our way. This first road victory was a big step – a quantum leap, really – in the right direction. For all the talk about how we actually won that first game against the Bears and about how in our hearts the streak ended there, today I am struck by the hollow bitterness of that sentiment. We lost that game because in the end the scoreboard said we did. I have bitched – and will continue to bitch – about Mike Pereira and his lizard tongue and the refs stealing that game and I will spit with dumb rage whenever anyone brings up that ridiculous Completing The Process Of A Catch Rule, but really, all that did was add another layer onto our tale of woe. As much as we didn’t want it to be the same ol’ same ‘ol, in the end, it was just one more terrible reference point, one more ugly mile marker on that vicious road out of hell, one more terrible memory we could look back upon and remind ourselves of all the times we fell and were viciously mugged by Failure Demons. We hated it so much because, in the end, it was exactly the same as everything else.
Today, there are no excuses, no vitriolic rage, no pleas to higher powers, no voodoo dolls with a picture of Mike Pereira plastered on them. There is just a victory on the road - a comeback win on the road against a team fighting for a playoff spot no less - and a sense of satisfied accomplishment.
I have written often this season about how symmetrical Fate’s sense of humor seems to be. I have done so through gnashed teeth and through bitter eyes, my fingers striking the keyboard like little missiles of acid, my soul burning out of control. But today, I can’t help but feel that it is still true. Today, my Lions buried the past but they were led by a quarterback who to me is the living breathing symbol of that past. During the Lions final drive, Dick Stockton – yes, Dick Stockton, who I psychotically abused in a piece earlier this season – invoked the terrible name of Mike Pereira, and I winced, but this was followed by Stockton telling everyone that Pereira had confirmed that St. Calvin did indeed catch the ball. After a season of Pereira haunting us like some deranged vampire ghost from hell, he slithered by to give us his stamp of approval. A couple of plays later, Dave Rayner kicked the game winning field goal and it felt like everything should have felt at the end of Week 1. Fate is mischievous and symmetrical and this is the way it had to happen.
There is a lot to talk about this week. I have vowed to not talk about Ol’ Plucky again, but the narrative has kinda changed, you know? I have beaten the hell out of him and spit upon him and damned him to hell for being the symbol of the past and so I kind of have to give him the ol’ respect knucks and pat him on the back this week, don’t I? I mean, again, it is also so crazily symmetrical that it feels like this was somehow preordained and guided by some power beyond your or my comprehension. It is eerie. Of course it happened like this. Of course it happened now. It just . . . it just fits. But all the Stanton hoo-ha (Hoo-ha? What the fuck?) can be saved for later this week. For now, I just want to revel in the fact that the Lions – my Lions – went into Tampa and not only won the damn game but ruined their playoff chances in the process. My nuts are on the table and right now, I am just smiling and laughing and gesturing towards those beautiful, beautiful nuts and saying “See? See?” and the only thing anyone can do is just nod their heads admiringly and admit that yes, those are my nuts, I put them on the table to be chopped off and they are still there. They are still there, motherfucker and that’s because the Detroit Lions – The Detroit Motherfucking Lions! – came through for me. Drew Stanton came through for me. Mike Pereira and Dick Stockton came through for me. How fucking crazy is that?
I have begun to ramble (Begun? Okay, Neil, suuuuuure.) and I’m sure I have frightened away the weak-willed and ill-spirited, but fuck them. The world turned in my direction today. It turned in our direction. In the end, this game didn’t mean a damn thing and yet, it meant everything. The Lions are 4-10 and headed nowhere this season, but all the streaks are dead. The past is dead, its avatar – its slave – Drew Stanton, has had his soul redeemed and although there is still a long way to go on this terrible, ugly road out of hell, a great wall has just dropped down behind us, separating us from the past, and from now on, that past cannot harm us and the future is ours. We might fuck it up, but that will be the fault of the people who are here now and not the people who haunted us before. They are dead and they are buried behind that wall and their ghostly wails will remain alive only in the dying echoes of our memory and they will fade and they will fade and they will fade and then we will open our eyes, the sun will be shining, birds will be singing and we will be home. Matt Millen is just a name. Rod Marinelli is just a name. Drew Stanton is just a quarterback. And I am just a fan of the Detroit Lions and today, I am smiling.