I have already talked at great (oh Lord, so great . . .) length about the draft and Nick Fairley in particular and so there is really no need to rehash all of the arguments about why it was right that the Lions picked him instead of some other dude. Instead, let’s talk about Fairley, and just Fairley. Cool? Okay, cool.
Anyway, as I have already mentioned, my first reaction when the Lions drafted Fairley was shock followed by elation. I could attempt to relate these feelings to you the best I can after the fact, but instead I thought I would just transcribe what I posted on twitter in those delirious moments following the pick (note: some retweets and responses to other tweets will be mixed in here, and, well, the responses probably won’t make any damn sense without the context of the other person’s tweet, but fuck all that, since when did anything here make sense? If you really need to make sense of things, just imagine the other person’s tweet based on my response. I know I am asking you to try to follow – or worse, recreate – the logic of my strange brain, and that is undoubtedly a madman’s pursuit, but what the hell, these are strange and terrible times and they have made madmen of us all. I have faith in you.)
armchairlb (hey, that’s me!): Holy shit.
armchairlb: @iprefertheremix: This is going to be crazy either way.
armchairlb: @ElMurphzilla (there is nothing here but a blank space, which leads me to believe that I hit reply & was so crazed that I never bothered to write anything. I don’t even remember doing this, which just adds more credence to my theory that I went temporarily insane. (Temporarily??? Also, yeah, a parenthetical inside a parenthetical because hey, fuck the elements of style. I am an element of style. ) Sorry, Murph.)
jscwhartzlions (this was a retweet. From now on, whenever the first name isn’t armchairlb, just assume that it was a retweet. Also, yes, this is the twitter account of Jim Schwartz, Lions head coach and head priest of our cult of pain): Excited to add Nick Fairley to our defensive line.
theshityoucantsay: (RT) (mumbling) I trustmayhewitrustmayhewitrustmayhew
armchairlb: @ElMurphzilla: I predict an NFC North QB (Not named Stafford - covering my ass here) will be reduced to his base elements in the next yr or 2
armchairlb: @lionsinwinter: Oh Lord that would be amazing.
armchairlb: @ElMurphzilla: True. (I know, I know, scintillating, but this is an accurate record of events and it would be wrong to leave out the mundane. Just imagine whatever you want for Murph’s end of the conversation.)
Joshuaishere: (RT) Breaking news: Jay Cutler announces his retirement.
Detroit4lyfe: (RT) RT (yes, I retweeted a retweet – this shit is getting confusing)@davebirkett: Fairley bopping his head to Eminem on stage now. Lions hats all around. On NFL Network now.
armchairlb: My feelings summed up: Still need to shore up back 7 but GODDAMN.
armchairlb: @theshityoucantsay: Yeah, that was one of my first thoughts. You can't afford to double anyone on that line.
lionsinwinter: (RT) Beastly. RT @djdobbo: bah gawd Cutler has been broken in half!
armchairlb: Good God. RT @drelevy CoreyWilliams&Suh&KVB&Cliff&LoJack&Fairley&Sammie
Lions Suhperfan: (RT) Lions on the cover of NFL.com right now. "Unfair Advantage"
jimschwartzlions: (RT) We did a lot of mock scenarios and Fairley falling to us was one of our ideals, though we thought it unlikely.
armchairlb: *rips shirt off like Hulk Hogan*
armchairlb: Okay, I’ll calm down now.
armchairlb: @theshityoucantsay: I would say more of a 447 AD Huns kind of operation, but yeah. (I remember this was in response to my dude asking me if I got the feeling that the Lions were putting together an ’85 Bears sort of operation.)
My timeline picks up the next day with me gibbering on about rewriting Titus Andronicus with Titus Young in the lead role and wondering aloud who would play Aaron the Moor, so yeah, let’s just assume that my gibberish about the Huns was the last thing I wrote about the Fairley pick in the minutes and hours after it happened.
Okay. So, obviously, I - and most of the people I follow/who follow me on twitter – were pretty damn excited about the Fairley selection. There’s a lot that can be gleaned from all those tweets for anyone paying attention. Other than the fact that I am completely ridiculous, I think the most telling thing is the Schwartz tweet in which he says the following: “We did a lot of mock scenarios and Fairley falling to us was one of our ideals, though we thought it unlikely.” That tells me that this was kind of a no-brainer for Mayhew and Schwartz (And I mean no-brainer in a much, MUCH different way than I would have meant it during the Millen and Marinelli days.) This was something that they had to do and so they did it and if this were any normal fanbase, there would be much rejoicing. But we’re not a normal fanbase, and while there was much rejoicing, there was also much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth and much panicked drivel about the sky falling, but I’ve already discussed all that and you know where I stand and so I won’t hammer it too hard here. I just wanted to touch on that Jim Schwartz tweet because it shows that – at least amongst the Lions dudes in charge – this wasn’t some sort of agonizing decision. It was a gift from heaven and they took it without shameful questions and self-indulgent worry. I think we should try to do the same.
Anyway, that was that. The common theme seemed to be something along the lines of “Welcome to the Jungle, baby, you’re gonna DIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEE”, and if that song didn’t play in your heart after that pick, well then, I’m afraid that The Fear may have enslaved you. Because, honestly, when you look at Nick Fairley, and you look at the Lions defensive line, images of war dogs from hell slobbering over the bodies of their fallen enemies should pop into your head. Visions of King Kong whooping ass and beating the shit out of some cocksucker T-Rex should dance through your brain. The four horsemen of the apocalypse riding their death horses through the helpless lines of our opponents should make you smile and laugh and gibber with uncontrollable joy. The Lions defensive line was already one of the best in the league. Now it adds another blue chip talent with a mean streak, which is a lot like giving King Kong a shotgun or Godzilla a giant sword or Superman a bazooka. That shit just ain’t fair.
It is fitting that the last tweet in that string of nonsense is the one gibbering about the Lions creating an operation mirroring the Huns because, really, that’s the whole point here. My friend, who shall remain nameless because he prefers it that way but you can check out his awesome blog here, compared it to what the ’85 Bears – perhaps the most renowned and fearsome defense in NFL history – put together, but it goes beyond that really. It transcends mere football dominance and becomes something that can only be understood through references to Huns and other vicious killing machines. This may sound ridiculously hyperbolic, and, well, it is, especially when you consider that Nick Fairley has yet to play a down in the NFL, but that is the only honest way to explain the absurd level of excitement I felt after the pick, and perhaps more importantly, which I still feel.
I’m having a hard time writing about the Nick Fairley pick without degenerating into savage grunts and strange hoots. It is damn near impossible for me to keep any level of responsible coherence here, but you know what? Fuck all that. I am absurdly excited and it feels damn good. For once, I have a reason to beat my chest and stagger through the streets, covered in Honolulu Blue and tell everyone to kiss my ass, because I am a Lions fan and we are going to conquer the world. That’s what this pick means to me. It isn’t about sober football analysis or a measured reasonable reaction to just another talented rookie. It is a shot that rings out in the night, a clarion call announcing that we will be heard, and if you don’t want to hear us, we will make you hear us. It is about greatness, about reaching beyond even the most immortal of football dreams, about surpassing visions of the best defense of all time, the ’85 Bears, and reaching for something truly immortal, something new, something that nobody has ever seen before. This isn’t about matching anyone’s prior accomplishments. No, this is about creating a whole new standard, a whole new definition for utter beastliness. This is about greatness. This is about breaking all the molds, about smashing the preconceived limits. This is about creating a defensive line that even the dead will fear. Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls should play every time they get in their stance. Fuck everyone and everything else, this is about letting the long held and long denied dreams of my heart explode forth in fury and unparalleled joy.
Like I said, yeah, that is hyperbolic as all hell, but who cares? That is exactly the point. For once, we have all been given a chance to believe in something great, something that isn’t just good, but the very best of the best. This is about being able to puff up with pride whenever anyone talks about our team, about being able to smile with knowing glee 20 years from now when some shithead kid starts asking questions like “Were those Lions defensive lines really as great as everyone says they were?” This is about having that chance, that opportunity that so rarely comes along to have something better than good, to transcend mere football, mere sports, and believe in a greatness that makes us understand why we are fans in the first place. This is about that transcendent opportunity. We saw it – we had it – with Barry Sanders. There is a chance – no matter how small it may be, there is a chance – that we can have the same thing with our defensive line. We can feel the warmth in our hearts, in our guts when we see an opposing quarterback quake with fear. We can smile with pride when we hear an announcer reference the Lions and then shudder with amazement, like “Goddamn, you don’t wanna mess with those boys.” When those moments happen, they make all the pain worth it, they make you remember what is so amazing about being a fan. It’s a warm, giddy, delirious feeling and it makes you feel like you can conquer universes. The rest of the world slips away for a moment. All the bullshit that you have to put up with on a day to day basis drops away, all the tired depression melts away, and all you’re left with is that King of the World feeling, that I Can Do Anything That I Want feeling, because in some small, seemingly insignificant and absurd way, you are connected to the same awesome family, the same irresistibly dominant current that connects to something the rest of the world recognizes as great. Because you’re a fan, you’re part of something bigger than yourself, and so their dominance is your dominance. You can own that. And that’s what this pick was all about. For that chance.
And really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? There are always going to be fears, niggling thoughts eating away at the back of your brain, doubts plaguing you, wondering whether we should have done something different, terrified that it might not work out as it should, but you know what? I don’t really care about any of that. I really don’t. I’m just so happy that we have people in charge who aren’t afraid to take that chance, who are willing to reach for greatness. That’s the sort of attitude that leads to Super Bowls, that leads to dynasties. Even if they mess up once or twice, or a pick doesn’t work out, it’s okay, because they won’t stop trying for greatness. They won’t give up. They’ll keep going and going and going until their vision is fulfilled. They laugh at conventional wisdom. They make their own wisdom. And that will always – always- keep them ahead of the game. And that should fill you with a sort of quiet and everlasting confidence. This is just one piece in a giant puzzle. Nick Fairley is the avatar of that Philosophy of Greatness, which I talked about in my last post, because he represents the dedication to an ideal, to a spirit and a thirst for immortality which is rare in this world. It is rare, but it’s what’s at the heart of our favorite football franchise right now and that makes me want to rejoice.
But all that is a lot of words, a lot of strange nonsense about fandom and about how this pick made me feel. But what about Fairley himself? What, exactly, does he bring to the table? Well, according to virtually every scouting report (yeah, I read them), he’s an explosive player whose athleticism and coordination afford him rare gifts, gifts which can be used to lure a quarterback to his utter destruction. Indeed. The players Fairley gets compared to are guys like Kevin Williams and Warren Sapp and, oh yeah, a dude named Ndamukong Suh. The Suh comparison is a little unfair. I mean, after all, Suh is a once in a generation kin d of talent and if we are expecting Fairley to come in and destroy worlds like Suh, then we’re probably going to be a little disappointed. His upside is not heaven itself like it is with Suh. But that’s okay. I’ll take a dude who’s upside seems to be somewhere between Gerald McCoy, the defensive tackle who was the Robin to Suh’s Batman in last year’s draft, and Sapp, who was a perennial Pro Bowler whose pass rushing skills allowed him to construct a house made from the dried out bones of his victims. (Note: this may or may not be true. I am searching for confirmation from his contractor.)
That all sounds pretty damn good to me. Fairley has a chance to be absolutely devastating in this defense, with all that talent surrounding him on the line. Opposing offensive lines will have no choice but to single block him, meaning that he should have opportunity after opportunity to steal the souls of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and . . . *snort* Christian Ponder. I mean, opponents could choose to double him, but then, well . . . say hello to The Lord of the House of Spears, or Kyle Vandenbosch and his wild red eyes, or the jackrabbit named Cliff Avril or Corey Williams or Sammie Hill or Lawrence Jackson or . . . you get the point. And hey, who’s that creeping along the edge? The Great Willie Young? Shiiiiiiiiit. Like I said in my last delirious post, checkmate motherfucker.
Of course, as a rookie, Fairley probably won’t be an instant All-Pro like Suh. That’s not really a fair expectation for any mortal rookie. But the thing is, is he doesn’t really have to be. Not with the collection of talent the Lions have assembled along the line. All he needs to do is scare the shit out of opposing quarterbacks every once in a while and keep opposing offensive lines honest. As a rookie, that will be enough, and that alone should be fairly (Oh shit, the puns, the puns!) devastating. I mean, yeah, if he can come out and be a Conqueror of Worlds then that would be amazing, but even if he isn’t right away – and again, I’m not expecting him to be – his presence alone should free up Suh and the rest of the boys to be even scarier than they were last year. Nick Fairley doesn’t even need to make a tackle and he’s already improved what was already a scary good defensive line.
But he will make a tackle, plenty of them, and as a rookie he should still be good enough to be an impact starter. Whether he actually starts or not is another matter, but it’s not really relevant. The concept of starters when it comes to the Lions defensive line is kind of outmoded. They are a unit of interchangeable death angels and since there are so many of them, they should always be fresh and that should mean nothing but misery and pain for opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers. If Nick Fairley were drafted by 95% of the teams in the NFL he would be expected to be The Man from day one. On the Lions, he is just one of many and I don’t think you quite realize how much that should help him as he develops. He is free to let his talent speak for itself without the weight of the world constantly bearing down on him. He doesn’t have to be The Man. He just needs to be himself and that will be good enough.
Conversely, because he’s surrounded by such an array of intimidating talent, he won’t be allowed to get fat and lazy. Normally, a young hotshot player can get away with that because the team has no choice but to play him and someone will be dumb enough to throw a bunch of money at him in a couple of years. But if Fairley gets fat and lazy, the Lions just won’t play him and then he’ll end up forgotten and giving handjobs outside of his UFL locker room for spending cash. He has to show up. He’s swimming with the sharks and the only way to survive something like that is to become a shark yourself. And from all accounts, Nick Fairley is a mean motherfucking shark.
It’s the perfect situation for Fairley. It really is. He’ll be surrounded by professional assassins who can and will teach him how to hone his talents and keep his wild side in check. And he’ll be allowed to develop at a pace that isn’t suffocating because he’s not expected to be The Man – which is perfect for a dude who hasn’t even been playing the position very long. He only played at Auburn for two seasons and he was really only Nick Fairley: Death Machine in that final year. Some will fret and say that this is cause for concern, but what it shows me is that this is a supremely talented dude whose rate of progression is frighteningly meteoric. If he keeps improving at that same rate he could be even better than what people are already hoping for. Excuse me a moment, I just shuddered in ecstasy and I have to clean up after myself. Ahem. Sorry for making you picture that, but what the hell, you know what you’re getting into by now. But obviously this whole thing is getting more than a little out of hand and so we’ll wrap this up before I am found wandering naked through the streets, rubbing myself and moaning in savage pleasure.
Nick Fairley has gotten by so far because of his supreme natural talent and his notorious mean streak. He is a natural born Rottweiler. He could have been adopted by some vicious thug who would beat him and let him run stupid and wild. But he was taken in by a trainer who knows how to hone his natural abilities, who will treat him with respect and kindness, and in the end that Rottweiler named Nick Fairley will be both the best friend the Lions could ever ask for and the perfect killing machine in case anybody tries to fuck with us. He’s a young pup, and he’s already raised hell. The day will come when he is full grown and terrible to behold and when that day comes, woe to any foolish motherfucker who makes the mistake of trying to scramble past our gates.
Nick Fairley is a Detroit Lion and I am damn glad to have him, and the rest of the football world may now commence shaking in terrible fear. So let it be written, so let it be done.