Monday, August 29, 2011
NFL ACLB PREVIEWS - #15: DETROIT LIONS
PERTINENT DATA: 6-10 last year; 30 to 1 odds to win Super Bowl XLVI.
BEST CASE SCENARIO (Neil): Look, I can’t do this. Well, I mean I could but I would need about 11 billion words and my brain would have to fold over on itself a couple trillion times like steel being folded over to make a Samurai sword like those ancient Japanese metallurgists used to do and . . . you see, I’ve already begun to ramble. I can’t coherently discuss the Lions best case scenario because even thinking about it fills my head with a blinding white light and there is someone screaming excitedly in what sounds like Sanskrit or Aramaic and so, sad as it may be, I can’t do this. I can’t handle it. I just watched the Lions kick the shit out of Tom Brady and the Patriots and although that was a meaningless preseason game, watching Tom Brady shit his pants sure as hell felt meaningful, and it left me with a sort of giddy delirium. My brain has gone haywire and all that’s left is that aforementioned blinding white light and a sense that the impossible, the absurd, might finally at least be possible, which in turn calls into question the very meaning and order of the fabric of the universe, like I might wake up tomorrow and the whole world will be rendered in plaid (without the aid of mushrooms no less), my neighbor will be a giant chicken who speaks fluent French and has dicks for arms and light will be dark, cats and dogs will be living together, and I’ll be eaten by a Nazi werewolf wearing a beret who speaks in weird rhymes and doesn’t wear pants. In the face of that, I cannot in good conscience discuss the Lions best case scenario. I fear that it will warp me in ways that cannot ever be fixed, in ways that are incomprehensible and strange. It is simply too fragile, too precious to me, like a portrait of an angel shimmering in the sun on a surface of a lake. The tiniest ripple will warp it, distort it, shatter it and leaving me gibbering to myself on the shore, weeping like a mental patient, and then all that will be left for me to do is to go home, shave my head, stick a banana up my ass and speak in tongues until I pass out, naked and alone, and dream of monkeys and gods and monkey gods. So all I’ll say is that the best case scenario is beautiful and right now it exists as sort of a madman’s dream, flitting through the cosmos, there in a nanosecond, gone in a whisper, and as a madman, I both adore it utterly and fear it completely.
WORST CASE SCENARIO (Raven): I've always liked the Lions, and reading Neil's words over the years has given me an empathy for Lions fans that is unlike anything I've ever felt for a football team. But as an outsider, I can state what is obvious to everybody else - this team is snake-bitten. And I'm not even talking about Matt Stafford's cobbled shoulders in particular, or Nick Fairley's injury just when it looked like the most doomsome twosome ever in the middle of a defensive line was about to be born. I am speaking in a general overall sense, of a team that had Barry Sanders, who was probably the most exciting player of my 30 years watching football, easily the greatest RB of the past 40 years (maybe Walter Payton can be included in that conversation, though I hate "Sweetness" and think he was a hypocritical shit; and don't even try to say Emmitt Smith belongs in that conversation, even for a second), and all they got out of his presence was a couple of wild card wins? Not even a sniff of a Super Bowl? Look at Detroit itself, an abandoned scarred remnant of a glorious city. If you were to randomly stuff 100 art school photography students into a room and ask them what city they'd like to go do a pictorial project on the decline of America, 92 of them would say Detroit. It's a town built on a dying industry, using dead business models. It's a team owned by the family that built their fortune off of these aged industrial practices that no longer translate completely to the one world government global market. It's a dying city, and not a great fertile ground for success stories. That's what makes the Lions so depressing. This 2011 team has two potential Barry Sanderses at their position in Calvin Johnson and Ndukamong Suh. And yet this is a team that last year only went 6-10. This is a team not excited to contend for a Super Bowl, but contend to make .500 again. This is a team that's soul was crushed by the NFL's only 0-16 season, ever. This is a team that is counting on all those internal demons to just magically disappear, and is also counting on those little demons not to eat their way into Matthew Stafford's doomed shoulders again, and is counting on those little demons to be content with Nick Fairley's foot, and is pretending that it was Matt Millen's fault, not the internal demons cultivated by the dark industrial exploitative history of the Ford family itself, and cultivated by the drug-addled despair along desolate burned out blocks of Detroit's streets - more asphalt jungle than any place in America since the south Bronx in the late '70s. It is counting on all these things to work out perfectly, for the first time ever, contrary to all historical trends, and that makes them hopeful they might actually still be in the hunt for a wild card come Christmas Day. The Lions are basically the sports franchise equivalent of that guy sitting there with a lottery ticket in his pocket, sure that all five numbers plus the powerball are gonna hit, already planning on quitting his job and buying his sad, crippled mother a new home, away from the despair and death and desolate decline that is Detroit. But you can't escape what you are, no matter how hard you try.
PLAYER TO PULL FOR (Neil): I could cheat and say all of them, but I won’t do that because I’m a responsible man. My natural inclination is to say The Great Willie Young and direct you to that tag on the side of the page labeled, naturally, Willie Young. Read all that and you’ll probably need a priest and a cigarette and you will spend the next five years of your life eating nothing but applesauce and preaching on street corners. But following yesterday’s game, I can’t in good conscience pick anyone by the Lord of the House of Spears, The Great Ndamukong Suh, who I suspect will be my favorite athlete of all time before all is said and done. I could go into ridiculous detail about why this is true, but I’ll just let something my man Suh said after the shitkicking of the Patriots sum things up: “Last year, we gained respect. This year, we want fear.” Indeed.
PLAYER TO HATE MOST (Raven): I tried really hard to find somebody to hate, but couldn't, going through the full roster three or four times. Finally, I decided to go with Eric Wright, because if this monstrous Lions defense has an Achilles heel, it's the secondary. And Eric Wright was a high-priced free agent who probably won't help that situation. Also, he is named Eric Wright but is not Eazy-E, which I always thought wasn't very cool. He should at least be white if he wasn't going to be Eazy-E.
BEST NAME ON TEAM: Gosder Cherilus.
IN A PERFECT WORLD (Neil): Words can’t describe it. Not even my words. It is beyond the human spectrum of emotions. I would have to reborn as some sort of shape shifting alien with 168 brains and a total understanding of both time and space to properly do this. I mean, after all, I am only a man. Allegedly.
PROGNOSIS (Raven): No worries, Lions fans, this will be another step in the right direction. It's only going to be 8-8, but you'll be back to respectable, you'll be better than both the Bears and Vikings, and the future will remain bright because all of your stars are young dudes with years left on both their potential and contracts, and you might be able to finally go ahead and throw away that commemorative 2009 paper bag mask.