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.
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.