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.