Friday, November 11, 2011

They Still Burn

The Great Willie Young in the process of completing the capture of Jay Cutler's soul.

It’s Bears week, which is always a time of near psychotic levels of vitriol, wild ranting and raving and a fanatical belief that everything wearing blue and orange should be shot on site and then delivered unto the care of a million wild demons who will then proceed to tear those vile heathen souls apart for all eternity. This is true even when the Lions suck because, hey, fuck that Bears. Fuck the Bears. That has always been a motto that has served me well through the years and I feel comfortable just blurting it out, whether it be here, whether it be at a crowded bar or whether it simply be in conversations with my own soul. Fuck the Bears. It can’t be said enough.

Obviously, we have plenty of natural reasons to hate the Bears. They are a divisional rival and when I was young and forming my football thoughts, opinions and prejudices, they just so happened to be the best team in what was then called the NFC Central. Therefore, I hate them, for they art mine great enemy and they maketh me descend into Biblical phrasing for I hateth them with Biblical zeal. They are the Goliath that my heart and soul hath desired to slay from the beginning and when it comes to fandom, all things are as they were in the beginning. They will always be that team to me, the team that pushed around my boys when I was young, the team that stood in the way of everything that I needed and that I wanted as a young fan. And yet, there is more.

Indeed. Recently, the Bears have landed squarely on every Lions fan’s shit list thanks to the inconceivable bullshittery of that Process of the Catch, uh, bullshit and even though that wasn’t the fault of the Bears or their players they were there when it happened, their fans cheered as our hearts were broken and, well, fuck them. I discussed a lot of this prior to the Lions Monday Night mugging of the Bears and that game did indeed go quite a ways towards assuaging the burning hate fires in my soul, but hey, when I look at the Bears sideline, I still see Rod Marinelli staggering like he just shit his pants, head bowed, muttering about pad level and I still see Mike Martz with a look on his face that hovers inexplicably between smug self-satisfaction and terrified confusion and the hate fires still burn. Oh Lord, they still burn.

So, like I said at the start, even if the Lions sucked – or hell, even if the Bears sucked – this would still be a week in which I ranted and raved like a lunatic on speed, and there would be at least a 48% chance that someone would have to fish me naked out of a swamped ditch after I wandered off in a red haze and tried to attack an actual bear during the game. But here’s the thing: the Lions don’t suck and much to my eternal dismay, the Bears don’t really suck right now either. I mean, there are actual consequences to this game. It fucking matters. Beyond everything else I just gibbered on about, it matters. And that just takes things to a whole new level of madness and animalistic snarling.

Ty wrote a nice piece either earlier this week or sometime last week (I can’t remember. I blame the ether.) about how important this game is in terms of the divisional and wild card standings, which feels like a weird thing to say about the Lions since the last time we could reasonably discuss such things Chester A. Arthur was the President and women weren’t allowed to vote or read. (Man, 2007 was such a simpler time . . .), and I won’t spend a lot of time rehashing his arguments so just go read his piece if you haven’t already and then get your ass back here so I can hoot in your general direction some more, okay?

Okay, welcome back. While you were gone, I managed to cut up a melon but then the melon shot juice in my eye and now I’m writing this one eyed, half blind, tears running down my face and the worst part is, is that a hawk flew in and stole the melon so now I don’t have anything to eat and I can’t shoot down the hawk because I only have one functional eye and therefore my depth perception is all fucked. Okay, fine, while you were gone I listened to Patience by Guns N’ Roses and did the Axl dance in front of the bathroom mirror while howling the lyrics. Oooooooh, I need you . . .

Ahem. Sorry. I’m feeling . . . weird. I’ll try to keep it together long enough to finish this. Where were we before I lost my fucking mind? Oh right, Ty’s piece. Anyway . . . yeah. This is an important game, and while I generally don’t like to say “Oh, well the Bears will definitely win this game and that one and definitely lose that one and the Lions will win these three and definitely fuck up this one,” because let’s face it, these damn things never play out exactly how you expect them to, it is reasonable to conclude that the Lions will be in for a dogfight from hell if they can’t beat the Bears this week.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t at Ford Field, where the Bears were previously met by a gang of rabid werewolves and wild vampire apes who had just finished gnawing on the adrenal gland of a dragon and where Jay Cutler was beaten like Hunter S. Thompson at a Hell’s Angels rally. No. Instead, the game is at Soldier Field, which I’m sure has Bears fans confident and probably has various experts predicting the imminent demise of the Lions. After all, let’s face it, Soldier Field was the sight of our own terrible horror show last season, the place where St. Calvin was martyred and where Matthew Stafford’s Holy Shoulder was eaten by that ravenous pig Julius Peppers. And let’s not forget that at one point the Lions had lost roughly one million straight games on the road dating back to the Pontius Pilate administration, so . . . yeah. But here’s the thing: since finally snapping that terrible, terrible streak, the Lions have won six straight games on the road. They’re 4-0 away from home this season and, well, fuck you Pontius Pilate, this is 2011 and things, well, they’ve done changed.

In fact, I’ll go even further than that and say that I actually feel more comfortable with the Lions playing on the road than I do with them playing at home right now. I know that sounds ridiculous but hear me out before you call me a witless fuckhead, okay? The reason is this: I don’t want the Lions playing in front of the Lions fans right now. That may sound blasphemous but I don’t give a shit. Lions fans are still so fragile, still so hysterically incapable of putting things into their proper perspective that the moment things don’t go the way they want they all throw a fit and start booing and then the players get all tense and uptight and who needs that shit, man? Who needs it?

I think there’s more pressure on the Lions right now when they play at home then there is on the road. At home there is just this weird . . . tension. And while the fans have shown that they are certainly capable of rising to the occasion when things are going well, they have all fallen into hysterics and begun weeping and bawling and tearing at their hair whenever things go bad. When the Lions really need them, when they need a little lift, instead they get met with a mixture of silence and some fat drunk screaming at Matthew Stafford to go back to Georgia. Hey, yo, fuck that.

Meanwhile, when they’re on the road, all the Lions have to do is play. At home, I think the weight of history, our terrible, terrible history, gets in the way. It just sits there, hovering over everything, waiting to crush everyone’s spirit the first chance it gets. On the road no one cares about history. At home, the Lions are tasked with being the saviors of a whole fanbase, shit a whole fucking city. As ridiculous and insane as that is, it’s there because people put it there. That’s a lot of unnecessary pressure, you know? On the road, they are just young outlaws, cocky bad boys striding into town with only their guns and their attitudes to keep them alive. There’s a certain sort of wild freedom in that. It comes with the knowledge that death is just a word and that the other dude, with his wife and his kids and the mayor all watching, has a hell of a lot more left to lose. The Lions are a more confident team on the road because they don’t have to deal with all of our dumb bullshit. It’s sad but it’s true.

That’s why I’m not really all that worried that the game is on the road this week. Out on the field, the Bears offensive line is still a giant festering butt. Home or on the road, you can’t change that. It is what it is, and the Lions defensive line is still a buzzsaw of angry pit bulls with knives for hands and hatred for hearts. On the field, where the rest of the world is meaningless and forgettable, that naked disparity is all that matters and as far as I can tell that disparity hasn’t changed since the Lions last beat the shit out of the Bears.

Yeah, yeah, Jay Cutler hasn’t been eating as many sacks but that’s because he’s been tapdancing on a razor’s edge ever since that Lions game. It’s not like he’s standing in the pocket and calmly delivering strikes. No, he’s still getting chased around and bludgeoned, frantically flipping the ball to anyone wearing a Bears uniform. Everyone wants to focus on how he created plays against the Eagles last week, and he did, but he was still getting smacked in the mouth and here’s the thing, eventually you’re gonna slip off of that razor’s edge and then you’re going to fall into a pit filled with cobras and death and then the world will hate you again because you look like Johnny Bananas (a reference only two people will probably get since I imagine the cross section between people who read my stuff and people who watch shitty MTV reality shows is astonishingly small, but what the hell, I have varied interests and I am a complex man. Don’t judge me. Instead try to figure out what you’re doing wrong in your own life that you can’t appreciate the full spectrum of the human story, from the sublime to the absurd, from the excellent to the terrible. I have friends in high places and I have friends in low, ugly places. I am everywhere and I am nowhere. I am everything and I am nothing. Again, I blame the ether.)

On the field, the realities are still what they were the last time these two teams played. People would be wise to remember that. That doesn’t mean that the Lions don’t have their own issues. I’m still not entirely comfortable with the way that the offense has been playing, but they’ve had an extra week to regroup and hey, how much bitching can I really do given the last time the team played ended with the Passion of the Tebow and Calvin Johnson strutting into the endzone like Ric Flair or Jesus? Yeah, yeah, Jahvid Best is still out and that takes away a big play weapon but at this point, given what Scott Linehan is apparently determined to do, the Lions really just need a running back who can pick up 3 or 4 yards a crack, which is kinda sorta what Maurice Morris was made for, you know? Right now I’ll take that over Jahvid Best dancing around looking for a big play and picking up -1 yard, desperately hoping that he’ll actually bust one off one of those times.

Of course, since it is us and even when things are going well we’re doomed to be the whipping boy of some sadistic football god who inexplicably hates us, Jason Hanson showed up for practice this week with a bunch of stitches in his knee, the result either of a freak ATV accident or from battling the scythe wielding minions of Father Time, or maybe it was just horseplay with his kids like he said and one of them stabbed him in the knee or something. Shit, I don’t know how he’s raising those kids so it would be wrong of me to speculate. Or maybe he was in the midst of a bad acid trip and ended up trying to saw off his own leg with a hunting knife until he was stopped by his crying wife who found him naked and gibbering about cutting out the demons, slumped over in the forest behind their house. That shit happens, you know.

Ahem. But anyway, the last I heard, he was kicking during practice and it looks like he’ll be a go this week so . . . hey, exhale everyone. Wait . . . what, our fucking punter has some bullshit injury now too? I don’t know. Fuck it. Just breathe, Neil. Just breathe. Instead of frantically looking up Nick Harris’ home phone number and then screaming into the phone that he needs to come back, I’m just going to chill out and trust in the universe to do the right thing. Besides, hey, fuck punting. Let’s just go for it on every fourth down and if we fail have Jim Schwartz run out onto the field and beat the refs about the head with his own shoes until they agree to give us the ball back. Yes. That sounds like a plan.

Well, clearly, the weirdness has begun to take hold and I am incapable of fighting it any longer and so, I’ll just stop here. The last thing I will say is this: for once there is more than just pride at stake here. There is something real, something tangible worth fighting these heathen Bears for. This is what we wanted, what we have asked for all of our lives as fans, to have these games actually mean something beyond our own desperate desires for fleeting happiness and petty revenge. And so, hey, let’s not fuck this up, you know? Let’s just win because it matters and because, hey, above everything else, fuck the Bears.

Lions win.

Predicted Final Score: Lions 24, Bears 17


AZBadger03 said...

I have been waiting, WAITING for some one to publish the absolute fact that the Lions are better on the road than at home because of the fans. Only you, Neil, had the stones to honk off the bandwagon riders that have put such a weight on the players shoulders.

Neil said...

It really dawned me in the Broncos game. They just had a carefree ease that was missing in the two games before that. Of course, some of that probably had to do with the fact that they were curbstomping the fightin' Tebows but man, the atmosphere in that Falcons game especially just felt . . . toxic.

Bubbalouuey said...

Spot on as usual Neil, Hope the Great Willie Young gits himself a whole lot of Commodore, and Mattie gets hiself a lot of Calvin in the end zone with a little Titus along the way.

Neil said...

That sounds good to me, man. Good to me.

Anonymous said...

We will march on a road of Bones.

Lions win, 27-20.

Lord Anonymous

Neil said...

2011: The Road of Bones, the Detroit Lions Story by NFL Films.