Well, here we are. In order to properly prepare for yet another journey into the dark heart of madness, I have embarked on an epic spirit quest. I have deprived myself of sleep so that my natural instincts come to the fore and allow me a purer relationship with the great truths which lurk in the soul of Lions fandom, and I have spent hours parading around in the sewer, reminding myself of where we have come from and where we never want to go again. Yes, in a fit of madness, I have abolished sleep and in a shamanistic frenzy I tore apart my plumbing and then reassembled it, symbolically healing both my home and my soul of old, shitty wounds. I am Degei, the snake god and Dakuwaqa, the shark god of Fiji and I have fire walked on the Island of Beqa and on the hot embers of your soul – fear my wrath!
Okay, I just passed out for about five minutes and now I am back. I apologize for my ravings but it couldn’t be helped. It has become clear to me that my role amongst the fanbase is to serve as a shaman and as such I have to drag myself to strange places, to hurl myself against the furthest walls of my own spirit, break through those walls and then soar through space like a fire dragon, devouring stars and touching the heavens with my madness in exchange for a precious sliver of purest truth. This is what I have been tasked with and thus this is what you get. It may seem that I have fallen too far off the path of lucidity but you asked for this. Deep in your heart, you called to me in my exile and you brought me back and with that comes the holy fire of my eyes and of my heart and my soul and sometimes that is strange and weird and terrible but these are strange and weird and terrible times and these things happen. We must all make our peace with it.
Because here’s the powerful truth: I don’t really need to talk about the game against the Rams. I don’t need to preview it, to explain how it fits into the bigger saga of our journey as Lions fans, because we already know that the Lions are going to skullfuck the Rams and then terrorize their mothers and grandmothers. Hell, Nick Fairley might even defile the St. Louis Arch. This is how far we have come. Teams like the Rams do not stand a chance. They are merely clay pigeons, floating slowly across the sky and all we have to do is point our guns in the right direction and they will explode and break and then we will cheer and revel in carnal decadence. I am Degei and I have spoken.
The real challenge is not found in singular games. Not anymore. The story has changed. It has shifted and now it is not a matter of savoring one victory here or one beatdown there. No, it has become about the season as a whole, about satisfying those loud places in our hearts that we only whisper aloud for fear that their thunder will break us if we’re not careful. This is about taming a dream world, about looking the brightest parts of ourselves in the eye and not cowering before the magnificence of the light. This is about reflecting that light, reflecting the glory and being comfortable with the idea of heaven while we abandon our fearful worship of the dark places.
Right . . . about that. The complexities of Lions fandom will never, ever let us completely escape The Fear. It will always be there. The last couple of ridiculous paragraphs were written just to illustrate how ridiculous we’ve gotten. We’re so desperate to be something better than what we’ve ever known that we’ve become almost incapable of approaching the season with any sort of rationality. We’re all just insane, gibbering fanboys, deifying young millionaires, painting portraits in our minds of Matthew “Snake” Stafford (I’m gonna make that fuckin’ nickname stick, you just watch.) flicking the ball like a beam of light towards the outstretched arms of the corporeal version of the Lord known as St. Calvin and then his finger extending to touch God’s like the dude on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It is incredible and completely ridiculous and yet this is what we collectively see when we close our eyes and envision this season. And woe unto any motherfucker who dares to say otherwise.
We’ve become a roving band of zealots, True Believers who will eat the soul of anyone who dares to doubt The Glory of our Holy Triumph. We are incapable of reason. There is every chance the defense will be a goddamn horror show, leaving us with tear-streaked faces and bloody nubs where our souls used to be but no one wants to hear that shit. Not now. This is a tidal wave of brutal populism and you either get down with the sickness or get your fuckin’ head chewed off by the cannibal army. And hey, that’s cool. I bear some responsibility here. I have helped to engender this foray into madness because you know what? It feels good. It feels a whole hell of a lot better than groveling like crippled ignoramuses, begging for scraps from villagers who just laugh at us and kick us in the gut whenever they walk by, which is what we had to deal with for fifty years of insane misery.
Those fifty years broke us in ridiculous ways, unfathomable ways, and I have talked about this in the past, and so now that we have risen from the low places of our own hearts, we find ourselves still crippled in a strange, fucked up way, only now as we stagger along, we have big ass clubs which we use to beat the other villagers about the head with and we are marauding like Huns through their homes, pillaging and getting our goddamn revenge and no one can really stop it. This is just the way it has to be, the natural reaction to that half-century of almost unfathomable sports pain.
This is not a season of rationality. This is a season of madness, of staggering naked through the universe, deprived of sleep, gibbering about being Degei, the snake god. This is a season of bloodlust and it cannot be quenched by experts warning us that things are about to turn in a shitty direction. Instead of listening we just start eating their faces. And this is because of one simple and immutable truth: there is no going back for us. There is only forward and the idea of regression is so horrifying, so anathematic to our bleeding souls, that to even suggest it is to make love to heresy in the eyes of the congregation. 0-16 took us and ripped us to pieces. It broke us in ways that we’ll never be able to fully comprehend. After that happened, we collectively called upon every last little shred we had left inside of us and pushed forward, one hellish step at a time, the only thing keeping us going the promise that this would be the last journey, that we would never – could never – turn back, and that we would only stop once we reached the Promised Land.
And so here we are, loving and deifying a team riddled with potential weaknesses – the secondary is a fucking mess, the running backs are all dead or in Sheriff Goodell’s stockade – and yet all we can do is look to the horizon, to Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson shining like beacons of Hope, to the promise still so alive in that defense, to young warriors like The Great Willie Young, and believe with all our heart. It is all we have left, belief, and that is what this season is really about – belief. In the face of everything, belief. In the sound and the fury of a fanbase devouring the heretical “experts”, belief. In the wildest dreams of our wounded hearts, belief. There is no going back. There is only belief. That is the wild rose that miraculously bloomed from the cracked wasteland of 0-16. It grew in strange and unfathomable ways and its roots are twisted and strange and kind of ugly but it is still a rose and it is beautiful and it is there, still growing, a symbol of strength and indomitable will. That is the symbol of our belief.
Like I said, the Lions will beat the Rams. They just will. We all know this and that is a great, great feeling. But deep down in our beat up old souls The Fear still lurks and he speaks to us, that rotten motherfucker, and the only way we can keep him from getting louder is to harden our hearts against him, to believe even more ferociously, to make love to hyperbole and set our eyes past the horizon, past the sky, past the sun, to stars we only hope actually exist, and as we stare into this limitless wonderland of our own Hope, we cling to the belief that everything we have ever wanted is possible.
There is something potentially tragic in all of that. If this doesn’t work out, if we are just riding forward not to beautiful stars but to a sucking black hole then we’ll never recover. In some ways, this season is our last stand, the manifestation of our collective will and we will hold to it and hold to it and hold to it until the universe rips it away from us. This is either the beginning of Nirvana or the Last Ride of the Damned, but either way we won’t stop moving forward, always forward and believing because Belief is what our souls are made of now, Belief is what saved us and Belief is what keeps us together, what keeps us from just breaking apart and blowing away on the wind. Belief is our collective identity now. Belief is what we are made of. Our Lions fandom is made up of a billion shimmering Belief molecules, each radiating at a frequency just right to allow us to come together, a collective force existing as a manifestation of our will, keeping us together as we march towards Paradise. Jesus, I sound like the fucking Ultimate Warrior here, which is what happens when you forsake sleep, but fuck all that, the season starts this week and I believe. I believe both because I want to and because I have no choice. I believe because every step behind us is obscured by hell-flames and fuck you, I ain’t goin’ back. But most of all I believe because once upon a time I said that I wouldn’t trade Matthew Stafford or Calvin Johnson for any player in the entire league and today, more than ever, I stand by that statement. I believe because in those two dudes anything and everything is possible and the almost pathological and desperate dreams of the most delicate parts of our hearts seem just one jump-ball away.
There is a lot to feed The Fear, a lot to get in the way of Belief, and a rational man would have to pay those things some respect, but I am not a rational man. Not this season – none of us are – and whenever The Fear is fed, all I can do is close my eyes and watch as St. Calvin soars and continues to soar as the ball rockets majestically through the air, and he just keeps rising and rising and rising as everything else falls away and then all that’s left is him and the ball, the ball and him, and in their meeting my Belief is validated, Fear is just a word and the sheer magnificence of possibility breaks above the horizon and heralds a new day, a new world. And that single image is good enough for me.
Predicated Final Score: Lions 34, Rams 13