Friday, November 25, 2011

The Unbearable




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.

19 comments:

UpHere said...

My greatest wish is that there were grounds to object to this post. There was so much to hate about that game - the bad calls and injuries that created the 2010 flashbacks. And then we add the new terror of complete mental breakdown, which is somehow worse than just garden variety suckitude. It'll be weeks before I'm not like a whipped dog watching the games, flinching every time anyone moves.


I admit it, I've been happier with my sports teams.

Neil said...

Yeah, my greatest wish is that I didn't have to write it. I argued with myself but, well ... here we are.

I probably could have accentuated the positive and talked more about how well the Lions played at times but, honestly, that wasn't the story of the game and to focus on that for the sake of maintaining a veneer of positivity would have just been dishonest and if there's one thing that I think is the lifeblood of this blog, it's raw, unvarnished honesty. Well, that and madness, obviously.

Also, I wish I would have talked about the injuries and the bad calls. I certainly meant to, but it kind of got away with me and I didn't want to interject a "By the way . . ." sort of thing thus interrupting the flow of whatever miserable river I was floating down. But yeah, by the way, those bad calls and injuries did create a whole slew of 2010 flashbacks, they sucked and they made me feel both angry and utterly helpless which is, sad to say, an all too familiar feeling when it comes to being a fan of the Detroit Lions. But so it goes, man. So it goes.

Neil said...

Also, I just noticed this, but it's probably appropriate that this post, of all posts, is the 1,000th post in the history of Armchair Linebacker.

D-MONEY1980 said...

good, good shit neil.....i must say you seem to write what i fucking think, i especially like the part about 'happiness is a warm gun....' this seems to be my general consensus after watching shit like that too....but fate doesn't just hate us....the bitch also wants to drag our dead, rotten corpses through gravel pit roads as well. and even this shall never satisfy her ass, because whatever she desires at this point, i'm sure it's not even within our fucking possession... fate's just piling on now dammit. some deities just wanna see our world BURN...

HillHeeb said...

Man it fucking sucks when the refs are awful and you can't even blame them.

AutospeedConcepts said...

Like U Neil....I immediately went into not wantin' to think about this damn team mode. Not so strange of a place for me as I have been there over the years.

Just that it seems an odd place to visit this season for some reason....yet....here I am....in that place. LOL

What Suh did was foul. And dirty. And it was def uncalled for....*based upon what I saw or thought I saw anyway....* I have tried to excuse his behavior up til this point, but that ship has sailed.

I haven't given up on this team....but I have no trust in the offense whatsoever at this point. The 1 aspect I just knew would make this team hum before the season began seems but a mirage....a tauntin', teasin' glimpse here and there of what could be....and frankly....I have grown tired of it.

I know how special this entire team can be. But thats just it....IMO anyway....TEAM. And my Lions are not playin' as a team....yet....so I will reserve myself and muster all the patience I can in the fact that they are still 7-4 at this point....yet another part of me knows that the day that they polay together with all units backin' each other up is not yet here....and hey....myabe they prove me wrong this season....or maybe....maybe I am right....

*shrugs*

I've waited this long....a little more time won't hurt. I hope.

Bubbalouuey said...

I hope someone can figure out just what the fuck this team is up to because it's hard to take solice in being 3 games over 500 when you should be 5 over. I don't think that everyones grandma has been kidnapped, I just don't want to hear LIONS for about a week.

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of these comments. And Neil, you nailed it when you made your dance analogy.

Think about it: this team is often not easy to watch. The actual entertainment value is often not there. Earlier in the season, I could deny it because they were getting W's (even though they did steal 2 of those games). Does anybody remember the beginning of the Dallas game? The first quarter of the Monday night Chicago game? The beginning of the Panthers game? ... just for example: there were other instances.

This team is ugly in its play. The Defence has to get more discipline and the Offence needs both an identity and discipline. Linehan is like Jeckyl and Hyde; at times, he calls brilliant series of plays and at other times he calls shit for series on end. I hope he starts to figure it out, because it is a damned talented Offence that is sometimes fun to watch but often difficult to watch -- especially against competant Defences.

I like the agression on Defence, but it now borders on farce. These guys don't seem to have a sense of humor and they seem to take themselves way too seriously. Like others here have said, they need to back off and balance that agression with discipline.

"A fool doubles his efforts when he has forgotten his gains". Indeed, if this team is going to get to the next level, they are going to have to refine their play as a TEAM.

I get the strange feeling the Lions think they are better than everybody else. Stupid thugs.

Ugly, stupid football.

They will certainly lose to New Orleans, unless they get very lucky. New Orleans is another SMART football team, in the Green Bay mold.

Something for Schwartz to emulate, instead of this bullheaded "we're great and we're just going to continue doing what we're doing" attitude.

Smart, disciplined football. Lions will never get there, unless their attitude changes.

Lord Anonymous

CJ said...

I never get to see the Thanksgiving game, because I'm always cooking, but usually I have people calling me in to see plays, or coming in the kitchen to talk about the game. This year, shortly after the second half started, pretty much everyone was piled in the kitchen but no one wanted to talk about the game. We had Green Bay fans over and they weren't even trash talking. Now, absolutely no one wants to talk or think about football, and I just read your post Neil, and I still have no idea what went on.


I guess what I'm asking is...is there some sort of electronically-transmitted zombie virus that was dispersed during the game? Did Ndamukong Suh actually eat some brains? Did Nickleback? Are you guys all OK (because you seriously do not sound like you are)? Should I be stockpiling swiss cheese and bullets?

Neil said...

CJ,

They just made terrible mistakes at terrible times. Suh stomped on a dude following a key third down stop, which gave Green Bay an automatic first down and got Suh ejected. The Packers then scored a TD as a direct result of that to go up by 14 and then Stafford threw an INT right away on the very next possession. Then on the first play after the INT, Green Bay scored on a long catch and run. One play drive. Suddenly it was a fucking blowout. All this after a half of football in which the Lions outplayed the Packers and still managed to score 0 points following horrible penalties, shitty referees, a batted ball which ended up being intercepted by the Packers and led to their lone score of the first half, and a bunch of horrible injuries. Kevin Smith looked awesome and then his ankle laughed at him and destroyed itself presumably because it hates us or owed a favor to a universe which clearly hates us. In short, it was every awful thing you could ever expect to possibly happen in a Lions game all happening at once with the exception of Stafford being literally eaten by an escaped mutant ape or something like that. Everything else happened. It was the sort of perverse, despicable madness which has been at the heart of the Lions story for way too fucking long now. I feel sad even talking about it two days later. It fucking sucked.

Neil said...

D-Money,

Thanks, man. I just wish I didn't have to write it. All of us are far, far too familiar with the terrible hate-boner Fate seems to have for us. It is a common theme in my writing here, and ... well, here I am again, rambling on about that shit. I just keep hoping for better days, man. Better days.

Neil said...

"Man it fucking sucks when the refs are awful and you can't even blame them."

Yeah, that about sums things up.

Neil said...

Autospeed (I am just going to call you Autospeed from now on for short. Cool?),

Right on, man. That's pretty much where I am too.

Also, this ...

"I've waited this long....a little more time won't hurt. I hope."

... is pretty much the definition of what it means to be a Lions fan. It's sad and tragic but at the same time it reveals the special sort of insane strength it takes to actually be a Lions fan.

Neil said...

Bubba (Like our pal Autospeed up there, I'm just going to call you Bubba unless you have a particular objection to it.),

Yeah. A part of me keeps saying 7-4 NEIL! 7-4 COME ON BE HAPPY but it just feels ... wrong. It's hard to explain, but there it is.

Neil said...

Lord Anonymous,

Yes. To everything. As much as I don't want it to be true, it just is and pretending that it isn't won't help anyone. It doesn't help the team and it doesn't help us, the fans, either. Like I said in the post itself, truth is a cold, hard bitch and right now that bitch is downright frigid.

Anonymous said...

yeah, Neil ... I hate the Truth Bitch. She's like the Tooth Fairy, except she takes your mojo instead of those fucking useless teeth...just ask Stafford, who is STILL suffering from the hit to the ol' mojo.

I hate the way they play. It's ugly. I'm so glad I saw the Carolina game in person. It was entertaining, despite the opening when I felt like somebody had sucker punched me after all those turnovers.

I guess we should remember that they ARE getting better. I think they will be better -- next year. Let's look at the positive. I think we all have to remember that Stafford is the real deal: a franchise QB. And he is not getting hurt! Sure, he is an interception machine, but he has a broken finger. And he is tougher than we thought. Let's hang onto that, it matters way more than we sometimes realize. He is 23. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm almost twice that age. When I was 23, I was little more than a masterbating, slobbering fool (ok, now I'm a slobbering fool who has a life and family). but I digress...

Stafford is going to be very good -- later. Suh is going to learn from his suspension and be better at controlling himself. The Offence WILL get an identity. I have confidence in Linehan, despite all those fucking ridiculous "run it up the middle on first down" calls. I think he will look at the body of work from this season, cut a "best of" list...and use it next year.

What I'm trying to say, after this rambling post, is that I AM optimistic, CJ!...(anyone know how to do stiches to one's own wrists, painlessly, I may have cut myself shaving).

Lord Anonymous

StreetWorm said...

Okay, I've had time to process things after watching that soul devouring excuse for a game on Thursday and I think I'm back to being semi-rational again, so here's what I'm taking away.

First and foremost, and I truly hate to say this, I think the Lions of 2011 are the Buc's of 2010. They really haven't taken out anyone noteworthy (the Bears don't count since they beat them when Martz still had his Samurai death-grip on Forte and wouldn't allow him to run more than 5 times a game). Even the teams that they did beat were pretty damn close calls...Minnesota and Dallas namely.

The Lions, instead of playing the insurmountable underdog card, chose to play the we're here and we deserve it card...yeah, they said they haven't done anything yet, but underneath you could just sense that veneer of cocky bullshit that frankly, the Lions just don't deserve. Schwartz needs to get these guys' attention because they just don't play like a team desperate to prove themselves to the world.

All of that having been said this team is immensely talented and have all the building blocks to be a legitimate playoff contender. I just think they are immature and need a big attitude adjustment. The confidence I've seen throughout the year is great and has been missing from this team for a LOOOONNNNGGGG time...but there's a fine line between that and undeserved cockiness. They've still got a shot at the playoffs but they need to get their heads right (and Stafford needs his finger exorcised).

Neil said...

Lord Anonymous,

Yeah, on the point of optimism vs. defeat, I'm just going to cut and paste something I said in an e-mail response to UpHere on the notion that it felt like a lot of fans emotionally gave up on the season following this game:

"I absolutely think that's true. However, I think the nature of fandom is so ridiculous and so fickle that every single week features an emotional surrender of some sort, either to Hope or to a resigned sense of despair. Especially amongst Lions fans. This one was especially heinous and crushing but I remember one commenter also said something like - and I'm paraphrasing here - "I guess I'll just keep hoping because what other choice do I have?" That's an incredibly poignant and telling statement, one which reveals the beating heart of Lions fandom: for as much as we grouse and complain and tear our hair and groan in despair to gods that may or may not be listening, at the end of the day, we're still there, investing at least some small part of ourselves because what other choice do we have? I think that's an inviolable truth that supersedes everything else and it's what allows someone like me to hang out in the dark, dark places without getting my soul torn away. As bad as it gets, as bad as it seems, as emotionally crushing as it can sometimes be, there's always an untouchable, unreasonable core that hopes and believes."

Like I said earlier (either in the post itself or in one of the comments, I can't remember which), while I was depressed by the game, I also simultaneously had one eye on the rest of the schedule, looking at playoff scenarios, so yeah, for as bad as I felt in the aftermath of the game, there was still a big part of me that was pushing towards a sunshiny future.

Neil said...

"The Lions, instead of playing the insurmountable underdog card, chose to play the we're here and we deserve it card...yeah, they said they haven't done anything yet, but underneath you could just sense that veneer of cocky bullshit that frankly, the Lions just don't deserve. Schwartz needs to get these guys' attention because they just don't play like a team desperate to prove themselves to the world.

All of that having been said this team is immensely talented and have all the building blocks to be a legitimate playoff contender. I just think they are immature and need a big attitude adjustment. The confidence I've seen throughout the year is great and has been missing from this team for a LOOOONNNNGGGG time...but there's a fine line between that and undeserved cockiness. They've still got a shot at the playoffs but they need to get their heads right (and Stafford needs his finger exorcised)."

This is a great point and I think it's going to become one of the defining themes of this season. Hell, I think it already has.