Every year, the NFL draft rolls around and everyone and their mother and their mother’s hair-stylist and their mother’s hair-stylist’s boyfriend and their mother’s hair stylist’s boyfriend’s dog and their mother’s hair stylist’s boyfriend’s dog’s fleas have an opinion about what their favorite team should do. And then the team goes out and does something completely different and everyone freaks out and starts gibbering about the sky falling and about how their team is run by slackjawed imbeciles with assholes for brains and brains for assholes. This always happens. Always. And so it should come as no surprise that it has happened again this year.
Yes, following a draft which most national experts labeled a resounding success, Lions fans have descended into chaotic hooting and poop flinging amongst themselves. Why? Well, I just told you why. Because that’s just what happens. It doesn’t matter who the team picked or didn’t pick, someone was going to be unhappy. And so it goes.
I get it, though. I do. I just don’t agree. That’s one of the reasons I went silent in the weeks leading up to the draft. I’ve done all this before. We all have. We all took a look at the Lions roster, decided where the biggest holes were and then our brains naturally began to fill those holes with players we thought would be available in the draft. It’s just the way these things go. I knew this and I decided this year to not get all wrapped up in the insanity of it all. I decided to put my trust in our decision makers, in Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz. That is an alien feeling for a Lions fan. Really, it’s an astounding act of faith when you consider our collective past, which lies somewhere between Dresden and Hiroshima on the disaster scale. But to hell with all that. At some point, you have to take a deep breath and say “Okay, I’m going all in here,” and that’s what I’ve done with the current regime.
This isn’t blind faith, though, driven by some desperate need for redemption. Mostly anyway. I mean, I’m not going to lie. There is some of that present. I am desperate. I do want to believe that things are on the right track so badly that the possibility for delusion is not only constantly present but also incredibly likely. The good news, I think, and the one thing that’s going to see me through this complex maze of delusion and hope is that I recognize all of this. I am self-aware enough to know what is happening and why. This is all still the fallout from 0-16 and I doubt that’s ever going to completely go away. But like I said, the important thing here is that I am aware of all this and therefore I am always checking myself, asking myself if I am giving into senseless cheerleading or if I have a rational reason for seeing things the way that I do.
It seems kind of odd that I am even in that position, since pretty much everybody reading this knows that I am not exactly a fountain of pure sunshine. I spent countless words absolutely brutalizing Rod Marinelli back in the days when he was the Next Great Hope and I have spent large chunks of the last couple of seasons hammering away at the coaches, nitpicking over game day decisions and bemoaning the slow, frustrating pace of our glacial progress. I’ve done all that. But even that doom and gloom was reasoned. I always tried to weed out all the bullshit, all the SAME OL’ LIONS AMIRITE horseshit that is so incredibly irritating and tried to be honest about things, both with you and with myself. Even while I bitched about decisions to go for it on fourth down or not to go for it, I also kept true to a larger theme, which is that this was all heading in the right direction. And I did this because I genuinely believed it.
One of the key themes that I have hit over and over and over again on this blog is that tendency most of us have to either become senseless cheerleaders or to wallow in abject misery. I have built whole posts around it. I have used Jeff Backus as a tent pole around whom the whole issue could be framed. So, yeah, this is an issue to which I have devoted considerable thought. And so, in the wake of a draft in which the key shit flinging phrases seem to be “You’re behaving like a cheerleader” and “You’re just wallowing in the old misery”, I feel like I have a particular understanding of this issue that goes beyond what a lot of Lions fans have. Forgive me if that sounds arrogant, but, well, it’s kind of true.
Basically, that’s what this schism comes down to – that battle between senseless optimism and craven cynicism, a battle which most of us are always fighting even within ourselves. It happens all the time and this latest flare up about the draft is merely the latest battle ground in that never ending war. It is a whole separate issue from the draft. The particulars of the draft are just being used as ammo in that war and frankly, I’m tired of it. It just never ends. And it’s not like any of us are ever going to convince any of the rest of us to think differently. The senseless optimism will go on and so will the craven cynicism, both stupid and irritating in their own way, which oddly enough is kind of the same way. They both are miserable and stupid because they are both rooted in sheer mindlessness. They are both products of desperate fear and despair and they will both be with us in some form or another for as long as we call ourselves fans of the Detroit Lions. It’s just the way it is. We can thank our past for that.
But it’s a battle I’m tired of fighting and so if anyone wants to call me a senseless cheerleader or a craven cynic at any point in the near or not so near future, I really don’t give a fuck. We’re all senseless cheerleaders and craven cynics because that’s what being a fan means. And what this blog is all about is about dealing with the wild mood swings and strange and terrible confusion caused by such a fucked up duality. This blog is not about analysis. It’s not about sober and reasonable responses to what happens on the field or during the draft or anything like that. It’s about trying to lasso the ephemeral, about finding the rhythm that lies at the heart of our own fandom and then dancing to that rhythm the best that we can, no matter how erratic or wild or fast or slow or joyful or miserable it gets. Sober analysis is often dishonest, its dispassionate reason false and useless, because it obscures the very thing that is the beating heart of fandom: that this is all wild and stupid and childish and that’s exactly why we love it.
I’ll have more about the draft itself soon, as this blog reawakens and the football fire grows within me once again, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is not the Associated Press, and I am not a journalist. I am a fan and I don’t do well with conforming to rules. I don’t like behaving like a grownup – or at least the grotesque parody of a grownup that most people think is actual grownup behavior – and I especially can’t stand following rules when it comes to how I discuss something so basic and free from responsibility as football. I am a sledgehammer of feeling, and what I do is take that sledgehammer and I swing it down through an atmosphere of reason and when it hits, it becomes something wholly unique, pure feeling guided by reason. It is oxymoronic and exceedingly strange but it’s also the truest thing I can do, both for myself as a fan and for all of you.
I only write this now so I don’t have to write it again and again. File this away in your memory banks and let it serve as your guide for everything else that I write about the Lions. I want to write about the draft and about football and that’s exactly what I’m gonna do, without all this bullshit getting in the way every damn time. This post is a necessary evil. I am tired of all this meta-analysis, which has sprung up to fill the void left by actual football. I don’t want to have to keep explaining myself or where I’m coming from or why I think the way I do. I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly tipping my cap to the Lords of Dispassionate Reason. I don’t want to have to constantly argue about why I feel like I’m right and why I think that you’re wrong. That’s just so . . . so . . . Messageboardy, you know? I hate that shit and all it will do is make me not want to write anymore. I am what I am, I am who I am and you can either take it or leave it. I am a football fan first, a football fan second, and a football fan third. I have no responsibilities here other than to that fandom. I feel like maybe, like . . . I have gotten sucked into the whole vortex of damned inanity which is general sports fandom as it exists on sports talk radio and on the internet. I read so much of it, rather through other blogs or through twitter, that when I sit down to write about the Lions, I feel like I have to start arguing with all those random voices that annoy me so damn much instead of just writing about what I want to write about. Fuck that. It has sapped all my enthusiasm and so I just don’t want to do it anymore. I am not like the others. Understand that. More than anything else, understand that.
I don’t know how it happened or when it happened, but it happened. I think that’s one of the reasons my writing about the Lions slowed to a crawl. It’s not the only reason, but it’s a reason. At some point, everything I wrote felt like it was just another voice in a larger swirling storm of dumb voices, hollering back and forth without reason or meaning. And I’m fully aware of how obnoxious this post is, how self-absorbed and meaningless it is to all of you, but I don’t really give a shit. This is for me. This is me laying all of this shit out so that I can cleanse my Lions fan soul and get back to being, well, me. I didn’t really intend for this post to go this way, but, well, this is just what ended up happening. And it’s happened because it’s what needed to happen. Maybe I will delete this all before I publish it. I don’t know. This is all vaguely embarrassing, but what the hell . . . I have always prided myself on letting you all see the inner workings of this frightening thing I call a mind. I have my mysteries, but that is not one of them. In order for me to be me, there can be no illusions about where I’m coming from. That’s the only way this thing works and I think I needed to remind both myself and you of that. I’m a fan, a quirky, occasionally fucked up fan, and if you’re still reading this, thanks. If not, well, hey, I understand (although I’m not sure who I’m talking to if you’re not reading this which raises a sort of existential dilemma and . . . HELP ME WILLIE YOUNG). But I’ve become too self-aware and it has sort of crippled me, I’m afraid. The only way forward is through the blitzkrieg nature of my own unique mind. I’ve been writing now for over an hour. I used to be able to knock something this size out in twenty minutes. That’s no exaggeration. When I am on, I’m really, really fucking on and I fear I haven’t been on in a while. Burn out? Maybe. But burn out and self-awareness and every other buzzword I’ve used in this post are probably the same thing. I’m a freak of nature, and freaks of nature don’t give a fuck about any of this shit. They just let the Passion or the Spirit or the Madness or whatever you want to call it flow through them and that’s what I need to get back to and starting now, at the end of this sentence, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.