Sunday was a shitty day. The Lions lost and I came down with the flu, which might seem like a coincidence but I can’t rule out a cause and effect scenario either. Whether it was me getting the flu somehow poisoning the Collective which then caused the Lions themselves to become ill and begin projectile vomiting and power shitting all over Soldier Field or whether the Lions virulent shit-bomb exploded and then spread its poison throughout the fanbase culminating in me sitting on the toilet, out of my head with a vicious fever, speaking in tongues begging The Great Willie Young for mercy, the fact remains that it all happened at the same goddamn time, and frankly it doesn’t matter because now that game needs to be forgotten, I finally feel better and somehow I have to find a way to bring this run-on sentence to a close in a way that makes sense and in a way that will somehow be relevant to this week’s game against the Panthers or to the overarching storyline that is this Lions season and I’m not sure if I can do it but goddammit, I’ll try, just like the Lions and all of us need to try to put whatever abomination that was on Sunday out of all of our heads and move on like men and, uh, lady men. Phew!
Indeed. That was exhausting, which makes a perverse sort of sense because this past week has been exhausting. Not just because of the aforementioned flu demon gnawing on my bones but because the Lions lost to the Bears in an important game and they lost in a way that was ugly and cruel and laced with the ghosts of a million dead screaming souls, lost somewhere between Purgatory and Hell, chattering and gibbering to themselves because they just saw Matthew Stafford’s face melt off and be replaced with a flaming skull of Scott Mitchell somewhere on the shores of the River Styx. In the wake of this epic punch to our collective soul-dongs, the fanbase lost its fucking mind, breaking into two diverse but equally irritating camps, the Everybody Panic We’re All Gonna Die And We’re Never Gonna Win Another Game Until The Rapture camp and the Everybody Remain Positive At All Costs And Never Say Anything Negative Or Else You’re A Bad Fan camp. Poor Matthew Stafford was tied to a horse and dragged down Woodward while a gang of wild hobos dressed like extras from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome whooped and hollered and demanded his sacrifice to the Gods of War. I wrote a piece in which I took turns criticizing Stafford, bitching about the shitty offensive line and yelling at my fellow fans and arguing with myself and then that whole thing culminated with us all discussing various ways for Stafford to get laid in the comments and I think I inadvertently told Stafford’s girlfriend on Twitter that she has to fuck him better. My actual words were “We all have to do our part. There are football games to be won here.” She never responded, which is probably for the best, but I assume my restraining order is on its way. Also, a giant ape attacked downtown Detroit and ate Mayor Bing and then Robocop had to be called in to kill the giant ape but the giant ape killed Robocop and now there’s nobody left to stop Clarence Boddicker. That last part might have been a fever dream but then again maybe not. It was a bad week.
The point is, is that I just want to move on. Fuck that game. Fuck the memory of that game. Someone needs to show up and scrub that shit from our brains like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Matthew Stafford needs to have that game surgically removed from his brain, his heart and his soul. Someone get me a mad scientist in here. There is work to be done.
Clearly, I am still not in a good frame of mind, but that’s all right. I don’t want to fight it. That will just end up making me feel even crazier than I already am. A frightening prospect to be sure. Nobody needs that. Instead, I am just going to accept the fact that last week was bitter and terrible and mean and that sometimes these things indeed happen and then I am going to try to move on. The good news, I have found, is that the best way to move on as a fan is to watch your team beat the shit out of some ratty-assed butt of a football team. It is a brutally effective healer of the soul.
And this week, the Lions get the chance to take out all of their frustrations from the past week on one of those ratty-assed butts of a team when they play the Carolina Panthers. And then when they’re done killing the Panthers, the entire fanbase will be back to making Super Bowl trips and anointing Matthew Stafford as the champion of their hearts and a knight of heaven. At least until they lose again and then it will be back to anarchy and blood in the streets. This is because people are dumb and reactionary and annoying.
But to hell with all that. Back to the game against the Panthers. It’s time to move on and what better way to do that than to feast on the soul of a rookie quarterback? It is not particularly dignified to feed upon the weak but these are strange and terrible times and we must all get our soul nutrients where we can. That’s not to say that Cam Newton is particularly weak – after all, the dude is a Fantasy Football wet dream – but the thing is, is that in the real world, where it matters, he still isn’t very good. Yeah, yeah, he’s capable of the eye-popping play and he’ll put up big numbers every week, but he’ll also throw 18 interceptions and do all of those dumbass things that only rookie quarterbacks do and if there’s one thing you can’t do as a quarterback against the Detroit Lions it’s do all of those dumbass things that only rookie quarterbacks do. Because then you will be dead and an angel will be playing a harp somewhere and you will open your eyes after being sacked for the 11,000th time and the only thing you will see will be The Great Willie Young wearing a black robe, a scythe in his hand, dragging your corpse towards the Gates of Judgment.
Indeed. Cam Newton is still a rookie and he is so enamored with himself – and hey, why wouldn’t he be? – that he believes that he can singlehandedly win games. This means that he will run around and try to make something out of nothing and when you do that, you hang onto the ball too long and then Ndamukong Suh is twisting your head off and Kyle Vanden Bosch’s eyes look like the eyes of a hellhound and Corey Williams is chewing on your soul and Sheriff Goodell is on the phone with his posse and issuing posters with the Lions defensive line on the front with the words Wanted: Dead or Alive in old-timey font on them.
What I’m saying is this: there is very real chance that Cam Newton will see his life flash before his eyes on Sunday. He’ll see Ndamukong Suh closing in on him, eclipsing the sun and Newton’s soul, eyes wide and filled with pain and destruction, and then Cam will see himself as a little baby, being rocked by his mama and then he’ll see himself as a little boy playing catch with his preacher man daddy in the backyard and then he’ll see himself getting laid for the first time at some shitty high school party and then he’ll see his preacher man daddy pimping him out to every college with a checkbook and then he’ll see Urban Meyer yelling at him for not going to class and then he’ll see himself on an auction block while his preacher man daddy takes bids from a gang of Southern rednecks and then he’ll see the redneck from Mississippi balk when the bidding gets too high and then he’ll watch as he’s led away by the rednecks from Alabama who will poke and prod him, slobbering all over themselves and then he’ll see them bring him to a place called Auburn and he’ll watch as they throw everything from gold doubloons to their own virgin daughters at him in the hopes that he can throw a football a billion yards and then he’ll see himself get a big trophy called the Heisman and then he’ll see himself shaking Sheriff Goodell’s hand and then he’ll see himself throwing a touchdown pass to Steve Smith and then he’ll see himself spending money on everything from albino tigers to monster trucks to gold plated whores and then he’ll see Ndamukong Suh bearing down on him, the world fading away, everything in slow motion, everything quiet but the roar of his own already dead heart and then Ndamukong Suh will come, the destroyer of worlds, and everything will collapse in on Cam Newton and then there will be nothing but the void, the quiet obsolescence of oblivion and whether he finds peace in that moment is between him and his god.
As for our QB, well . . . this is the perfect week and the perfect team to go up against if he wants to get his shit together. It may be his last chance this season because after this, shit’s about to get real. I still believe in Matthew Stafford but like I said in the piece I wrote the other day, I need to see him pull his shit together and soon. Otherwise I fear that we might have to wait until next season to see if he’s fixed whatever the hell he’s got going on his head. And that’s a lot of waiting and if there’s one thing the species known as the American Sports Fan is not good at, it’s waiting. Especially fans of a franchise who have had their patience frayed and chewed up by the chattering vampire teeth of a billion cruel failure demons over a fifty plus year period of pain and unfathomable agony.
So, yeah, this game is important because it’s going to affect how I view the rest of the season. If Matthew and the boys can pull it together and finally look like the offensive juggernaut I thought they could be going into the season, then I’ll exhale and carry on believing in miracles and all that happy horseshit. If he still looks uncomfortable and the offense can only move in fits and starts then I will have no choice but to officially adjust my expectations accordingly and while that may be the wise thing to do in order to preserve whatever’s left of my lingering sanity, it’s not something I want to do. Because, I’ll be honest with you, I like the high stakes. I like the pressure. I like the feeling of knowing that this shit matters, and that if my team wins then I’ll be ecstatic and I will behave like a goddamn stupid buffoon and that if my team loses, I will weep bitter tears and curse the spirits and shake my fist at the unbearable indignities of life. I like that shit. This is because I am fucking nuts. I am insane. I recognize this. But, to me, that’s the pinnacle of fandom, when the pressure feels real and the stakes feel like they matter because your team has a chance to actually do the goddamn thing that you always hoped and prayed for deep in your diseased soul. Without that, the soul crushing sadness is numbed but so too is the wild idiot frenzy that comes with victory. Go big or go home.
So yeah, this game means something to me. It’s a giant pivot point in this season. If it swings one way, we can go down that crazy stupid road where our dreams will either be fulfilled or cruelly shattered. If it swings the other way, then we can all just take a deep breath and become comfortably numb which, hey, isn’t so bad, but really, what’s the point? I don’t want to be comfortably numb with this team. I want the crazy, stupid love. I want the agony and the ecstasy. (No, I’m not on ecstasy right now, although I don’t blame you for thinking it.) I want to . . . to fucking believe, man.
That’s why, more than anything else, I just want to see the Lions offense move the ball with consistency against the Panthers. Big plays are great. They’re awesome. But I want to see Matthew Stafford fire a ball with machine-like precision into the hands of Nate Burleson on 3rd and 4. I want to see him throw a perfectly executed screen pass to, well shit, anyone. I just want to see him look comfortable. I’m not worried about the defense. They’ll get theirs. I just want to see Matthew Stafford pick a team apart like a vengeful scientist. Fuck you, Carolina, you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s what I want.
Will I get it? Who knows? And that’s where I am right now as a fan, especially when it comes to Stafford and the offense. Who knows? For now, I am still choosing to trust in Hope, in the fiery optimism of my still beating heart. We’ll see how I feel after Sunday.
Predicted Final Score: Lions 34, Panthers 17