Keep climbing, man. Keep climbing.
I’ll be honest with you – I still haven’t recovered from the Lions game against the Vikings. I’m still shaken by how the first half unfolded but I’m also filled with a sort of unflappable hope, a feeling that no matter what happens the Lions always have a chance to pull it off. That’s a strange feeling for most Lions fans and I think it’s going to take a little while to get used to. It’s going to be tough trying to calibrate that scale between full blown Fear and wild-eyed stupid Hope. There are going to be a lot of ridiculous mood swings, a lot of dramatic pomp and circumstance followed by a lot of wading around, covered in our own shit, howling at the moon like deranged beasts. And a lot of these mood swings are going to take place within the span of one game or one half or one quarter or, hell, one series. They certainly will take place within the span of a single post, so don’t be surprised if one minute I’m sounding the victory march and high stepping naked through streets paved with glitter and gold and the next minute I’m bellowing into a megaphone about Fear and sobbing tears of blood and chugging drain cleaner.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can start to discuss where we’re at as fans. Right now, it kind of feels like we set out to climb a big hill, like a nice sized sand dune or something and somehow found ourselves standing atop an Andean peak. I mean, holy shit, it’s amazing that we’ve climbed so far so fast, and a part of me is screaming with joy and celebrating, jumping up and down and hugging the terrified tribal guide who led me up the mountain, but there is also a part of me that realizes “Holy shit! I’m standing on top of a fucking mountain and if I take a wrong step, I’m going to fall 20,000 feet.” And then my legs get all rubbery and I hide like a coward in the snow, hanging on for dear life to the legs of that tribal guide, who’s now disgusted and just wants to kick me off the mountain and go home to his wife and his llama. It’s disorienting and vaguely terrifying, and there will be moments when I accidentally piss myself, but at the end of the day, here’s the deal: we’re standing on top of a fucking mountain, there’s a long way down, but . . . shit, we’re standing on top of a fucking mountain! And we’re standing here because we deserve it.
That’s what can’t get lost here. Amid all the “Yeah, but . . .” nervous gibbering and the epic duels with The Fear, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the Lions have now won 7 straight regular season games – the longest streak in the entire NFL – and that along the way they’ve slain a Super Bowl Champion and won more than half those games on the road. This is no fluke and anybody who says that it is simply hasn’t been paying attention. There are always going to be detractors, always going to be lazy jackasses who insist that we don’t deserve to be standing on top of this mountain but fuck them. We froze and we bled and we died a million different times during this terrible climb but now we’re here and we fucking deserve it.
But that still doesn’t quite take away The Fear, does it? I mean, it certainly helps, but as long as there is an edge left to fall off of, we’re always going to be nervous, especially when we have spent our entire lives as fans falling off edges.
I mean, let’s face it, it’s completely ridiculous but this is the first time since the end of the Carter administration that the Lions have managed to start the season 3-0. That’s fucking embarrassing, but more than that, it goes a long way towards explaining why it is almost impossible for us to trust that this will continue. No matter how much we might intellectually be able to convince ourselves that this time is different, and that the past does not rule the present, our emotional core is too battered and bruised, too beaten by year after year of failure and misery, to feel completely safe.
And that’s why it’s easy to look at the Lions going into Dallas, into Jerry Jones’ Sodom and Gomorrah of a stadium, and foresee a game filled with terrible turnovers, ridiculous injuries and a punt hitting the scoreboard and traveling backwards in time where Brain McCann will pick it up and return it for a back breaking touchdown. I get all that. I do. I’m feeling that just like a lot of you are, and I’m standing at the edge of an icy cliff, staring down into oblivion, an Incan tribesman staring at me in fear and wonder, and I can feel what were the contents of my bowels oozing down my legs. The Fear has me in its terrible hell grip and no matter what I do, I can’t quite escape. But here’s the thing, and this is the thing that we all must cling to – the Cowboys are starting a quarterback who famously wilts whenever the going gets tough. And this quarterback, Tony Romo, is playing with a broken rib, behind an offensive line that couldn’t stop the Care Bears right now, and he’s missing his top receiver, Miles Austin. And, oh yeah, he and that offensive line have the singular misfortune of having to deal with Ndamukong Suh and a defensive line filled with angry vampire apes and the Great Willie Young. Welcome to the Jungle, Baby, You’re Gonna Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie.
Ahem. Sorry. I just got a little too excited there. I told you this shit would get bipolar. But that’s the reality. Those are just the facts. Right now, there is no team in the entire league that Tony Romo and his offensive line want to face less than the Detroit Lions. Tony Romo’s ribs might be powder by the time the game is over. Ndamukong Suh might end the game by chopping those powdery remains up and then snorting them off that giant star in the middle of the field.
Yeah, the Cowboys are 2-1 but they haven’t exactly set the world on fire this season. Let’s look at those two wins, shall we? First of all, there was the game against the 49ers, in which Tony Romo was ritually disemboweled and in which the Cowboys had to stage a furious comeback. And let’s face it, the 49ers are still the 49ers and by that I mean they are the perpetually 7-9 fuck ups led by Alex Smith and not the 12-4 Joe Montana led Supermen of yore. Beating them is not much of an accomplishment, especially when you have to race from behind to do it. Okay, after that we have their win against the Redskins this past Monday night, a win that saw them score exactly ZERO touchdowns. Oh.
So, you know, maybe we should calm down a bit. Even if Tony Romo somehow does survive – or if Jon Kitna is able to somehow use the Power of Christ to, you know, not be Jon Kitna for a change – we have to remember that the Lions have an offense led by Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson who when they’re not being thrown off their game by artificial crowd noise, have been damn near unstoppable. Really, the Lions have the edge on both sides of the ball. Yeah, yeah, I know the Cowboys are considered a force defensively ever since they brought in The Dude to be their new Defensive Coordinator but I’m not quite buying it. They simply lack the horses in the defensive backfield to slow Matthew Stafford down. And hey, I get it, I know that some people are probably saying the same thing about the Lions defense, and, well, they get to say shit like that until the Lions finally shut them the hell up. Through three games this season, the Lions defense has only given up three touchdowns, which should be enough to muffle some of the bullshit gibberish but there’s an even better way to mute all that nonsense and it involves Ndamukong Suh building a new House of Spears out of Tony Romo’s rib bones.
The Lions are going to have people questioning them all season long. That’s just what happens when you spend half a century wandering in the desert being harassed by Failure Demons, flying monkeys, and Matt Millens. People are going to question you. And the only way to answer those questions is with overwhelming force. The only way to get people to shut the hell up is to make them see Tony Romo coughing up blood while Jerry Jones’ face melts off like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Give them such vivid memories that the old ones start to fade. Make them see pain. That’s it. That’s the only way this story changes.
For us, all we can do is climb. That’s it. Keep climbing and try not to look down. Try not to look back. Try to remember that the reason we were able to get so damn high so fast is because we can do this. We know how to climb now. This wasn’t an accident. We earned this shit. Because there are still mountains to climb and we’re all going to have to accept that we can do it or else we’ll all just end up sitting on our asses, crying and gibbering while our Tribal Guide shakes his head in disgust and tells us we’re going to freeze to death if we don’t move our pathetic asses. I don’t want to fall either. I’m fucking terrified. But we have to do this. We have to. We don’t have a choice.
I could keep going on with this dumb mountain climbing metaphor for a while longer but I don’t want to. I want to speak plainly for once. The Lions are a better football team than the Dallas Cowboys. That’s just the way it is. And it’s that plain truth that is the only thing that’s going to matter on Sunday. Everything else – the past, our fears, our hopes, our dreams – is just background noise. The only thing that matters is that Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Kyle VandenBosh, The Great Willie Young, Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, Louis Delmas, Eric Wright, Chris Houston, Amari Spievey, Sammie Hill and all the rest are facing a quarterback who is hurting, a shitty offensive line and an offense without its top weapon, Miles Austin. Sure, anything can happen, but the odds say that that defense will pound the shit out of that offense. That’s what having the better football team means. We’re so used to looking for some sort of trap door that’s going to open up beneath us because we haven’t been the best team for so long. Bad shit happened to us because, well, the Lions were a bad team. But now the Lions are the better team. That’s why all that weird, stupid shit has seemed to happen to the Chiefs and to the Vikings and not to us, because that’s what happens to bad teams and the good teams are there to capitalize on it and that’s what we all need to keep in mind. The Lions are a better team than the Cowboys and that means something.
Plainly speaking, the Lions are better. They just are. And, in the end, that’s all that matters. Fuck everything else. Lions win.
FIVE NO DOUBT TERRIBLE PREDICTIONS
1. Matthew Stafford will complete 28-37 passes for 310 yards and 3 touchdowns.
2. St. Calvin will catch 6 passes for 90 yards and 1 touchdown. Someone else will lead the team in catches, though, depending on whatever weakness in the defense Stafford figures out how to exploit. This could be Nate Burleson or it could be Brandon Pettigrew again. Or maybe it will be Jahvid Best or Titus Young or Tony Scheffler or . . . this is why the Cowboys won’t be able to stop the Lions offense.
3. Jahvid Best will rebound a bit from last week, running for 70 yards on 18 carries. He’ll catch 6 passes for another 70 yards. He’ll score 2 touchdowns total.
4. Tony Romo won’t last the whole game. He’ll complete 12 of 20 passes for 115 yards before Ndaumkong Suh plays his ribcage like a xylophone. Jon Kitna will come in and spend the rest of the game in silent prayer while Cowboys Stadium is pillaged by the Lions defense.
5. Martin Mayhew will take Jerry Jones out after the game for drinks and when Jerry wakes up the next day in a seedy motel room surrounded by transvestite hookers, he will be forced to buy Mayhew’s silence by giving him a handful of draft picks in exchange for a bag of old balls (not a euphemism for Jerry’s scrotum, I swear) and a Rod Marinelli instructional videotape on the importance of pad level. Incidentally, this is also the way that Mayhew managed to swindle Jones in the Roy Williams deal. I mean, it’s the only thing I can think of, you know? I guess there is always the possibility that Jones is just a dumb huckster hayseed whose singular talent is squeezing money out of other hayseeds, but . . . naaaaah.
Predicted Final Score: Lions 28, Cowboys 20