You’ll have to excuse the title of this post. For as creative a dude as I am (or at least I think I am) I’m appallingly bad at coming up with titles for these things. Part of it is, I just don’t care about the goddamn title, but for some reason this one just popped into my head before the game had even ended. It actually started as The Unbearable Shittiness of Being but then The Unbearable all by itself somehow seemed more poignant and apropos. Other contenders included Happiness is a Warm Gun and, perhaps the most eloquent of all, Shit: The Movie. Why am I discussing the titling process for my posts instead of the game? Well, shit, why would I actually want to talk about the game?
Indeed. In the wake of whatever the fuck that was, I lashed out on Twitter for a while and then decided to express my feelings as eloquently as I possibly could in the form of Nicolas Cage staggering through the streets, moaning like a fucking maniac. I suppose I could have written something last night but it was still Thanksgiving and I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful. And now that I’m sitting here and actually writing this, I’m not entirely sure where to begin.
I suppose I could start with my idiotic proclamation that I was feeling good about things and that win or lose I would be cool. In retrospect, this madness was a fool’s invitation to the football gods to strip me naked, lather me in honey and then tie me to a hill filled with mutant red ants with rabies and hatred for hearts. Still, I still hold to what I said, at least in theory, which is always the last bastion of the ruined man. Theoretically, I should have been fine, but reality understands better than I do the depth of my delusions and pathetic need to overcompensate for my terrible, terrible fears and, well . . . here we are. Had the Lions been simply blown out, run off the field from the word go, I think I could have handled it. I actually believe that. I would have sneered and probably acted the fool and then hooted my disdain for the world to hear, but there is a finality in something like that that is easier to accept than the shitstorm we were forced to endure on Thursday. Similarly, had the Lions lost in a close, thrilling game in which they fought the Packers toe to toe, I could have swallowed the enormity of my disappointment and taken modest solace in the fact that we had proved we belonged. Instead, neither thing really happened and in a weird way, the football gods decided to take the worst parts of both scenarios and roll them all into one maelstrom of misery. The Lions showed they could play with the Packers but they also showed they were miles away. They fought toe to toe and still kind of got blown out and rather than coming away feeling like the Lions are close or like they had just been beaten by an obviously superior team, I was left with the same old terrifying and soul crushing feeling which has plagued my fan soul for virtually its entire existence, and that’s that the Lions beat themselves – again – and that despite every fiber of my fan being screaming at me that things are different, the crushing and maddening realization was that on Thursday, in the biggest game of the year, no, no they were not.
And really, that’s all that probably needs to be said. I don’t like it either, and I bristle at that Same Ol’ Lions crap, but the truth is a cold, hard bitch and she is mean and she doesn’t like any of us. That much is abundantly clear. Yes, the Lions are 7-4 and yes they are a much more talented team than they have been in a long time and yes, the future still looks bright, but at the end of the game there was no escaping that cold, cruel bitch and she was whispering in our ears, cackling evilly, telling us that our Lions were still a bunch of goddamn idiots and that, in the end, they would just fuck us and themselves while the rest of the world laughed, then sighed, then laughed again and then went back to gnawing on turkey bones and the withered husks of our shattered dreams.
I am getting a little carried away here and I have careened into a darker, more hopeless realm than I meant to, and I don’t want to give the impression that I have given up or anything like that, it’s just . . . shit, man, you know? I mean, goddamn. I suppose we should have seen this coming. After all, the world is clearly not made for us, but the tragic nature of Hope is that it survives all reason and that it thrives in those corners of the human heart which are inexplicably untouched by the weight of the past and then they grow and they grow and they grow and they invade the mind and they twist around the past and smother it until all that’s left is a sort of giddy, deranged fantasy, a Kingdom of the Heart in which reality is something to be conquered rather than accepted, in which Hope rules all and the nightmares of the past are just some dumb bedtime story that we tell ourselves, empty tales which only serve to make the present feel even brighter, to make Hope seem that much more powerful.
Towards the end of last season, I yammered on repeatedly about the Symmetry of Fate, about how in retrospect everything makes a strange sort of sense and I was right. If nothing else, I was right about that. But my fatal mistake, made in my deluded glee, was in making the assumption that Fate was on our side and that this symmetry existed in order to reward us at the end of the hard, terrible road out of hell. But Fate and its symmetry do not hold to fanciful notions of what should be. Instead, Fate and its symmetry hold to the immutable laws of nature, and there is no law more immutable than this: the Lions will fuck up and they will be fucked and when this orgy of fucking occurs, we will all be left crying bitter tears and remembering just why it is that we hold our fragile hearts behind bullet proof glass most of the time.
How else do you explain the simple cruelty of allowing us to watch our team fight toe to toe – no, to stomp on the toes – of the vaunted Packers, to watch them march down the field over and over and over again only to come away with nothing? Nothing! How else do you explain that we were allowed to creep as far as we possibly could to the edge of Hope and Salvation only to have that edge crumble away while we fell into the familiar oblivion of the Abyss? The Symmetry of Fate may seem cruel, but it really isn’t. It is merely indifferent. The cruelty comes in our own capacity for self-delusion. That is our fatal flaw and that is the tragedy of our kind. Our biggest mistake was in not recognizing that the Symmetry of Fate simply exists in order to point the way to the inevitable, to set the stage for the clarity of inevitability. The Symmetry of Fate does not exist for our benefit or for our ruin but rather so that we cannot miss simple and unavoidable truths, and again, the simple unavoidable truth is that the Lions lost to the Packers because, well, they are the Lions.
You all know what I mean when I say that, and that is a terrible truth to have to face, and yet, here we are. The Lions lost because they were dumb, because they behaved like a gang of idiot fuck-ups, foolish urchins with no understanding of that hidden world that exists between talent and victory. The Packers won because they are a team that understands these things. The Lions lost because they do not. It is that simple, and the simplicity of this truth only serves to underscore just how massive it truly is. The Lions didn’t only lose, by the end of that game it felt like they were a million miles away from where they need to be, because in the end, talent just gets you an invite to the dance. But if you can’t do the dance when you get there, well . . . what’s the point? And right now, the Lions not only can’t do the dance, they don’t even seem to understand the basic steps involved in that dance. And what’s even worse than that, is that they seem to be in complete denial that this is the case. Instead, they want to claim that they can dance with anyone and then the music starts and they start spazzing out like Elaine did in the one Seinfeld episode and then they poop themselves.
I was holding it together all the way through the first half. And I think the Lions were too. They at least recognized the beat and their talent was enough to keep them from making fools out of themselves, but they still were lost when it came to the intricate steps, when it came to the simple execution that separates the real dancers from those poor fools left standing around sipping punch and occasionally bobbing their heads like fools at inappropriate times.
Look, I’m not sure how I got started on this dance metaphor. I don’t particularly like it but that’s fine because as a Lions fan I don’t particularly like anything right now. Everything that there is to like – all that talent, the swagger, the excitement that comes with wild-eyed youth – feels meaningless in the face of that one simple truth – that when it comes to the things that truly matter, to the things that make a good football team actually good, the Lions simply don’t have a fucking clue.
At the half, the Lions were only down 7-0. The defense was playing out of its head and had the Lions offense just been able to do those things that matter, those things that make all the difference in the world, they would have gone into the half with a nice lead and with everyone in America raving about them. Instead, they were down 7-0 and the only thing people could talk about was their mistakes, and then there was Nickelback, some corporate rock monstrosity that would embarrass even other corporate rock monstrosities, the sort of band a group of insurance salesmen hire to play their company picnic, standing in the middle of our field, warbling some bland, meaningless bullshit and what should have felt like a triumphant day felt more like the waiting room to hell.
And then the second half started and the Packers moved the ball. It was inevitable and we all knew it, and it just made those mistakes from the first half feel all the more painful, all the more relevant, all the more symbolic of some terrible turning, of the slow and tortured revealing of the Symmetry of that bastard Fate. But then the Lions held on 3rd and goal and it seemed, if only for a moment, that the Lions were going to fight Fate, that they were going to stand and go to war with their own identity, their own being, simply because we had collectively had enough and the time for change was now. And then Ndamukong Suh stomped on a dude like a petulant child and then that resistance, that fight we have been fighting for so goddamn long now, collapsed and the world burned. Reality, with its horrid and cruel and cold face, rushed through and what was once true is still true and that’s that.
I love the Lions Bad Boy image. I wrote a whole piece about it. But what Ndamukong Suh did was just dumb, and worse than that it cemented his image for the rest of his career. He’s the dirty player who stomped on a Packer on national TV on Thanksgiving and that’s just the way it is. Like it or not, fair or not, that’s the way that everyone will see him. Like all the rest of us, like his team, he’s been waging a war against the inevitable, fighting against Fate, against his very nature, warring with reality in an effort to overcome, to be better than what others think, to win on his own terms, not beholden to anything but himself and his teammates and his coaches. And then in the most critical moment of all, he failed and he failed egregiously and he failed in a way that renders everything that came before, all the hard work and every inch that he and his team and we as fans have had to fight to get over the last couple of years, utterly meaningless.
I like Ndamukong Suh. He is of my tribe. But he fucked up and he fucked up at the worst possible time. That’s not an opinion. That’s just truth and as I said, Truth is a cold, hard bitch. I probably have a whole piece in me about what went down with Suh and I suspect I’ll write that at some point next week. For now, though, I kinda just want to spend the weekend not thinking about the Lions at all, which is a depressing sentiment to be sure, but a necessary and undeniable one. I suspect – no, I know – that I’ll regroup and that I’ll suck it up and plaster a manic smile on my face and start to believe in Hope once again. After all, I have already spent some time earlier today looking at what the Lions need to do to ensure a playoff berth so it’s not like I’ve abandoned all hope. But for now, I just want to acknowledge the devastation of reality, and face the simple and immutable truth which I have been fighting like a madman for the better part of the last two years, which is that right now, the Detroit Lions are, indeed, the Detroit Lions and everything that everyone believes that that means. And that sucks, man. That sucks.