Sunday, September 25, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For much of the week, I felt good about the Lions. The Fear seemed to be taking a much needed vacation, drunkenly pawing at Lady Fear on some Caribbean island, far away from me and my beloved Lions, and so when Thursday night rolled around and it came time to sit down to write my game preview, I blathered a bunch of nonsense basically summed up as Don’t Worry Be Happy. Almost as soon as I posted it, I felt a little uneasy, like I had just made some sort of colossal mistake, unwisely tempting the football gods and their terrible wrath. But I left it up there, both because most of me still believed in it and because I wasn’t about to trash it and start all over again. To hell with that. I made my choice and I stuck with it. That is where I was as a Lions fan the moment I wrote it, and that was that.

Then I woke up the next day, jingle jangled through my day, made an ass of myself 10-15 times, fought a werewolf, ate his heart, seduced Angela Lansbury and then spent several hours running from her crazed husband, naked, covered in her sweet sex, before I huddled down for the night behind a dumpster, waiting for morning when I knew they’d throw away a bunch of old shipping boxes that I could fashion into rudimentary pants. I then staggered home to watch the Michigan game. Through it all, I was struck with a vague uneasiness, which only grew and grew until it was a terrible freight train running through my strange brain, until it was no longer an uneasiness but a loud, caustic voice screaming YOU HAVE TO GO BACK YOU’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE and the whole time I knew that the voice wasn’t talking about my dalliance with Angela, but about my hubris in insisting that there was nothing to worry about against the Vikings. Yes, The Fear returned from his vacation, sunburned and pissed off and he began beating the shit out of me to make up for lost time.

There was just something strange about this game, something I didn’t like. I just felt . . . unsettled. For perspective’s sake, I felt absolutely confident heading into both the Tampa Bay game and the Chiefs game. This felt different, bad different, and if I wasn’t knee deep in Angela Lansbury and if I wasn’t forced to use the majority of my big beautiful brain to evade her vengeful husband - Lord, I can still hear the sound of his hell hounds barking as they relentlessly pursued my scent – I would have allowed that uneasiness to take shape and there’s a good chance I would have spent the weekend ranting and raving like a lunatic, gibbering for all the world to hear about my shameful case of The Fear.

Instead, I buried that son of a bitch in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, in places that would make you insane if I explained them to you – or tried, anyway. There are no words for what truly lies in those halls of madness. I pretended it wasn’t there. I told myself that I was being ridiculousness, that this was just my way of balancing out the absurdity of my preview post. But it never really went away, it just sort of grew and grew and grew until late Saturday night, I had convinced myself that the Lions were going to lose this game. I shouldn’t admit this. It feels like a betrayal of some sort, an embarrassing admission of my own weaknesses both as a fan and a man, but what the hell, my heart is an open book.

Earlier today, as I putzed about, affecting the mien of a normal, decent human being with real responsibilities (I can be extraordinarily self-disciplined when I want to, sort of like the Dalai Lama or Mike Tyson) I listened to the radio in the background (Don’t laugh, I still listen to the radio from time to time.) and just before game time, right before I shut that thing off, Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” came on and I immediately took it for an omen. The two parts of me – the eternally optimistic child of stardust and fire, who believes in Hope and Candy and Rainbows, and the Dark Lord of Fever Dreams who screams of vile Failure and gibbers wild eyed and unrestrained about werewolves and the various ways to ingest drain cleaner – immediately waged war within me, fighting over who would get to decide what the omen meant. The optimistic side said that it was an omen signaling the imminent demise of the Minnesota Vikings. Their era was at an end, the bells were tolling and it was time for a Viking funeral. Hell yes. But then that nasty, pitch black side of me began cackling, whispering the words The Fear over and over and over again and telling me that the only bells that would be tolling were the ones signaling midnight and the end of the Cinderella dreams of me and my Detroit Lions.

And then the game started and Oh Lord, do I really need to describe what happened in the first half to you? All I will say is that I saw a screaming skull peering at me from my TV, accompanied by the sound of a billion Failure Demons farting into a Vuvuzela, Dick Stockton’s devil tongue flicking lies at me in between the noxious hell blasts, and I will admit that I began to ponder the forbidden delights of an Antifreeze Smoothy. The Lions couldn’t do a damn thing offensively and the defense was slowly bleeding to death while they waited for help to arrive. By the time the Vikings scored again just before the half to make it 20-0, I had begun to get philosophical, telling myself that this was my own damn fault for getting too worked up and that this was bound to happen eventually. I wasn’t so much angry as just really, really sad. It was like I had seen the Kingdom of my Dreams finally take shape, the angry haze of the past dissolving into nothingness, clearing the way so that I could finally see The Glory, before the world turned black and that Kingdom of my Dreams melted into the Ruins of my Nightmare. It wasn’t the end of the world or anything, it was just a cruel and terrible lie, a mirage meant to trigger the fires of my heart just so they could be quenched by the cold iron hands of the Failure Demons.

It’s a depressing thought, but what the hell, I am a Lions fan. I have grown used to such things. It wasn’t so much despair, though, as it was a cruel disappointment. I wasn’t giving up. I just didn’t want this beautiful start to end. It wasn’t like I was screaming ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE. I just didn’t want this to be taken away from me yet. I didn’t want my dreams to be revealed as just that – dreams. I wanted that dream to be real. I didn’t want to accept that this was still a work in progress, that these kinds of ugly games would devour us too many times this year and that we still had to look to some sort of promised future that may or may not even exist for our salvation. No, I wanted what was here, what was now, what I could see and touch and feel in the moment. I wanted whatever this beautiful ride the start of this season has been to continue and never stop. Never. Never.

And apparently the Detroit motherfucking Lions felt the same way. The second half was a beautiful magical explosion of light and sound, the conquering roar of color exploding into a black and white world which had previously known only sadness and despair. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson said to hell with The Fear, to hell with the past, to hell with . . . everything, really, and bombed the holy hell out of the Vikings, setting fire to their mortal dreams, burning them down to ashes that just drifted away on a cold Minnesota breeze, where they’ll linger in the air, stale like rank death until they are eventually blown to their new home in Los Angeles. Yes, dudes and lady dudes, it’s possible that the Lions, led by Matthew’s Holy Shoulder and St. Calvin’s Holy Everything, not only came back and beat the Vikings but trampled their collective will – both the team’s and the fans’ – to the point that their franchise as we know it may be irrevocably destroyed. That is hyperbolic as all hell, but it could be true. The Vikings relationship with Minneapolis and its own fans could best be considered tenuous at this point. The Vikings need a new stadium built and Minneapolis is loath to give them one, and I’m guessing that shit like what went down today will only poison that relationship further. Their fans are PISSED. This may have been the final stake in Dracula’s cold, withered heart. For whom the bell tolls indeed.

But I did not come here to piss on the memory of those poor, ruined Vikings. That is just a delightful bonus. No, I came to tell everyone that I was right the first time. We can believe in the Detroit Lions, in the Kingdom of our Dreams. We can believe that things are not only better but that they are substantially . . . different. Different may not sound like much of a compliment, but every single Lions fan will recognize the importance of that word. Every single one of us knows that the one thing we yearned for all these years was simple difference. A change. And that’s what this team has finally, after all these years, given us. This team is different. And they proved it yet again earlier today, when they stormed back from a 20-0 deficit at halftime to win the game in overtime 26-23.

Are there things to worry about? Hell yes. The Lions couldn’t run the ball, the secondary looked the shakiest it’s been all season in the first half, and Jeff Backus was stripped naked by Jared Allen and fitted with a ball gag. I’ll talk more about that shit later on this week, but for now, let’s just revel in the bottom line: the Lions won, in Minnesota, a place they hadn’t won since the Pleistocene Era and they won after coming back against terrible odds, after a terrible performance. They triumphed in the face of ultimate adversity and utterly broke the will of one of their biggest rivals in the process. In that sense, it was an absolutely breathtaking performance and everything else is just background noise to be dealt with later.

This was an important game, a landmark game, one that I suspect we will be talking about for years to come, not because the Lions played a great game – they didn’t – but because of what it meant, not only to us fans but to all those players on the field. They believe now. They believe in it all, in miracles and in that Kingdom of Dreams we so long to see. And it’s about damn time. That bell tolled and when it did the age of the Vikings ended, and now begins the age of the Lions, my Lions and yours, and I believe. God help me, I believe.


Raven Mack said...

With the Fear having come back into you, I apologize for my cryptic email to you before the game then. I should have kept that to myself perhaps. But I am a scientist, and do not easily recognize the proper boundaries at times.

AZBadger03 said...

Do you have a recipe for that Antifreeze Smoothie? I would like to give one to my wife, the Packer fan.
I almost feel stupid for giving up on them at halftime (and by giving up, I mean leaving the bar and my Buffalo(!) fan friend to cry in his beer alone) and going shopping, where I followed the game to it's unbelievable conclusion. This can only mean I'm not quite there yet when it comes to fighting The Fear and Failure Demons, but I guess I'm not the only Lions fan that feels this way.

Bubbalouuey said...

Neil, Did Angela take you around the world ??

JJ said...

Neil, you are one sick dude and need help. Thanks for the laugh and the great read.

Neil said...

That's cool, Raven, I didn't even check my e-mail until late last night so by then I just nodded in relief.

Neil said...

"Do you have a recipe for that Antifreeze Smoothie?"

Actually, I prefer my Antifreeze straight up, right out of the bottle. I just added the "Smoothie" part of it so you all wouldn't think that I had a problem.

Neil said...

"Neil, Did Angela take you around the world ??"

She took me to heaven, hell and all points in between. Also, I have recently learned that she is actually a widow so I don't know who the hell that was chasing me through the night. It might have been her son, now that I think about it, angry that I taken a run at his dear old mum, but since he's an old man, it's easy to get confused.

Neil said...

"Neil, you are one sick dude and need help. Thanks for the laugh and the great read."

Well, this about sums it up, doesn't it? Thanks, JJ.

JP said...

From POD:

There was some brief confusion after Jason Hanson made the game-winning field goal in overtime on Sunday. It's not clear what was going on, but it sort of seemed like the referees weren't aware the game was over. Perhaps they were thinking the playoff overtime rules were in effect and the game wasn't over, but it was as soon as the field goal went through the uprights.

Jim Schwartz was none too pleased with the confusion and he let the referees know about it. Luckily for us, the referee's microphone picked up what Schwartz was yelling at the officials: "Learn the f---ing rules!"
No microphones picked up what Schwartz had to say after his epic fist pump, but it is believed that Schwartz yelled this: "Minnesota … f--- you!" You gotta love the Schwartz.

I don't know how I missed hearing Schwartz cuss, I must say that I fucking love it. This game was a battle, and you have to give it to the Lions that they didn't just roll over after that first half. Mayhew seems to get a lot of credit for the turnaround, but I think that the Schwartz deserves the real credit for the culture change around here.

I know that my thought process might be slightly off kilter, but I've been thinking about how this team will evolve in the future. There was a time(not that long ago) that I felt like it was a foregone conclusion that certain players were gone as soon as their contracts were up(St. Calvin anyone?). Now I feel like major pieces are gonna be around for a long time, mostly because they WANT to be here. I could go on, but there really is no point to it, but I just needed to air it out.

JP said...

Shit, I messed that quote up. The first two paragraphs were from POD, the last two were me spouting gibberish

Neil said...

Ha ha, yeah, I figured it out.

But yeah, you've gotta love The Schwartz.

And yeah, I'm trying to stay optimistic about the future in regards to dudes staying and that's just one reason I'm happy to see things come together now like they are. It just adds that much more incentive for dudes to stick around.

JP said...


I've also been thinking about something you said last season. Something along the lines of how there is a certain symmetry(that's a weird word to type)to the failures of the past and the successes yet to come. To this point, 1) I've been amazed at how dead on you were, and 2)I'm amazed at just how dramatic this turnaround has been.

I figured that, to some extent, we would fight back to respectability, be a decent team and mirror some of those frustratingly mediocre teams of the 90's. But the truth is that week in and week out the Lions are setting and tying records that were set back when the Lions were a really fucking good football team back in the 50's.

I for one wouldn't mind seeing you gloat for just one frenetically paced article about just how right you were, long before this statistical phenomena began.

Btw, I thought this was cool:

Definition of PHENOMENON

plural phenomena : an observable fact or event
plural phenomena
a : an object or aspect known through the senses rather than by thought or intuition
b : a temporal or spatiotemporal object of sensory experience as distinguished from a noumenon
c : a fact or event of scientific interest susceptible to scientific description and explanation
a : a rare or significant fact or event
b plural phenomenons : an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person, thing, or occurrence

P.S. I think "spatiotemporal" fits this Blog to a fucking T, btw. Where did I put that peyote?

Neil said...

Goddamn, JP, you are the best.

Yeah, I've also been thinking about that whole symmetry thing and how amazingly it seems to have worked out and I've kind of had it in my head to get back to that at some point and I probably will.