I have a tendency – hell, some would say that it is my whole thing here – to be melodramatic, to make everything an epic fight for our souls as fans. The other day, I wrote a whole post basically devoted to taking a hatchet to that sort of melodrama, which kind of leaves me in an odd place. Now I actually have to back that shit up. Now, instead of moaning about half a century of maddening failure, I have to focus on the here and the now, to allow this week’s game to exist in a sort of vacuum of meaning, not in terms of the season, but in terms of our entire journey as fans. That’s a hard thing for me to do. Hell, it might be impossible. After all, that journey is really what I’ve been writing about all this time. But in order to save my soul as a fan, I have to set fire to that and let it burn, lest I get sucked into the dumb waters of vicious screaming matches and dumb noise, drowned in a vile sewer of shit that just doesn’t fucking matter. The past and all that it means is always chasing us, always hunting us, and so like doomed animals, terrified and desperate, all that’s left for us to do is run, run, run, and there is nothing noble in running, nothing . . . honest. Scratch that. In a way, I suppose running is the most honest thing there is, the most naked and raw of all actions, indisguisable (my spellcheck is telling me that’s not a word, but fuck you spellcheck, I make my own words.) as anything other than cowardice. But I talked about all that the other day and so I won’t start gibbering on about that again. Too much anyway. (What’s that? Too late? Goddammit . . .)
Anyway, the point is that the honesty that is so pure in running is too ugly, too depressing and yet, how do we argue with something that inherently true? We don’t. Instead, we have to change those impulses that make us want to run. We have to change that . . . Fear.
I have written over and over (and over . . .) again about The Fear and you all know what it is. I won’t waste your time describing it you yet again. But the weird thing about The Fear is that it actually seems to increase in direct opposition to how well the season is going. If the Lions were 3-10 right now we’d all be bitching and moaning and setting fire to our pets and chugging drain cleaner before the gates of Hell, but we really wouldn’t be afraid, would we? No, we’d just be miserable and depressed. The Fear grabs a hold of your throat when you have something to lose and it squeezes and squeezes until your throat pops and you can’t breathe and pretty soon you are drowning in a pool of your own blood and bile, suffocating to death while you watch, eyes wide and stupid, while Ndamukong Suh stomps on a dude.
This is what we have to find a way to defeat or we’ll never, ever be happy. We’ll spend all of our time looking for things to be afraid of, complaining because Ndamukong Suh refuses to smile and beg our forgiveness for his perceived crimes against humanity. We’ll get angry every time . . . you know what, it’s all in yesterday’s post. Read that and then come back to me because otherwise I’m afraid I’ll end up gibbering on and repeating myself a billion times and falling into the same old trap I talked about there.
Okay . . . you still with me? Good. Anyway, The Fear has been such an integral part of our fan experience that without it – or at least without its power – it’s tough to even know what to write about. It’s freeing in a way but ironically, letting go of The Fear is also kind of terrifying. Which, I guess, just goes to show how much I am just putting on a brave face instead of truly rejecting its power, but what the hell, I’m just gibbering to myself at this point and if you have no idea what I’m talking about or where I’m going with this, don’t worry, neither do I.
I guess what I’m saying is that without all of that bullshit taking up space in my fractured brain, I’m left to focus on something that manages to be both incredibly wonderful and uniquely and infinitely more terrifying than The Fear of the past and that’s the promise and fragile beauty of the present. Right now the Lions are 8-5, heading into Oakland, and if they manage to leave with a win, they will be 9-5 and poised to grab hold of a Wild Card playoff spot that would give answer to so many of our desperate fan prayers, prayers spoken to the darkness of our own hearts in the silence of the impossible, thin whispers of Hope quivering, small and transitory, in a landscape bereft of meaning or purpose other than as a holding pen for the darkest confirmation of the horrible promises of The Fear, terrible thoughts which have eaten those fragile whispers like monstrous beasts. But now those whispers are louder, stronger, and now we can hear them actually escape our lips and now people are screaming them, and in the cacophonous roar of our hopes and dreams lies the truth, both terrifying and dangerously seductive, which is that the Lions are close and if they can just put together two more victories, they will be playing football with a chance to ring the bell at the top of the mountain and then scream into the void below, confirmation that we have made it, that we are here, and that we aren’t going anywhere.
And that, as I said, is as frightening as it is exciting because, hey, what if we don’t make it? And that’s a question that has nothing to do with the past. Well, not entirely anyway. For once, that is just a question asked about the here and the now. There is a certain sort of comfort in asking questions that only have vague answers, hidden whether good or bad in some distant future, some surreal wonderland of the mind that we don’t have to worry about in practical matters for a long time, which is what we are used to as Lions fans. But these are questions which will be answered, for good or bad, in the next couple of weeks. By Christmas morning, we will have a pretty good idea of whether or not those reckless whispers to our own hearts that we made so long ago will be made real or whether they will just be mere words, shoved back into the dusty closets of our minds.
I am getting a tad ridiculous here (a tad?) but here’s the point: we’ll know and we’ll know soon and that creates a unique kind of anxiety which is different from The Fear because at its core is wild, untamable Hope. And it is this Hope that has me a nervous wreck, bouncing of the walls of my own brain as I look down the road and see the finish line, and see, for the first time in a long time – maybe ever – that the path to that finish line is open and clear. All we have to do to get there is beat a Raiders team that seems to be falling completely apart, inspiring desperate ramblings about alcoholism from my Brown Buffalo Miguelito, and a Chargers team that has a long and hilariously ridiculous history of fucking up whenever the situation calls for it. Look, if all we have to do is beat a Raiders team on the verge of complete collapse and a team led by Norv Turner and a quarterback who always has a look on his face like he just ate a plateful of his own shit and then watched a horse cornhole his mother then goddammit, dudes and lady dudes, I think we’re actually going to do this.
A part of me just wants to breathe into a paper bag and gibber things like “But what if they don’t?” and “What if Suh eats a baby and then Sheriff Goodell has him lynched?” and “What if we’re attacked by Galactus and The Great Willie Young is still out with an injury and can’t stop him from destroying the earth before we get to watch the Lions play in an actual playoff game?” and so on and so on, but fuck all that. Now is the time to stare down that finish line with a smile forged in the hottest fires of our souls and to realize that, yes, dudes and lady dudes, this shit is happening.
Like I said, the Raiders are in full meltdown mode. They’ve been forced to turn to the decrepit arm of Carson Palmer, hoping beyond hope that he’d come back like a character in some shitty sports movie, dragging himself out of a bottle and the arms of a fresh whore so that he could find redemption and one last shot at glory. But this is not a movie. It’s real life and in this life Carson Palmer is just a broken down fuckup who won’t give you anything other than a couple of hilarious interceptions and a sad, withered smile as he realizes that his days as the Golden Boy are drowned in some Southern California hot tub along with the snarled pubic hair and shattered dreams of a USC coed and the lost career of Matt Leinart, never to return again. And you know who likes hilarious interceptions (and presumably pubic hair and USC coeds, although I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. Then again, in a perfect world, it would have something to do with everything.)? That’s right, Alphonso Smith and the Lions ball-hawking secondary.
And then there is Ndamukong Suh, the disgraced lord returning to claim what is rightfully his. You think he won’t be pissed off? You think he isn’t ready to channel all of the bullshit of the past few weeks into 60 minutes of pain? Carson Palmer, this world does not love you anymore, and all you are is a target, a human clay pigeon, floating listlessly in front of the shotgun mania of our man Suh and there will be nothing to protect you other than the embrace of oblivion.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are still probably going to be without Darren McFadden, and while Michael Bush is a good enough runner to not embarrass anyone, asking him to somehow resurrect the Raiders all by himself all while trying to run through a horde of angry Suhs is probably asking too much. In the end, all the Raiders have is Bush and the sun-dried cracked statue that is Carson Palmer. Sure, they have a couple of receivers, most notably rookie Denarius Moore, who could do some damage, but since most of the game will probably be spent watching Suh and his posse tear down the statue that is Carson Palmer like revolutionaries tearing down the statue of some decrepit old dictator, they can feel free to run all day long because without the ball in their hands, it really doesn’t matter.
But what of the Raiders defense? Well, here’s the thing: Rolando McClain is the heart of this Raiders defense. He’s a damn fine football player. When he’s not beating the shit out of childhood friends and firing guns in the air like a goddamn Iraqi freedom fighter, that is. The bad news is that somehow after being literally arrested for multiple counts of degeneracy, McClain has managed to avoid the tinfoil badge wrath of Sheriff Goodell. He played the past couple of weeks and played pretty well. The good news is that nobody else on the Raiders defense did and if there’s one team we don’t have to worry about the refs babying, it’s the Raiders. If there’s a team out there the Sheriff and his posse hate more than the Lions right now, it’s McClain and the Raiders. It’s possible that there might be in excess of 20 total penalties in this game. That will be annoying. The good news, however, is that the Raiders will probably be the team that gets the majority of them. Good. Fuck them. I’ll look forward to seeing another team get dragged down to hell by a yellow demon filled with BB’s or corn or whatever the fuck they stuff those things with so they don’t flutter in the wind like scarves being thrown by broken-hearted lovers.
The past two weeks, the Raiders defense has looked like shit. They gave up 46 to the Packers last week, which is somewhat understandable, but they gave up 34 to the Dolphins the week before and the Dolphins would have trouble scoring 34 points on a gang of witless and blind cripples. They are a ragged team that has lost its way and as much as I admire the Raiders for their history of pissing off people like the despicable Sheriff, they are in our way and so fuck them. I will salute their corpses on the way out of town.
This is it. The time we have whispered about is here. It is now. And in this place and in this time is the promise of that one thing we’ve longed for above all else: freedom. The freedom to let the past die, the freedom to believe, the freedom to live in the moment and forget everything but that wide-eyed dash to the finish line, freedom to run with a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts. Because the Lions are 8-5 and after this week they will be 9-5 and then the Chargers will come to town and then the Lions will be 10-5 and then . . . well, welcome to the future, where the past is just a word and anything and everything is possible.
Predicted Final Score: Lions 38, Raiders 21