Writing these preview pieces has become a dangerous proposition. It’s easy to feel boxed in, to get caught up in the wave of hysteria that the fanbase perpetually rides into oblivion. This is the danger inherent in mindmelding with the greater tribe. But as a shaman I have a responsibility to speak to truths both small and great and sometimes this clashes with the bloodlust and righteous fury of the people. I think you can probably see where I’m going with this.
The thing is, is that trying to be an objective Lions fan has become really, really difficult. The biggest reason is because, as fans, we need to move forward. I talked about this last week – for us, there is no backward. There is no regression. We can’t handle that. That is one of the many aftershocks of 0-16. That terrible Death March broke us in ways too terrible and inconceivable to truly understand. It left us high strung, perpetually teetering on a high-wire of the soul. One wrong step and we’re fucking finished. We can’t afford to screw up and for god’s sake we can’t look down.
This creates a sort of manic irrationality, not so much a belief as a fear of disbelief. It is a frighteningly souped-up speed demon hell car barreling at a million hours an hour with no brakes, driven by a hillbilly on meth, racing away from Fear. This is what is driving us. It is not quiet, it is not subtle and it has no time for sober analysis or thoughtful detail. It just wants to rev its engine and then race into the future where it will probably explode and kill everyone inside. This is where we have been as a fanbase – or rather, this is what we have evolved into over the last couple of years. It is a manic kind of Hope, built as much on the desire to avoid Fear as anything else, profoundly influenced by the negative as much as the positive. It is something that is uniquely our own and no one else understands it but us. Hell, we don’t even understand it. I’m starting to, but trying to wrap your head around it is to invite madness and chaos.
So that is how things stood when we came into this season and that is how I feel every time I write one of these, like there is a psycho clown holding a gun to my head and laughing. Of course, it occurs to me that I am that psycho clown and that gun is of my own making, but still, the pressure to just strut the front lines like some kind of crazed beast and preach the sanctity of blood and destruction, ignoring all other truths, is pretty damn huge. In short, we overcompensate like freaks because of what we have had to endure for far, far too long.
That would be bad enough, except we now also have to deal with the dread specter of Disrespect. It’s not bad enough that we put this manic, insane pressure on ourselves to Hope and Believe because the alternative is just too horrible, too painful, but now we have to deal with every asshole with a Magic Football Formula telling us that we’re going to fail, and that our dream is just a mirage and that soon we’ll wake up and find ourselves back in the Desert of the Damned, weeping like faithless men until our parched souls dry up the tears and leave us desiccated husks, lying in the sand until a foul and evil and cruel wind comes along and blows us into nothingness.
Whoa. This got a little heavy, didn’t it? The point I’m trying to make is that it’s hard out here for a man with open ears and eyes that see because nobody wants to hear that shit. They either want to revel in their own misery, like pigs slopping around in their own shit or they just want to hear sonnets about our boys swooping in on fighter jets made of sex, candy and beer, and the prevailing national mood when it comes to the Lions only exacerbates that to an insane degree. It has created a You're Either With Us Or Against Us mentality and predicting that the Lions could – gasp! – lose is considered tantamount to treason and anyone guilty will get taken out back, shot and then skullfucked by the Lord of the House of Spears.
I just think it’s time, collectively, to take a half a step back and stop acting like dumb assholes, on both sides. We need to quit acting like a bunch of schizophrenic cokeheads. We march down the street before games, club the disbelievers upside the head and declare that we’re headed for a thousand years of a Glorious Lions Empire and then after the games we cannibalize each other and declare that Matthew Stafford is a loser because he’s a human being and not the mythologized warrior poet of our hearts. I’m just saying, it’s not treason to think that the Lions might lose this game. I will be on my knees, weeping and beating my chest, trying to evoke the thunder of the gods and cursing the little men in red and gold inside my TV, and I’ll probably put a hex on Al Michaels at some point, name a squirrel “Harbaugh” and then powerbomb it against a tree, but that doesn’t change the fact that, well, I think the Lions are probably going to lose this game.
It doesn’t do any good to just pretend otherwise, to armor myself in some sort of cheap plastic optimism, an optimism that in its cravenness is actually cynical and fearful, a weird sort of worship of The Dark and The Fear in its own strange way. We have to get to a place where we recognize and accept that the Lions can lose a game like this, and more importantly, that if they do they’ll still be okay. It isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t presage some mighty fall, some terrible regression, and we won’t wake up and realize it was all just a dream while a naked Matt Millen spanks us with a spiked paddleboard made of Hate and Fear. It is what it is and we have to learn to come to terms with that.
Of course that’s all speculative and I don’t mean to talk about it like it’s a foregone conclusion. It isn’t. The Lions very well could win this game. It’s insulting to suggest otherwise. After all, this is still a team with Matthew Stafford raining Heavenly Bombs into the hands of the angel St. Calvin, and with the two of them involved, anything can happen. Hell, it already has. And for as ferocious as everyone says the 49ers defense is, our defensive line is made up of savage cannibals and an immortal time traveling spirit warrior. So if anyone tells you that the Lions can’t beat the 49ers, tell them to fuck off.
But there is a crucial difference between “can’t” and “might not”. And we all have to do our part and learn to face the fact that, well, the Lions might not beat the 49ers on Sunday night.
I respect the 49ers. I do. I don’t particularly like them, but I respect them. I know that sounds like heresy given the prevailing story line, which says I should be condemning them to hell because of handshakes or milkshakes or some kind of shakes, but all of that is just so much noise, idiot bleating traveling through the ether. The truth is that the 49ers are a damn good football team and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that in my weaker moments I didn’t look at them and say to myself “Hey, that’s the sort of football team I want mine to look like.”
After all, the 49ers are a throwback team. In a changed world where grace and delicate deer-like beauty are revered and given Special Protected Status by the office of Premier Goodell, the 49ers value smashing people in the heads until they fall down, their brains trickle out their earholes and the day is won in a haze of blood, sweat and spit. Given everything I’ve written over the years it would be completely disingenuous of me to turn my back on that and say that I don’t respect it. The 49ers play like devotees of The Spirit Warrior. They worship the old gods and I have to respect that. I have to.
But they are also the enemy, standing in the way of my own dreams. I may respect those ways, but I am a devotee of one thing and one thing only in the world of professional football: the Detroit Lions. And so fuck the San Francisco 49ers. I hope they lose 72-0 and that Jim Harbaugh is overrun by a gang of sodomites and is forced to wear a special diaper for the rest of his life. After all, Jim Harbaugh is a world class dick. He is of my tribe and so it pains me to say this but it’s true. He’s sort of like that dickhead uncle who’s successful but nobody likes him because he treats everyone else like shit and he laughs at the homeless and is always trying to put grandma in a home so he can get control of her house and sell it because he’s a greedy, selfish sociopath. Yeah, that’s Jim Harbaugh. He’s of my family but he’s a fucking asshole. I can’t even imagine how awful he must be to my Spartan friends. He must be doubly awful, like the goddamn devil or something. I would have said “my Spartan and Buckeye friends” except there are no Buckeyes reading this. For one thing, they would have to be literate, and second, fuck Ohio. Anyway, fuck Jim Harbaugh. This has nothing to do with handshakes or any of that dumb shit. Just fuck him, okay?
That still doesn’t change the fact that he is an awesome football coach and that his team is really, really good and that they will probably win on Sunday night.
This morning I cut myself shaving. It was a really nasty one too, the kind that didn’t just bleed a little but gushed and ran down my face. I felt it as soon as it happened and I started bitching before the blood even showed up. When it did, I just kept shaving, working my away around it while it ran down my face. It was just above my upper lip and so it ran into my mouth. It tasted like iron, insanity and truth and because I am a goddamn lunatic, I looked in the mirror and I smiled, blood in between my teeth and I felt like some sort of pagan, a primitive warrior with no regard for Fear or the Past or anything other than the primal power of the moment. That is hilariously stupid and makes me look like a goddamn psychopath, but I’m making a point here (eventually) so just settle down.
I thought about that all day today and whenever I caught a glimpse of my reflection, I would see the scab. Now, when something like that happens the tendency is to try to stop the bleeding – it’s natural and it’s civilized. You get a piece of tissue paper and you press it against the wound and you hold it there until it quits bleeding. But that is a false truth that gets no results. The quickest way to get that damn thing to heal is actually to just let it bleed. Let that fucker go and it will heal itself on its own quicker than if you try to control it. It is the natural way of things.
When I returned home after a hard day herding mutant sheep in the Outer Territories and beating the shit out of shirkers and assholes who got rough with my women I returned to the scene of the crime, to the place where I bled out and smiled a bloody smile and I decided it was time for a new beginning, and so I cleansed myself of regret and bad energy by shaving my head. And so now I have a garbage can filled with blood and a bag full of hair, which probably makes me look like some sort of serial killer but hey, fuck it, I don’t answer to the garbage man and really, he shouldn’t be rooting around in my trash anyway.
The point is this: I’m sitting here writing this with a freshly shaved head and with an ugly scab on my face and I’m doing this because I symbolically chopped my hair off because I didn’t want to be ruled by the past and because when I cut myself I let it bleed, because I didn’t stand there with a tissue and try to control the wounds, thereby prolonging the agony. I let it bleed because I knew that, eventually, it would heal itself.
I recognize that the last few paragraphs have made me look like a goddamn psychotic lunatic and you know what? I’m fine with that. Because I’m good with who I am. That’s a lesson I think all Lions fans have to learn – be good with who we are. We’re not the best team in the NFL but we’re damn sure capable of beating any team in the NFL. We’re not going to win them all, but we’ll win enough of them to get back into the playoffs, where anything can happen. We’re not the perfect team but we’re an explosive team, a wild, beautiful untamable stallion of a team and I, for one, would not trade that wild spirit for anything. We don’t have a machine-like disciplined style, mistake free, that will monotonously pound The Truth into other team’s heads like the 49ers. We do have a style that is capable of greatness, at any time, a style that eschews safety in favor of possibility and in that possibility is a freedom that speaks to my heart, that speaks to my soul as both a fan and as a man. The Lions are not the 49ers. The Lions are not anything other than themselves and what they are is good enough for me. I can accept that and so should everyone else.
Football is a strange game, strange and glorious and if the last few years have taught us anything it’s that anything can – and will – happen. We’ve seen the Lions win in miraculous comebacks that have seen us collectively soar like rockstars playing thunderous music into the sun, and we’ve seen the Lions lose on absurd technicalities, had our hearts ripped out and stomped on by the words and deeds of various Pereirii. We’ve cried and bitched and sworn at the heavens because St. Calvin was robbed of a touchdown, and most of all, we’ve stood in stunned agonized silence, watching the Packers chant “0-16!” before the final game of a terrible season, on a frozen field, while the sun went down on our hearts. And yet, despite it all, despite the everything and the anything, we are still here and that’s because some part of us recognized, through the haze of it all, that everything would be okay, that Possibility was not something that could ever be quenched, could ever be killed, no matter how weird, wild or terrible it got. We are still here because we let it bleed, we let it heal on its own without trying to control it. And so if the Lions lose on Sunday night – and like I said, that’s where my head is leaning – then we’ll be okay. We just have to remember to let it bleed.
Still, fuck the 49ers, I will see them in hell.