The Minnesota Vikings are not a good team. Therefore, we should beat them like they stole something from us and then use their bones to build a new practice facility or a new office for Jim Schwartz. It feels both incredibly strange and incredibly good to be able to say something like that, and not just because the Vikings are indeed a team of rancid butts but because it implies that the Lions are actually a good team. And that’s the strange new world in which we find ourselves now as Lions fans. Now, I know there’s a part of all of us that wants to grab the reins and yank them as hard as we can in a desperate attempt to protect ourselves from the possibility of failure, but to hell with all that. This is a good team. It is a team that has won its last six regular season games (its last ten overall if you count the preseason which we generally don’t because we know better than anyone the meaninglessness of that shit, but then again, this time it works in our favor, so fuck it, let’s count them anyway.) Three of those wins have come on the road, one came over the team that went on to win the Super Bowl, two were against a Tampa Bay team that won 10 games last season and was predicted to win somewhere around that again this season – if not more – and oh yeah, both of those wins were on the road. One came against a Chiefs team that won their division last season, another came on the road against Miami and finally, one – the season finale last season – came against the very same Vikings the Lions play this week. So it would take an extreme pessimist to deny the truth inherent in that parade of sweet victory, and that truth is this: the Lions are a good football team. Keep repeating that to yourself over and over and over again, like some Zen Buddhist who cares way, way too much about football.
The time for hand-wringing fear has past. Now it’s time to play invisible guitar solos and then bash our enemies in the heads with those invisible guitars when we’re done shredding – and then play some more invisible guitar solos because why not? Why not indeed. Now is a time for fierce joy, for embracing the destiny denied to us for so long. I want my enemies to see the smile on my face and I want their knees to weaken and then shatter into dust while the Lord of the House of Spears grinds that dust into the earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Indeed. I am gibbering. I won’t deny this, but my heart is awake and alive with joy. I feel 12 feet tall and like I have werewolves for arms and vampire apes for legs. I am a Lions fan and now is my time – our time.
I could sit here and tell you all the reasons why we should still be nervous, all the reasons why we can’t win, all the reasons why this might fall apart sooner than we want it to but we have spent so much time wallowing in the dirty muck of the past, spitting out mouthfuls of shit and crying tears of blood that I want to revel in the now. I want to dance under the bright Honolulu Blue sky and I want to feel it. I want to live inside of it and most of all, I really, really don’t want to wake up one day and be pissed at myself for clinging to The Fear and letting the joy of this moment, this time, pass me by. Ty wrote something about this the other day and did a damn fine job of it. It was basically what I wanted to write for this week and after I was done reading it the only thing I could think was “Shit, I gotta think of another angle here.” Okay, that’s not true. I was also thinking “Damn right, man. Damn right.” And then I realized that right now there is no other angle – at least not one that I want to embrace. That’s the only angle I care about now. We’re alive and our hearts have been set on fire by the improbable answering of our wildest dreams.
Yes, I am absolutely getting carried away and no, I don’t apologize for it. Not anymore. I am going to live this until it’s ripped away from me. Maybe that will come sooner than I want it to, but I don’t want to be scared anymore. I want to dance in the sun and laugh with the sound of thunder. I want the football gods to hear me and to know that I am still here, that the Detroit Lions have risen from the depths of hell and that we are coming. We’re coming and (at this point, Neil broke down and began to pray to the football gods for mercy, begging them to spare him from their wrath. What can I say, old habits die hard.)
Okay, okay, okay. Perspective. The meaning of the word eludes us. It is lost to us and it always will be. That’s what a half century of wandering in the hell desert will do. That’s what 0-16 gave birth to, a complete and utter lack of perspective. There is no middle ground for us and it would be foolish to pretend that there is. And so all that’s left, I think, is to enjoy this. I don’t want to make sense out of it. I just want to watch my Lions beat the holy hell out of some poor shitbird team like the Chiefs or the Vikings and let that wave build and build and build, and even though I know, deep within my wounded soul, that all waves eventually crest and then break, and that when it does my dreams will likely be washed away with it, I simply don’t care anymore. I just want to ride that wave with a heart of steel and joy and stare at that far horizon and that city of dreams as it gets closer and closer and closer and I won’t take my eyes off of it, even for a second because even though all waves eventually crest and then break, some take years to do so, and I will ride this fucking thing to the end. TO THE END.
Goddamn. Every time I start a new paragraph here it is with the idea of pulling things back in again and dealing with this like a rational, civilized adult, but let’s face it, I am neither rational nor civilized even in the best of times. I am a wild spirit, a spirit of fire and stardust, and it would be wrong to deny this. And besides, I don’t really want to be rational or civilized. I have earned this. We all have. We’ve all earned the right to dance joyously in the streets. We’ve all earned the right to give our hearts away with reckless, stupid abandon, to feel the heat and beauty and majesty of this moment. We’ve all earned the right to celebrate the fact that we are fans of the Detroit Lions and that our time is not tomorrow. Our time is now and by God we have earned every second of that time. You want to tell me to sit back and refuse the sweet embrace of joy, of unfettered hope? Are you insane? Does a man who’s been wandering in the desert all his life refuse a drop of water?
I just can’t help myself. There is nothing measured or particularly dignified about this feeling but so what? We are the children of the night, born in darkness, raised in the shadows of our own hearts, and today the sun finally rose for the first time over us and while everyone else might laugh and think that we are being ridiculous, to us the sun, this strange new joy we feel, is a miracle, precious and wonderful. I don’t care what you think. Not anymore because this sun belongs to me, to all of us Lions fans. This is our day, our midnight has come and gone and now all I want is for this day to last as long as the night did. We are children of the night, but we are made whole by the day.
As ridiculous gibberish goes, I think I might have just set a new standard. That’s okay. It’s where I’m at as a fan right now. The good news is that I think it’s justified – at least for the most part – and I have confidence that the sun will continue to shine on all of our hearts. Like I said at the start of that gibberfest, the Vikings are not a very good football team. They have a lot of the traits often found in the hopelessly doomed. They’ve led both games so far at the half, only to blow them and they have taken to blathering like fools about must win games and not beating themselves and the veterans have already called team meetings and . . . hey, we all know how this story goes. We’ve lived it for way, way too long. But now it’s happening to somebody else and I’m not above reveling in their misery.
Donovan McNabb is finished. He stinks. He’s reached that stage of his career where no one wants him around but he doesn’t realize it yet. He is playing off of a name – his name – and unfortunately for him names are dead things. They carry with them the weight of expectation but they are completely powerless to do anything to make those expectations reality. Donovan McNabb’s name is attached to the past, not to the present. In the present, he’s just a middling NFL quarterback, frustrated by his own inability to do anything other than watch as his team spirals into the Abyss.
Are the Vikings a terrible team? No, I don’t think so. But they’re not a good team either. They’re a desperate team, a team filled with names and expectations, born in a past that doesn’t exist anymore, spinning dazed and confused in a world that will eat them alive before too long and then those names – those expectations – will be just another faded memory, owned by yesterday, forgotten by tomorrow.
I am being melodramatic again, but what the hell, that is the product of these strange and wonderful times. The basic point, though, is undeniable, which is that the Vikings are a team trying desperately to hold onto a world that doesn’t exist anymore, while the Lions are a team awakening in a brand new world, one filled with the promise and joy that the Vikings as they’re constituted today will never see again. That’s it. That’s the truth. And when you have two teams like that heading in completely opposite directions, the potential is there for one of two scenarios. Either the team on the decline pulls it together for one last gasp and stings the newly sanctified or the old, worn out team of yesterday is run the fuck over by a beast they’re helpless to resist. Obviously, I’m leaning toward the latter in my prediction today.
It’s not that the Vikings don’t have talent. They just don’t have enough anymore. Donovan McNabb is on his third team in three years and there’s a reason for that shit. I mean, come on, the Redskins told him to fuck off even though the only alternative was a Mormon who looked like McGruber and a broken down Sex Cannon and while that Sex Cannon has recently started firing again, they didn’t know that would happen when they decided to stuff McNabb in a box and ship him off to that frozen hell he now calls home. This is it for McNabb. This is the last gasp of a dead man and everybody knows it. Even Donovan knows it, deep in his idiot heart. The Lions front four in this game might as well be called the Angels of Death because poor Donovan is a man looking for a ceremonial sword to the gut. He’s just waiting for someone to come along and eviscerate him and then to string him up with his own entrails because that’s the only way a man like him can face the end. He can’t walk away and so somebody has to come along and finish him off, and hey, last time I checked, Ndamukong Suh didn’t mind eviscerating quarterbacks.
But wait . . . Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Adrian Peterson. Sure. I haven’t forgotten. But here’s the thing – I think the Lions defense is particularly geared towards stuffing runners like Adrian Peterson. In terms of running style he’s a lot closer to LeGarrette Blount than to Jamaal Charles or Dexter McCluster. I figure that he’ll hurt the Lions a couple of times with cutbacks, but down to down, I don’t think he’ll dominate the Lions defense, which is what he needs to do if the Vikings are going to pull the upset. Yes, that’s right, the upset, because the Lions are favored. The Lions are favored. The Lions are favored. THE LIONS ARE FAVORED. In Minnesota. It feels so damn good to be able to say that. You have no idea.
Defensively the Vikings aren’t going to stop the Lions. They just aren’t. Matthew Stafford is too good. There. End of analysis.
Okay, okay, fine, the Vikings might be able to stop the Lions running game, especially since they’re getting Kevin Williams back from the suspension he finally served from that Starcaps case that felt like it went down, like, 12 years ago. That’s good news for the Vikings. The bad news is that the Lions don’t need to run the ball to win. That’s not their identity. As long as Matthew Stafford is kept alive (Here’s the part where I embrace old habits and drop to my knees in prayer.) the Lions will be able to move the ball down the field. Even if the Vikings take away Calvin Johnson with their zone, Nate Burleson should be open all day long on those little underneath routes he’s so good at working. And hey, let’s not forget about the tight ends down the seams or Jahvid Best leaking out of the backfield, or . . . you get the point. The Lions have a lot of weapons and I don’t think the Vikings can even come close to stopping them all. They’ll either have to try to take away St. Calvin deep and let Matthew Stafford pick them apart underneath all day long or they’ll have to take away the shorter routes and let Stafford and St. Calvin bomb them to death. And . . . checkmate.
I know I am being overconfident here and I’m sure many of you are howling in fear, screaming “Nooooo, Neil, nooooooo!” but to hell with it. I am done with The Fear. At least for now. Shit, next week I might be talking about werewolves eating my soul. But for today, I am alive with the fire of the moment and as of this moment, the Lions are a much better team than the Minnesota Vikings. I am embracing that and in a funny way, I think that just means that I embracing reality. It would be irrational of me to pick the Vikings. Such a thing would be a product of fear, of irrationality. After all, let’s say it again, one more time: the Lions are favored. For once, my hopes and dreams have aligned with reality and it’s about damn time. Lions win.
FIVE NO DOUBT TERRIBLE PREDICTIONS
1. Matthew Stafford will throw for 335 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’ll be sharper than he has been the first two weeks and following the game, we’ll see a ton of stories about him making the leap into elite status. You guys, I think Ty was right when he said that either Stafford would get injured or he’d be a top 5 quarterback with no middle ground. And I think this game will go a long way in cementing that.
2. St. Calvin will have a modest game, catching only 4 passes for 52 yards and 1 touchdown, but by taking him out of the game the Vikings coverage will open up the field for Nate Burleson, who will catch 10 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown.
3. Jahvid Best will run the ball 18 times for only 52 yards but he’ll catch 5 passes for 60 yards.
4. Donovan McNabb will spend the game getting chased down and beaten by a pack of rabid wolves. Cliff Avril will sack him twice and McNabb’s numbers will look like this - 22 of 39 passing for 237 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. He’ll also lose one fumble and the fourth quarter will be spent by the announcers talking about Christian Ponder taking over as the Vikings QB in the coming weeks while the camera focuses on a dejected Donovan, shaking his head and wondering why this keeps happening to him. (Hint: you’re washed up.)
5. Adrian Peterson will run for 117 yards on 25 carries. He’ll score one touchdown.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LIONS 31, VIKINGS 17. Fuck you, Minnesota, this is our time and you’re in our way.