A couple of weeks ago, we were all collectively frozen in Carbonite, awaiting the end of the lockout, with nothing football related to really talk about. The last thing I wrote about the Lions was about Johnny Culbreath, their 7th round draft pick this year and then I went radio silent, not because I was slacking off (well, okay, I kinda was) but because there was nothing to talk about. In lieu of Lions talk, you got a month straight of insane gibberish about squidmen and mental hospitals and other weird shit, but that’s just the way it is in these strange and terrible times, I’m afraid. Just count yourself lucky that I restrained myself from doing something epically weird like rewriting Romeo & Juliet with Roger Goodell as Romeo and DeMaurice Smith as Juliet, and with that ratty fiend Mike Pereira as Mercutio.
But anyway, the lockout is finally – mercifully - over and as soon as it ended, the football loving world went from looking like an idyllic Italian villa in wine country, all tired and sleepy, to a scene from a movie about rabid zombies, all snarling at the gates, demanding blood and brains and anything they could get their hands on. It was crazy. People were breathlessly tweeting reports about where some backup fullback from Dipshit State (a small school in Alabama) was going to sign as an undrafted free agent. People were arguing about nameless practice squad tight ends, ready to fight duels for his honor and for the supremacy of their argument. Kevin Kolb was given the gross national product of Luxembourg to come throw balls at Larry Fitzgerald. Plaxico Burress escaped from prison and was given asylum by Rex Ryan who spent last night on his roof shooting at cops and bounty hunters all because Plax has big hands and size that, if you listen to every asshole yammering on ESPN, you can’t teach.
It’s been a wild week, full of noise and crazed fury, and I guess we should have seen this coming. The quiet apathy of the last few months was not so much apathy as the absence of a spark. People spent those quiet months just building up kindling and staring forlornly at the pile of dry wood just waiting to catch fire, and they kept building and building and building, and then a spark flew in, the kindling caught fire, everyone tore off their clothes, hooted and screamed, and danced like wild pagans around the fire. The NFL has made all of its fans crazy.
This is not a criticism. I have been caught up in this tidal wave of hysteria too. (Hey, look, the metaphor just changed!) But instead of adding to it, I decided to just let it wash over me. I figured once it had passed, I could sit down and try to process what the fuck just happened, but then the Lions started signing people like Stephen Tulloch and pretty soon I found myself tossing my own little buckets of water at the tidal wave, and, hey, fuck it, you know?
This has been doubly insane for Lions fans because not only are we all trying to fit five or six months worth of fan hysteria into a week but because the Lions actually look . . . good? Yes. Indeed. The moment we have all been waiting for so long seems like it has finally arrived and frankly, I’m not sure how to process it yet.
Sure, sure, there are still some areas of concern – the offensive line is still the offensive line, we’re not sure if Matthew Stafford’s visit to the Wizard to obtain a new body will pay off, and the secondary still has a couple of questions – but those concerns are shockingly tiny compared to the sorts of things we are used to worrying about. Usually, our concerns are things like “Well, shit, I sure hope that homeless bum can cover Greg Jennings after he puts down that bowl of free soup we used to lure him into the stadium” or “I sure wish we didn’t trade Ernie Sims because we were really counting on his pet monkey to provide run support at middle linebacker.” It’s the difference between constantly wondering if the house is on fire to wondering if the throw rug in the living room properly accents the coloring of the sofa.
I keep looking around, hunting for weaknesses, for areas that will make me panic and hyperventilate into a paper bag before shitting in that same bag and throwing it at passing cars as a way of displacing my fear and rage, but the only ones that I’m seeing are those same ordinary weaknesses that other, normal, fans of successful teams have to worry about. It’s disorienting and strange and I’m still not quite sure how to handle it. At this point, I am like that recently released convict who’s always asking permission to take a piss, not quite understanding or accepting that I am a free man and I can piss whenever I want. (I almost made a “Freed slave” analogy, but I decided that would be going a little too far, even for me. It may not sound that bad, but trust me, it would have gone in an uncomfortable direction and I will not let be it said that I lack self-awareness.)
So . . . yeah, I’m not sure what to do right now, or how to think or what to feel. All I want to do is sit back and enjoy it. Is that so wrong? I don’t want to pick every little thing apart and pick at scabs until they’re bleeding all over the place and the only thing thinning the blood is our own tears. I just don’t want to do that. There is a familiarity in that which is perversely comforting, like a slave (fuck it, I’m going there anyway) returning to work for his old master after being freed because the rest of the world seems strange and terrifying and at least his old master will let him have his old bed and his old routine. At some point, you get beat up so much that there is a sort of comfort inherent in the pain. It’s weird and it doesn’t quite make sense but it’s true. I could write about that sort of shit with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back, typing with only my dick and with the dark symphony playing in my head as the only thing to guide me. I could do that all day, every day. Because that’s what familiar (not the typing with my dick part, which would probably at least double the amount of time it takes me to write one of these infernal things, although I have been practicing) and what’s familiar is comforting, even when it’s awful and terrible and ugly and even when it’s something that you hate.
It takes courage to seize the idea of hope and even more courage to actually allow yourself to believe in it. That’s what I’ve chosen to do and while this may end up having consequences which manage to be both tragic and hilarious, this is the road that I’ve chosen and if I get hurt because of this, hey, what the hell, I’ve already swam the River Styx and I have already had red hot pokers shoved up my ass by the Failure Demons. I’ve seen 0-16. What else can they do to the football fan in me? (I know, I know, famous last words, right?)
But, like I said, it’s disorienting. It’s gonna take me a while to get my bearings in this new world. It is bright and my eyes haven’t quite adjusted and instead of Failure Demons, there are people smiling at me and patting me on the back. All I can do is take one step forward and then another, and then another, and then another, and then . . . you get the point.
Right now, I don’t want to make any promises like I did last season, no “I’m going to write and post something every day” vows because, honestly, that shit wears at me and the whole thing starts to feel like a chore. Last season whipped my ass, but I think it was because I sorta whipped my own ass if that makes any sense. I am at my best when I can just sit down on a whim and bang something out when the spirit moves me. The good news is that this happens a lot, enough so that vows and promises are essentially meaningless. There is a good chance that I’ll end up writing as much as I did last season, so don’t worry about there not being stuff from me to read. It’s just that if I miss a day, I miss a day, you know? It’s no big deal.
I’m going to start pushing forward very soon, digging through this new roster, leaving offerings at the altar of The Great Willie Young, and before any of us know what’s happening there will be football being played and I will be writing about all of it and we will become accustomed to this new world together, as friends and compatriots. So join me on this new ride, this rollercoaster that began in hell and is rising up, up, up towards paradise. We’ll throw our hands up and we’ll scream and maybe shit our pants and we’ll laugh and we’ll stare wide eyed when we reach the top and we’ll survey the rest of the world and together, we’ll be kings.