Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Minute To Midnight

It’s March and there are only two things to really talk about when it comes to the Lions and the NFL: the upcoming draft and the league’s interminable labor issues. I don’t want to really talk about the draft until after it’s over because there is a ton of dumb noise about it out there and really it’s all meaningless until after the fact. Draft coverage and prognostication has become its own nerd industry and each year it has grown and grown and grown until finally, this year it just feels like a massive storm of absurd noise and I don’t really want to add my own senseless braying to that cacophony of buffoonery. That’s not to say that I don’t follow it – I do, the same way I slavishly follow all the bullshit peddled by the NFL factory throughout the year and of course it is sometimes interesting and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get caught up in it from time to time, but really I’m just kind of sick of everyone trying to play amateur scout. Opinions are awesome and I like the nakedly enthusiastic opining of a fan, and I dig what Ty does over at The Lions in Winter. He accumulates information and then assembles it into something coherent and interesting. If more people were like that, I would be more inclined to join the discussion, but I don’t really want to get swept up into a debate with a bunch of nerdy faux robots who approach everything like they’re desperately trying to impress the junior scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I mean, let’s face it, most football blogs – most sports blogs – are horrible things, absurd wastes of time which just parrot one another, written by people who have no appreciation for the art of writing. And since they are incapable of writing they fall back on playing amateur scout and firing off bland, stale opinions recycled from the braying jackasses on ESPN. It’s boring and it’s noisy and it’s worthless and it makes me actively not want to discuss certain things because by the time I get around to feeling like I have something worthwhile to say about the subject, the subject has already been beaten to death and then dragged around town behind a gunslinger’s horse while all the townspeople fire guns in the air and whoop and holler and ready the pine box. When I sit down to write something about actual football this time of year it sort of feels like I’m just a degenerate vulture, desperate to pick the bones of a long dead corpse.

In the past I have remedied this by delving into the drafts of yore and mining them for relevant information. I have broken down an entire decade’s worth of draft classes in an attempt to see how things went horribly, horribly wrong. I have discussed the many, many terrible busts who have caused us so many tears and I have even discussed those precious few Lions draftees who turned out to be pleasant surprises. I have done all of this which means that now I have nothing left to do but . . . this. This horrible, horrible bitchy post.

So . . . yeah, I guess that leaves draft coverage out. But that just means that all that’s left to talk about is labor issues, and, uh, I’d rather set myself on fire and then jump naked out of a plane into a garden filled with cacti and scorpions with giant talking Matt Millen heads than do that. I’ve already said my piece on the labor issues and I don’t want to beat that horse to death and then get caught defiling that poor horse’s corpse while all of you look on, horrified and ashamed.

And so . . . what then? I don’t know. You’ve got me. Maybe I should start taking requests. I don’t really feel like doing a Willie Young thing because, honestly? I feel like I have played that one to the bone. Maybe I will drag it out of mothballs every now and again, but I think I either need to just let it rest or reinvent the whole damn thing. Some of you are probably disappointed and just as many of you are probably saying to yourself “Finally!” I don’t blame you if you feel this way. That shit was weird and had no merit whatsoever beyond making me laugh, which, I’ll be honest, is my chief motivation when it comes to half the stuff I write.

Of course, this means that I will have to come up with something new and ridiculous to write about and I’m sure I will soon, but right now, I just don’t know. And as a result, you get this garbage, this nauseatingly meta bullshit which has become more and more the norm from me here. But that’s what happens in the great vacuum of February/March. In a couple of weeks, the draft will have taken place and then I will have a bunch of new players to talk about. Let’s not forget that this time last year, the Lions drafted a prince by the name of The Great Willie Young, so . . . yeah, I can find inspiration in the strangest of places, in the small cracks where no one else looks, like 7th round draft picks. But there has to actually be, you know, small cracks to look into. Right now, there’s just . . . nothing. It’s either rant and rave about how the left tackle from Bumfuck U has arms that are too short to warrant a first round pick or wag my e-finger at Roger Goodell some more.

I had no idea what I was going to write about when I sat down to do this and a thousand words later, I still don’t. This post is useless and absurd and has no meaning other than to explain a few of the inner workings of my own weird, fractured mind. It hasn’t been interesting, it hasn’t been funny and I sort of feel like a man just vomiting up drivel, horrified that he can’t stop it. Because I didn’t know what to write about, I decided to sit down and just write and see where I ended up. Sometimes, that serves me well and I end up twisting things in a fun and interesting direction, like a guitar soloist just fucking around until he hits on something electric and beautiful and then wrestles with it until he has tamed it and made it his own. And sometimes you get . . . this. Whatever this is anyway.

I suppose I’m glad that I got some of the bitching out of my system. I didn’t mean to shit on anybody and if you’re feeling offended or worried that I was talking about you when I was spitting venom at amateur scouts, don’t be. I am just a horse’s ass. Fuck me. Do what you do and don’t feel bad about it. I just want people to be honest and cut the bullshit. I think that’s probably the one thing everyone who writes here for Armchair Linebacker is proud of. There’s no pretense here, just brutal truth bombs. Sure, sometimes it might not be the truth but it is always our truth. We don’t write shit we think other people want to hear. We just write what we want to hear, what we hear in our own hearts. We are translators of our own diseased and fucked up minds. Some days we are poet kings and other days we are absurd fools, shitting on ourselves shamefully. Today, I just happen to be shitting on myself. So be it.

Trust me, I really want to write something interesting about the Lions instead of this senseless drivel. I do. More than you know. I am restless and I am hungry for something – anything – that I can tear into like a, well, like a lion. It’s just that all the stories that are there now – all the angles, all the themes – are stale as hell. I have beaten this shit to death over the last few years and the only way forward is, well, forward. Burn the past. Burn those terrible boats that brought us to this strange shore. Burn them and then stand there and watch them burn. Watch the only thing familiar go up in flames so that you have no choice but to move forward. And then when it’s gone, set your jaw, stare at the far horizon and roar at the future, strange as it may seem. I will live or die with the Detroit Lions of today and tomorrow, not the Detroit Lions of the past.

That will be both more easy than it sounds and more difficult. It should be easy to leave such a rancid past behind but there is also a strange sort of comfort in it. There are no expectations in that past, nothing but a numbed sort of acceptance of misery. You don’t have to worry about failure when failure is your default state. And for me, personally, there is comfort in the familiarity of that past. It is a readymade storyline, something to draw upon whenever I need something to write about. The themes are familiar – haunting and terrible, but familiar – and I am so familiar with them that I can call upon them almost at will and dance with them and play with them and produce something gorgeous or profound. That is not bragging. I know it sounds like it, but it’s really actually quite sad. I am so familiar with the pain of the past, so in tune with it, that I can interpret it like no one else can. I am a mouthpiece of the Failure Demons.

And so leaving all of that behind is not only exhilarating, it’s a little bit scary. Both as a fan and for me, personally, as a writer. From now on, everything is new and unfamiliar. I have nothing to draw upon but the immediacy of my own experiences as a fan. There will be no time to put things in context. Something will happen and then I will write about it, using only my own muddled feelings and confused mental state as my guide map. I don’t know this story. Not yet. I am excited as hell to write about it, both because it’s something new and interesting and because it’s something that will hopefully challenge me as a writer.

It is the height of egotism to declare that I am the voice of Lions fandom and yet that is how I approach all of this. Beneath all the weird bullshit, that is the beating heart of what I do here. I take it upon myself to translate the story, to explain the themes, to let everyone know what it feels like to be a Lions fan, what it means, what it is. Like I said, that is incredibly egotistical, but that’s the only way I know how to do this. That’s what I bring to the table. I am not someone who is going to break down stats – although I sometimes do this if only to provide a construct for my own unique brand of bullshit – and I’m not a news guy. I’m the voice of the damned crying out in the wilderness for comfort and understanding.

That is all completely ridiculous and utterly absurd and I sound like a complete jackass right now. I understand this, but it’s the only way I know how to do this. And now that the story has changed, I have to be able to keep up with it while it evolves. I can’t get stuck repeating the same dull themes, the same extinct ideas which are fossilized and stuck in a past to which no one can ever return. If I do that, I just become an archeologist or a paleontologist (By the way, when I was 4, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told them I wanted to be a paleontologist. They were expecting me to say a policeman or a fireman or some lame shit like that, but I suppose that even at that age I was anti-authority, and besides I loved dinosaurs and so paleontology was where it was AT.) I would cease to be relevant as a Lions writer. And yeah, yeah, I understand that the phrase “relevant as a Lions writer” is in itself laughable and worthy of scorn and derision, but fuck it, you know what I mean.

The point to all this ridiculous self-serving gibberish is that if I want to survive as a writer and chronicler of the peculiar condition that is Lions fandom, then I have to keep moving forward. That’s why there haven’t been any season reviews or anything like that from me. I’m waiting and I’m watching and I’ll be ready when the story starts anew. It’s just that, right now, it’s just sort of sitting there, hanging in some weird purgatory, which means that this is where we are too – hanging in some weird purgatory, waiting for the gates of paradise to swing open and let us run inside.

I know this whole thing has come off as egotistical, self-serving and overly serious and I don’t really like that, but it’s something that I feel needed to be said. When I say that I want to stay relevant as a writer, even I cringe at that shit. I am just a jackass braying on the net like everyone else. There is nothing really all that relevant here and I don’t want anyone to think that I take myself or any of this shit too seriously. When I say that, I mean it within its proper context, and by that I mean that everything I just wrote is how I remain relevant as a writer to myself. I know in the grand scheme of things that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to anything or anyone, but these are things inside of me that I need to say and the only way I can say them is if I have some sort of compass guiding me, or in other words, some sort of self-relevancy. I know I’m not explaining this well at all, and I don’t blame you if you are confused or annoyed right now. All this Voice of the Lions Fan bullshit is just that – bullshit. It’s just that this is how I feel like I must approach things in order to not get sucked under the massive rancid pool of dirty shit-water that is both Lions fandom and my own tendency to go wild when I write. It’s a focus point. That’s all. Besides, anyone who thinks that I take this shit too seriously really, really hasn’t been paying attention.

Goddamn. I ended up getting 2,500 words out of nothing here which – even for me – is both impressive and utterly ridiculous. Anyway, I’m beyond excited for the season – or at least the preseason and by that I mean the post draft world – to start. Because that’s when the new story starts and that’s when all sorts of new themes and ideas will emerge, like brand new notes on the first morning of the world, just waiting to be harnessed and played. I know, I know, I’m getting ridiculous again, but that’s how I feel. I’m excited as both a fan and a writer. I can’t wait to feel all these new feelings and I can’t wait to attempt to describe them. And yes, I know that I am just setting myself up for something both monstrous and comical, a gigantic letdown that could completely crush my fan spirit, but to hell with all that cynical bullshit. It is 11:59 PM. It is one minute to midnight and the start of a brand new day and a brand new world and I am excited. I just can’t wait for it to get here and right now that one minute feels like it is taking one year.

In that sense, maybe that is actually the most powerful thing I could have written about the NFL’s labor issues without actually writing about them if that makes any sense at all. It’s one minute to midnight and if those motherfuckers stretch that one minute out any further than it already is, then I might go completely insane and I have no idea what kind of weird and terrible shit I will come up with in the absence of the world that I have been waiting for all this time. Because in some ways, this new season, this new world, is something that I have been waiting all of my life as a fan for. This is my time. This is our time, the dawn of a brand new and glorious day, filled with brand new colors, brighter and more brilliant than any we have seen before, alive with sounds and smells and sensations that will leave us breathless and stupid, our own dumb grins keeping us company as we wander and explore our new world. And fuck anyone who tries to take that away from us. It’s one minute to midnight and I can see the future. It’s almost here. Almost, almost, almost . . .

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