Sunday, November 20, 2011

Welcome Back

Welcome back, old friend. Welcome back.



Here’s a quick twitter exchange which, honestly, says quite a bit:


@armchairlb (Hey, that’s me! Wheeeeeeee!): I think I'll choose to cling to the 42-11 run the Lions closed the game on rather than the 24-7 hole they climbed into at the beginning.

@Real_Interloper: @armchairlb: first half almost ended my football fandom. Literally.


Indeed.

The bipolar mania which lives at the heart of Lions fandom struck hard today, and it struck in such a stark, ridiculous way that it just rendered the whole experience vaguely absurd, a wild, stupid, emotionally draining mindfuck which somehow managed to encompass virtually every single emotion within the human spectrum. I know, I have said that a couple of times already this season, but Jesus, just look at that split. 24-7 and 42-11. Those two things happened within the same game, which . . . shit, I give up. I fucking give up. How do you explain something like that? You don’t. Instead, all that’s left is trying to make sense of it in little 140 character bursts on twitter or with the help of a friendly bottle filled with 100 proof spirits of fire.

There was a lot to hate about that game, a lot of vicious, terrible things which had me swatting away ghosts and gibbering about Failure Demons and composing horrific death sonnets in my head while I prepared my soul for the long excruciating journey towards the dark side. I could feel the walls of the world rising, rising, rising, all around me, the terrible darkness of the past and my own brutal naked fears closing in. Ugly, ugly things, a savage and brutal reminder of everything I have tried to forget as a fan. There was a raw, helpless dumb anger followed by the overly familiar and in its own way even worse spiteful disgust. I went from hooting at the TV like some mad ape to sneering in disgust and shielding my insides from disappointment, rebuilding terrible, terrible walls which I had torn down so triumphantly, brick by brick over the past year. I hated it and in a lot of ways that numb mocking belligerence felt more terrible than the all too close live wire anger with which I was becoming accustomed.

And it’s that feeling that makes me understand what my friend @Real_Interloper, aka UpHere, was talking about because I felt it too. (By the way, if you have any interest in finance or current events, check out UpHere’s new blog The Interloper, which is fucking fantastic.) Before anyone starts howling about bad fans and all that shit, please, for me, shut up. It wasn’t that things were going badly, it’s that things were going so apocalyptically badly that I suddenly understood how old war veterans feel when they freak the fuck out and start diving into the bushes outside of church because they see men in black pajamas sneaking up on them or because they hear bombs dropping from some ghost plane far above. That sort of post-traumatic “get me the hell out of here, man” freak out is something that’s purely instinctual. It wasn’t like I was sitting there consciously weighing the pros and cons or anything like that. All I knew was that this fucking sucked and, well, get me the hell out of here, man.

But then some angel heard me gibbering or Matthew Stafford’s girlfriend blew him underneath a tarp on the sideline or something because that dude came out and suddenly, those walls all collapsed, the ghosts were sucked back down into hell and there he was, that T-Rex flying a fighter jet. Yes, something happened to Matthew Stafford during this game. I don’t know what it was but it was like Doc Brown had suddenly shown up in the DeLorean with the Matthew Stafford from the preseason, tossed the impostor Stafford in the trunk and got the fuck out of there before anyone knew what was happening. Up until that point, it almost felt like Stafford was caught in some sort of weird vortex in which he was reverse aging or something, reverting back to childish habits and stupid lapses in judgment. Shit, by the fourth quarter I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had to sneak off the field because he was suddenly reliving that time he got a boner in front of his seventh grade gym class.

Never mind all that shit. I have gotten too weird and I’m not even sure what I am blithering on about. The point is, is that whatever the hell was wrong with Stafford’s brain apparently cleared up just in time for him to reach out a hand to us while we writhed like idiot children on the valley floor and say “Come with me if you want to live.” And shit, we grabbed his hand and that beautiful motherfucker carried us all back up the mountain top.

The whole thing was vaguely disorienting. I mean, before the game I openly yelped about how I didn’t have any confidence when the offense took the field anymore and during the first quarter or so of this game there was a point when I not only didn’t have any confidence, it had swung around again to become some sort of weird anti-confidence, like dark matter or some shit. I was confident, but I was confident that the Lions were just going to fuck up and that’s a dangerous and terrible place to be in as a fan. I’ve lived in that place as a fan for so fucking long that I never wanted to go back there again, and yet, there I was. But by the time the game was over, that negative confidence dark matter or whatever the fuck you want to call it had somehow reversed itself so dramatically that I was shocked whenever a pass fell incomplete. Welcome to the madhouse, everybody.

Indeed. It was so disorienting that I’m not exactly sure when things flipped back but I’m pretty sure that I began to float around the room for a moment, like an astronaut in zero gravity before I slammed back onto the ground and then I was watching Stafford throw perfectly precise screen passes and I was watching Kevin Smith – Kevin Smith! – rise from the dead, strangle the crypt keeper, knee Death in the balls and run like the dude I once raved about like a dullard back in the days of yore when no one read this shit and I was just a maniac howling into a dark and lonely night.

The whole goddamn thing felt like some weird temporal wormhole where everything and anything existed all at the same time. Shit, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see Joey Harrington float through playing the piano or Bobby Layne to show up with a fifth of Wild Turkey and smash Joey Blue Skies over the head with it all while the game was going on in the background. I mean, come on, Kevin Smith? Are you fucking serious?

There was one moment, especially poignant, which saw Smith on the sideline, after it became clear that he had slain whatever demons had been guarding his crypt, on his knees, thanking whatever gods he prays to at night that he had made it back. I don’t really want to turn that whole scene into a giant metaphor but let’s face it, I trade in symbolism and metaphors, and, well . . . that shit felt metaphoric.

The weird thing is, is I’m not exactly sure what it was a metaphor for. Our own last second frantic mad dash from the crypt? Maybe. I don’t know. Look, this is something stupid people do, searching for metaphors where there are none but I don’t care. I felt it, man. I felt it. I suppose it was because in some dark corner of my soul, in that same corner where lived those words sent to me by UpHere, that sentiment that . . . that something had fucking died, man, that my hopes and dreams had just come apart in some raw and cruel way that I’m not even sure how to properly explain, mirrored what had happened to Kevin Smith’s career. There was so much hope and then there was just a familiar embrace of darkness. It was almost comfortable, the acceptance that the story had already been written and that there would be no coming back from any of it, but then there was Kevin Smith, running, running, running and suddenly he was back and so was I and my heart and my soul lived and breathed again and holy shit, man, you can come back. You can.

There are a lot of negatives to take away from this game, a lot of dumb fuckups and mental shitbombs that just don’t blow up in the faces of good teams like they seem to do to us, but like I said in my tweet, I’m choosing to focus on the 42-11 rather than the 24-7. It’s not that I’m clinging desperately to some dumb desperate need to believe. I’m not. I think I fought that battle during the game and somehow, I won. Somehow I came out of it intact. I don’t think the Lions are some Super-team that’s going to win every game and run the Packers out of the building on Thursday but I don’t think they’re the same old Lions either. They just are what they are and right now, I’m okay with that. For right now, anyway. A week from now, I might be riding a parade float I built in my own backyard out of old beer bottles, wine jugs and some sticks and pinecones I found in the backyard. Or I may be speaking in tongues and wearing a sandwich board on some terrible street corner, proclaiming that the end is nigh and that we should all repent before the devil Millen steals our souls. Such is the nature of fandom. But right now, I feel okay, neither too high nor too low and I can live with that. It’s actually a nice place to be.

I suppose I’m just happy that my confidence in the offense has blossomed anew and that I find myself believing in Matthew Stafford once again. It’s what I wanted more than anything heading into this game against the Panthers and, hey, I got it. It took a very, very weird road to get to me and I’m pretty sure a hobo got killed along the way but it got there and that’s all that matters to me right now. In a weird way, I think my expectations for this season have finally aligned with reality. Like I said, neither too high nor too low. And what I’m left with is a smile when I realize that my Lions are 7-3 and even though I’m not expecting anything great, anything is possible and it is in that possibility that I have found my own salvation as a fan.

Kevin Smith is not Emmitt Smith and the Lions are not the ’85 Bears crossed with the ’95 49ers but I don’t care. Kevin Smith is Kevin Smith and the Lions are the Lions and I’m good with that. Today, anyway. And that’s enough.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that it's clear now that KSmith was never really healthy the whole time he was in Detroit, from the 5,000 carry season that he had in Central Florida to the rushing back from his shoulder and knee injuries, he just never looked the same in a Lions uniform as he did in college.

Until Sunday, that is.

Smith has a burst now, not a Jhavid Best 85 yard "I'm going to outrun everyone including Forrest Gump" burst, but one that can get him to the second level of defenses regularly. I hope this continues against a much better run defense in Green Bay, since Stafford and his fighter jet are going to need every advantage they can get if they want to outscore the aircraft carrier of weapons that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense.

Early Thanksgiving best wishes to everyone here, as well as Kevin Smith, a good guy that deserved a second chance and ran with it (pun totally intended).

Anonymous said...

BTW, that last post was DarkStar. The failure demons, angry at being thwarted in Detroit, have now resorted to eating all Google ID's.

AutospeedConcepts said...

I fuckin' love it. Welcome back K. Smith. Welcome power run game when U need it....

Hello good to see U in game offensive adjustments to short and intermediate passes to wear a defense down. Strikin' up top when makin' the defense commit underneath.

Now lets get ready for GB and stay focused.

Happy Thanksgivin' to every' here and Ur fam as well.

CJ said...

UpHere has a blog? Fantastic!

This is going to sound deranged, but to me, the turning point was on that scramble Stafford made that resulted in the late hit penalty extending the drive. Yes, he threw another interception right after that and had a three and out the next series...but he just looked...different during that play and after it, not afraid of getting hit, knowing it was probably hopeless but running hard and looking determined. (yes, I do know he got like 2 yards) It just looked like he knew it was all on him, and that was fine. Yes, I know the Heroic 8 Yards Short on 3rd Down Run Out of Bounds will not be remembered by anyone else.

I'm so glad you talked about that K Smith moment. That whole series of being you know GOOD AT FOOTBALL, the swaggery little bow, individually thanking the O-line and then praying by himself (and I say this as an atheist) was really touching because it felt so genuine and actually human. I love our team so hard.

Reading stuff in the fandom, I see we have a new facet of the barbed wire tightrope of being Matthew Stafford: X% of the passes must be thrown to Calvin Johnson, any deviation above or below that % is evidence of Stafford's flaws. X varies and is uniquely determined for each member of the fandom. Have fun, Matt!

One of the things that has kept me a junkie of your writing for seasons is this sense you have that everything is metaphor. It's lovely, and you kind of layer it by calling attention to it for added effect often, and very well. However, I don't think you have ever used that to greater effect than this post. Fantastic job.

I really hope any of the things I've written here make any sense. I'm not hopeful.

Oh, and Dick Stockton called football 'theatre' and I about fell off my chair.

Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving Neil, and everyone! It's been so much reading the posts and comments.

Neil said...

DarkStar,

Yeah, I think everybody underestimated just how much the fact that he had been physically beaten to a pulp affected his game. Hopefully, the time off has, in a weird way, been a bit of a blessing for him.

Neil said...

AutospeedConcepts,

Hell yes on the in-game adjustments. The whole offense, from Stafford to K. Smith to the offensive coaches, woke the fuck up from some weird coma on Sunday. I loved it.

Neil said...

CJ,

Thank you as always for your kind words and yeah, again as usual, you're pretty much spot on with your observations. Stafford seemed to have a confidence in himself, his own body, the o-line, in, well, everything really that just wasn't there before.

And don't worry, you always make sense. At least to me. Then again, maybe that should make you worry.

Neil said...

Also, yes, Happy Turkey Holocaust to everyone.

JP said...

Sometimes this team is as bi-polar as the fan-base. Or is it the other way around?

And finally the Offense was offensive for the right reasons. I'm ecstatic that they got their shit together, but I'm still a bit weary about how they STILL have not put a full 60 fucking minutes together.

BTW, I didn't mean for this to sound so sloppy and pointless, but well, I've been a bit sloppy and pointless lately, so I guess this nonsense fits like a stinky old T-shirt that you got for filling out credit card apps at college.

Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still alive. (but man that fucking ether is strong) ;)

Neil said...

Yeah, I really, really want to see them finally put together a complete game offensively. This game gave me hope that that is not an entirely fantastical desire on my part.

Also, JP, I understand that the ether can make it hard to get your fingers to work properly in context with the keyboard. One minute you're writing up a nice little post or comment and the next you're freaking out because you think you're fingering a dragon and wondering what the hell went wrong. It happens. No worries.

Anonymous said...

I was at the game, great game to see. Just checking in during my brutal 60-hours a week stretch of work.

The beginning was like eating festering dog shit out of a bucket. There were some boos out of the crowd after the first three disasterous series.

Cam Newton is going to be a GREAT one in a few years, I love watching that guy play already and he is just going to get better. Who'd have thunk THAT at the beginning of the season?

The low point for the crowd was the kickoff return for a TD. Of course, live you could see the defence fan out, overpursue to the left, and get neatly clobbered on the opposite sideline.

Lions kept going and never seemed to lose their cool. Credit to Matty "Fire and Ice". He hung in there and kept firing it.

At halftime, my friends and I felt like the Lions weren't out of it. It was just a feeling.

Sure enough, they bolted down the field again and again. Carolina's defence is AWFUL. I didn't watch the game on TV, but it was obvious live.

Kevin S. ran like a man possessed, it was real fun. Stafford wasn't missing much, it was crazy. The TD throw to Pettigrew was like shooting a shotgun through a needle...Pettigrew seemed to have a defender right on top of him, don't know how Stafford did it.

All in all, it was a great game to watch. A+ entertainment -- couldn't ask for more, really.

I think the Lions have a SHOT to be competitive against Green Bay. I think, with the D-Line pressure they can apply, the ability for Stafford and co. to get hot and put up some numbers...we'll see.

As everyone else here says, it depends on which team shows up: the manic or the depressive one.

Happy Turkey Day!

Lord Anonymous

Neil said...

Thanks for the first hand account, Lord Anonymous.

Agreed about Cam Newton.

Also, yeah, the low point was definitely that kickoff return. I wasn't even there and I could just feel the frustration and disgust of the crowd. Things could have gotten ugly as fuck if things didn't pick up after that.

Also, also, like you and your friends, I also didn't think the Lions were out of it. That first half just felt so disaster-laden, so fluky in a way, that I thought if everyone just settled down and played like they could, they would get it back. And the cool thing was, was that it wasn't a wild, manic comeback like in the Cowboys game. Instead, it was controlled, calm and by the time the 4th quarter started I was pretty much convinced that the Lions were going to win. They steamrolled those fuckers in the second half.