Well, that happened.
And then after it was over, I handled it like a mature adult, ranting and raving about hangings and ether rags and other assorted bullshit. I even discussed how self-hanging would result in pants-shitting and the assault upon my dignity that would ensue. Others decided to throw pitchforks at Matthew Stafford and someone got all hysterical because they caught Matthew Stafford eating at a restaurant or something. I don’t know, everybody was out of their mind. I’m pretty sure that in their haze someone on MLive actually killed a guy.
But fuck all that, we’re better than that nonsensical gibberish, right? No? Well, okay then.
Indeed. I have come to the conclusion that right now it is okay to literally feel anything and everything. The last thing I want to be right now is Kevin Bacon in Animal House screaming ALL IS WELL at the top of his lungs over and over and over again before the crowd surges over top of him, flattening him into the pavement. I can’t do this because, honestly, I think by myself I have felt and said every possible thing there is to feel or say about this team within the last 24 hours or so.
We’re in a strange moment as Lions fans, a moment where reason and the things our eyes have seen are at war with each other, where numbers and stats appear to be brutal liars but also conspire to make us look foolish and hyperreactive. I just don’t fucking know, man. I just don’t fucking know. And hey, you know what? That’s alright.
It’s been pointed out – by me and a million other people – that the Lions are 5-2, which is a far better fate than we have known in a long, long time, and so everyone should probably just chill with the Apocalypse Now talk. And yet . . . man, none of us can help the way that we feel, you know? It’s strange. If you told me that the Lions would be 5-2 at this point, I probably would have looked a lot like Slim Pickens whooping and hollering, celebrating like a madman while he rode that rocket straight to hell in Dr. Strangelove. But the funny thing about expectations is that they are constantly changing. Once you meet one goal, you find that it’s not your goal anymore and your eyes drift to the next horizon. It’s human nature and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that either doesn’t understand it or is willfully trying to manage their own terrified hearts and minds, suppressing expectation as a means of controlling The Fear.
And that’s fine too. We all do that, to some extent. The specific problem I have with the whole “Hey, they’re still 5-2 even though they should probably be 3-4 so relax, baby cakes” argument is precisely that: the Lions are 5-2 even though they should probably be 3-4. That’s the whole point. If you told me the Lions would look like a 3-4 team at this point, I would have bitched and wondered at the cruelty of the football gods. I expected them to be a good team this season. (I mean, maybe the fault lies with my own unrealistic expectations, but at some point isn’t it okay to expect that the team you love and have followed all your life to actually be, you know, good?) And I don’t mean that in the sense that I expected them to be 7-0 or 6-1 or 5-2 or any other record. Throw out the records for a second. What I mean is that I expected them to look good, regardless if they lost some tough games. Yeah, the thing about that is this: they haven’t.
Not really anyway. I Remember in week one watching and thinking to myself “Hey, what’s up with Stafford?” And I’ll admit, that’s kind of ridiculous but the dude was missing some throws that I’ve seen him make with relative ease. And that hasn’t gone away as the season has progressed. In fact, it’s gotten worse. That is an incredibly weird thing to say about a dude with a 16-4 TD to INT ratio and almost 2,000 yards passing already but this is why things are so confusing right now. My brain is telling me that those are phenomenal numbers. Meanwhile, my eyes the last two weeks have been telling me that my dude looks like Joey Harrington out there, which . . . I know, I know, I just did the Lions equivalent of comparing somebody to a Nazi in an argument, but shit, I’m not going to bury my head in the sand here either and lie and tell you that he’s playing well, because he isn’t.
And that’s the fundamental point here: he – and that offense we know can be explosive because we’ve fucking seen it happen – hasn’t been playing well. Take everything else away – all the numbers, the record, everything – and that’s just the brutal truth, cold and merciless. And while that may have been fine last season or the season before that, or really any season over the last decade of chaos and despair, this season needs to be different. Expectations are higher. The belief that this team is actually capable of something more is what’s driving all the ranting and raving going on right now. People are sad – people are booing and bitching – because goddammit, we let ourselves love this team and now we are terrified that they are going to break our hearts.
Maybe that’s our own damn fault, for daring to believe, for daring to put ourselves out there, but at some point fault becomes irrelevant and the way it is is just the way it is, you know? If you’re honest with yourself and not dissembling the wants and needs of your own heart and mind you can’t help it when you fall in love and, well, people fell in love with both Stafford and the Lions. And that’s why this feels so unbearably cruel and ugly. Even if our brains are looking at the numbers – at the facts – and saying “Hey, this is still pretty damn good and everything’s still good,” our hearts are feeling the same things we’ve felt for too damn long. Our hearts are seeing Matthew Stafford, head hung low, looking like he just had his candy taken away from him, they’re seeing him fuck up a screen pass or overthrow a receiver and then unbuckle his chin strap and stagger off the field like a petulant child, and they’re being shocked by the Post Traumatic Stress of the terrible, terrible past, jolted into reliving memories of Joey Blue Skies and then our hearts cry and sometimes these cries even leave our mouths and . . . well, there’s simply nothing you can do about that because that is just the sad condition of man.
Is all this hyperreactive and kind of ridiculous? Certainly. But it is what it is and there’s not much you can do or say to change it. We’re a wounded people. We’ve all known that all along. We’re an exceptionally fragile people and this is what happens to fragile, wounded people in times of strife. Anybody surprised by this either is woefully naïve or has so completely deluded themselves that there is no point in trying to even explain any of this. Is it sad and shameful and embarrassing that we’re all falling apart and booing the shit out of Stafford and the team even though they’re 5-2? Absolutely. Is it at all surprising? Not in the least.
People were going to break apart and scatter at the first sign of adversity. They just were. This was always going to happen. The question now becomes, how do we move on with this? Like I said, nothing about the way anyone feels right now is wrong. I firmly believe that. Everyone has to deal with this shit the best they can. But there will come a time where we need to splash some water on our faces and pull ourselves together. I mean, for fuck’s sake, no one wants to die with shit in their pants, you know?
I suppose there are a few different ways of looking at it. First, you have the aforementioned ALL IS WELL brigade, who will hold onto their bitter delusions until nothing is left and the world has left them alone and bereft. I’ve experienced this as a Michigan fan over the last few years. I suspect many of you have as well, and the rest are at least familiar enough with what went on to understand what I’m talking about here. There is a dishonesty to this. It’s a noble dishonesty, born of hope and dreams, but a dishonesty none the less and in the end it’s just going to make it hurt worse when the truth becomes evident and terrible.
Next, you have the WE’RE DOOMED SAME OL’ SHIT hysterics, who will claim that everything is lost and there is no hope going forward and that we are all fools for continuing to care about this team. They will laugh and mock and piss all over anyone who dares to still see the light at the end of the world. Fuck these people. They are cowards, hiding their hearts from the world and from themselves, kissing the ring of the lord of apathy, choosing oblivion over either joy or pain, risking nothing, meaningless ghosts, wraiths spinning through the universe, their spirits fading into meaninglessness and therefore nothingness. Whoa, that got kind of heavy, but fuck it, these are heavy times.
And then there is the honest bravery that I’m trying to embrace, the kind that admits that it just doesn’t know what in the fuck is going on anymore, the kind that dares to believe in Hope but isn’t afraid to look into the Abyss and ask some tough, tough questions. I’m not happy right now. I think the team looks like shit. But right now is not forever, and the key is in recognizing that. Everything in its proper place. Perspective. That is the key word – the key concept – that we all must embrace if we are going to survive this as fans.
Of course, perspective is the one thing Lions fans don’t have. I’ve talked about this before. Perspective was what we had stripped completely from us by 0-16. We don’t know how to react when things go well and we don’t know how to react when things go badly. Instead we rant and rave and wave our hands in the air like lunatics and then we stab each other in the face and set fire to our own worlds and run naked and bleeding through the streets. We are idiot children, made stupid by the horrors of the past and hey, that is what it is.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to hang on to at least the idea of perspective, some tattered memory in our minds of what that concept actually means, of how it feels. And that’s what we have to try to do going forward. We have to remember that what happened last is not destined to happen forever. When the Lions win it doesn’t mean that they are going to go 168-0 and win 23 straight Super Bowls. But when they lose, it doesn’t mean that we are headed back down the Highway to Hell either, you know?
So, with that in mind . . . how do we make sense of what’s going on right now? How do we put these things in perspective? How do we sort through the shiny record and those gleaming stats and find the truth? How do we reconcile the cold rationality of our brains with the fiery emotion and truths of our hearts? I don’t have the answers for you. Not right now. I suspect that these questions lie at the very heart of this season, of our own tortured fandom and we won’t know until we know, and even then we’ll probably just realize that we want to know other stuff instead.
That is incredibly vague and Yogi Berraish in its stupidity but I don’t care. It’s true. Or at least I think it is. And it’s that – my own tentative ideas of what’s true and not true – that are all I have left to go off of right now. It’s all any of us have. And the truth, to me right now anyway, is that the Lions are a 5-2 team that should be 3-4. Do I feel lucky? Yes. But I also feel unlucky. And therein lies the strange dichotomy of this season, of this predicament, of this weird, fucked up place we find ourselves in as fans. My team is both a 5-2 team and a 3-4 team. My quarterback is both Brett Favre and Joey Harrington. I am both happy and sad, optimistic and terrified. And, for now, that’s the only thing I know is true. We’ll see. And that’s all that’s left to say, I think. We’ll see.