Yes Billy, the world is a goddamn vampire.
It’s been a hard week, a time of panicked gibberish and wild-eyed hyperventilation, and although a part of me wants to talk about the walls of the zoo crumbling and the animals running amok, tearing the throats out of the wicked and the innocent with equal zeal, the truth is that things have actually been surprisingly subdued. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been the requisite hoots and grunts and shit flinging that you would expect following such a heinous debacle, but the truth is that most Lions fans, I think, just feel kinda depressed right now.
But that week is over, and now we have to get back to the business of being good, hopeful fans. I have lined up in front of the slapping machine and let it do its nasty work in the hopes that somehow, some way, my brain would be dislodged from its existential fan funk and that I would find new joy and meaning in Mudville, but the truth is, is that I am just sitting here not sure what to write because for the first time in a long time, I have no idea what to think, what to believe, and in the face of all that Hope feels more like a tragedy than a saving grace. And yet hope I will because, really, what other choice is there?
The truth is that, even when things were at their worst I have always had hope. The Lions spent most of my life tripping over themselves and pooping their pants and then sobbing because the mean kids wouldn’t stop picking on them and I still never completely gave up on the idea that they could win. (Which, you’ll note is different than “would win.”) Even when they were down by two touchdowns late in the fourth and were trying one of those furious rallies that would come up just short (Don’t tell me you don’t know what I’m talking about. They looked an awful lot like the Shaun Hill led desperation tour as it rolled through Tennessee last week, minus the Hail Mary anyway.) I would concoct outlandish scenarios in my head in which the Lions somehow triumphed and then that triumph would lead to a string of unlikely victories that would end with our dudes delirious and playing with trophies that no one ever thought would belong to them. Okay, so maybe I never let myself go that far – and with good reason given the last half century of soul murder – but still, within the bounds of a given game, I always secretly felt like the Lions had a chance. Maybe hoped they had a chance is a better phrase, I don’t know, but what I do know is that a part of me never gave up and kept things going for that day, that improbable day, when it would all be better.
And then that day came – or at least it seemed like it - and it felt good, but now that day, or hell maybe just my delusion that that day ever came in the first place, has ended, its dreams lost along with the last dying gleams of a setting sun, and here I am, unable to believe but still hopeful, in love with a flawed and degenerate team, a team too stupid to live yet too goddamn talented to die and in this purgatory, I ride with them because I don’t know how not to.
This team is not good. It is talented but being talented and being good are not the same thing. It does have fatal weaknesses in the secondary but even if it didn’t I would have a hard time believing in them anymore because it has become clear that they have the collective intellect and discipline of a gang of half-retarded three year olds with ADD and no parents. It was hilariously apt that they lost the game in Tennessee ultimately because they tried to outsmart the other team and then ended up outsmarting themselves. Seriously, counting on this team to win because of smarts and discipline was akin to trying to get a donkey to recite Hamlet while giving a dinner party for the Queen. In the end, the donkey just did what he always does – he brayed like the ass he is, kicked a few of the guests in the head, ate some garbage and then shit all over the place while everyone shook their heads in disgust. You don’t even wanna know what he did to the Queen. Fuckin’ scandalous.
By now, it should be obvious that these assholes lack that certain something – call it football intelligence, call it discipline, call it – gasp! – good coaching, call it whatever you want – that allows them to do all those little things that are necessary to being a good team. They just don’t have “it”, whatever it is, and if they haven’t developed it by now, if they haven’t figured it out, well . . . I don’t know what to tell you but that donkey is not going to turn into a goddamn Arabian Race Horse, you know? He is what he is.
Forget stupid horse metaphors though. Here is the truth, given to you straight, without any bullshit getting in the way: I don’t know whether the Lions will beat the Vikings 48-3 or whether they will lose 48-3. That’s it. That’s all that matters. I simply don’t know anymore. I still believe that the Lions are capable of beating any team in the league, so long as they get some breaks and Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson decide to go into God mode. But I also believe that they can lose to any team in the league. Hell, we just saw them do exactly that. They’re unpredictable and while some people will tell you that unpredictable is fun, it is not what I wanted. It is not what we wanted. People will tell you to recalibrate your expectations, to just enjoy the ride, but we did that once, in a decade known as the 1990’s when we were basically the Jacksonville Jaguars except with one transcendent player. Well, here we are again and I don’t want that. I want more than that. If you have been reading my stuff for a while then you know that, you understand it.
There are people saying that this week’s game will tell us a lot about this team. That’s fine, except the only problem is that last week’s game told me everything I need to know already. It was the exclamation point on a creeping sense of dread that has been growing somewhere inside of me since sometime last season. Last year’s team was flawed, deeply flawed, but we overlooked all of that because it was so much fun, because it seemed like the real thing, felt enough like it that we could say okay, this is it. We were like a woman who’s never had an orgasm trying to convince herself that she just got off.
But we didn’t, and I think somewhere deep down we knew it. It wasn’t right. There were too many little things, details that just felt . . . off. We blamed everything from the refs to the league to Matt Millen’s fetid old stench, the whole time telling ourselves that this was just a young team, a growing team, a team that would get their shit together eventually and when it did, look out. But then this season started and it’s been more of the same and more of the same and more of the same, only worse, and it has become too obvious, obvious in that way that we just can’t ignore that, sure, we felt something and it was nice and it was kinda different but we still haven’t had that orgasm that all our friends talk about and Jesus, I just hope we’re not frigid.
Okay, this has gotten weird, with talk of donkeys and orgasms, but the truth is, is that I don’t know what to say about this week’s game because I just don’t know what’s going to happen. Anything could go down. The Great Willie Young might ride Christian Ponder like a horse out of the stadium, whipping him the whole time while the crowd roars its approval or Ndamukong Suh might get thrown out of the game after taking off his own jersey and choking the ref with it. I don’t know and neither do you. This is a team of wildly talented individuals that has no concept of how to play together. It is an explosive team, a team that will leave you speechless with its transcendent beauty and then a minute later have you shaking your head in disgust because the offensive linemen don’t understand the shit that you get taught the first day of camp. It is a team capable of doing things that no other team in the league can do and it’s a team that will do shit that even Pee-Wee teams don’t do.
We were promised classical music while we all drank expensive champagne and had our feet rubbed by supermodels with hands made of pillows and love but what we got was Ted Nugent playing Stranglehold while we drank Natty Light and had our feet stepped on every once in a while by fat men wearing steel toed boots, and hey, I like to get grimy just as much as the next guy but I wanted gourmet food for once not hot dogs, you know?
This is just descending into dumb gibberish and I would apologize but I don’t want to. I don’t want to say I’m sorry for how I feel, for having my heart broken, for having my dreams ripped away from me. I’m not finished, I’m not sitting up in the bleachers heckling these dudes and telling everyone they’re stupid to care. I’m not predicting that they’ll go 2-14 or even 6-10. I simply don’t know. I don’t believe anything and in that absence I’m just a dude, sitting in those bleachers, eyes wide, hands clenched beside him and I’m hoping because I have no idea how not to and I will cheer my heart out, scream ‘til I’m hoarse if somehow, someway, this thing turns in the right direction. But I refuse to lie to myself, refuse to lie to all of you. I’m not going to put on some fake plastic smile because that is just what I’m supposed to do and make a bunch of grandiose claims that I don’t really believe. I want this to work, I really do, but I just don’t know anymore. I don’t think this team is any good right now and I’m not sure if they have it within them to change any of that. I really don’t.
This is not about schemes or play-calling or any of that shit. This isn’t about drafting or personnel decisions or anything else that people like to bitch about. This is about the dudes on that field, their heads and their hearts and this is about the dudes teaching them to play like men, not rambunctious little boys. I believe in this team’s talent. I believe in its ability to do great things. I just don’t believe in anything else.
You want to know what will happen against the Vikings? Well, so do I. All we can do is watch and wait. And hope. Because, once again, that’s all we have left.