Because we need it.
I had a dream last night in which the Lions beat the Seahawks in a bloodthirsty playoff game so, uh, totally look for that to happen. It was really cool too, with the defensive line completely taking over the game and there were a lot of awesome details that I was going to discuss here but then I forgot about them, and well, that’s just the way that shit goes sometimes. Still, it was fun and it made me feel good.
It bummed me out that I forgot so many of the details because really, I’d much, much rather write about my fictional dream game than about what happened last night. Oh wait, I just remembered one of the dream details. The Great Willie Young was being interviewed after the game – because, naturally, he was the hero – and on live TV he screamed “Payback’s a bitch, mothafuckas!” This is probably indicative of my fucked up brain more than anything else but, still. But still. That’s totally going to happen because I am a shaman and I paint the future with my brain.
Look, I don’t want to talk about what happened against the 49ers. I just want to let it bleed, just like I said in the preview post, and eventually it will heal. Today the Lions fanbase is alive with lynch mobs, stringing up various scapegoats from Matthew Stafford to Scott Linehan to Titus Young to Roary the mascot which is what happens when you lose on national TV and lose in a way that makes your team look kinda shitty. Still, the predictability of it all makes me a little bit sad and like I said, I don’t even really want to be writing about this right now but what the hell, here I am and if I don’t do it now, the thoughts swirling around my head will only get weirder and this is a necessary step in letting go.
The Lions did not look good. Let’s get that out of the way. They sucked. I don’t want to microanalyze the game any more than that. I don’t want to dissect the coaching, the game plan or anything like that, mostly because every other Lions fan with a keyboard is doing that today. I will say that Matthew Stafford specifically looked like dogshit for most of the game, a troubling thing that has left many Lions fans shivering and shaking like junkies, beseeching the old gods for answers but to be honest with you – and I know this is going to sound stupid – I’m really not that worried.
The thing is, is that we have seen this from Stafford before. It happened last year. Good friend of the blog, UpHere aka @Real_Interloper on Twitter aka legendary pickup artist Captain Jack (some might say this last one is a lie but until he denies it, I’m just going to throw it out there.) calls these Stafford’s “walkabouts” and, yeah, that pretty much nails it. For a few weeks, for whatever reason, the dude just disappears, wandering around the Outback looking for his spirit guide. It sucks when this happens and everybody worries but then in a week or two, Stafford will be led out of the wilderness by an intimidating Aborigine with tattoos and bones in weird places and then he’ll throw for five touchdowns with that fighter pilot smirk on his face, we’ll all play the theme to Top Gun in our head and then we’ll all rant and rave again about how he is the messiah and all that happy horseshit. It will happen and so I’m not gonna get all worked up about this now. Besides, last week the 49ers pretty much did the same thing to Aaron Rodgers and that game was in Rodger’s own building, so . . .
So . . . yeah. That’s the thing that a lot of people are still inexplicably missing in their rush to lynch their least-favorite Lion: the 49ers really are that damn good. I said it before the game and I’ll say it after. I was abused for daring to speak against the wishes of the congregation but, well, you all watched the game, right? So maybe y’all should lend an ear right now and listen when I tell you that the 49ers are probably the best team in the NFL right now. You want answers? Well shit, there’s a pretty big one. They’re just better than the Lions right now. They just are. Sorry if that bothers you, but, well, Truth is not always kind.
I know there are some smart people out there who disagree with me, and I understand where they’re coming from. I mean, hell, the Lions were missing virtually their entire secondary, Matthew Stafford played like the buttiest butt that ever butted and still the Lions were never completely out of that game. Still, I think the 49ers are a big part of the reason why Stafford looked more like Dan Orlovsky and if that game was played 10 times this season the 49ers would probably win 8 of them. It’s easy to see a path to victory for the Lions and that’s very, very encouraging, and because of that it’s easy to construct a narrative in which “Hey guys, the Lions are totally right there!” but it’s even easier to see a path to victory for the 49ers, one that doesn’t involve “If this happens then . . .” or “If this, then that, or if Player A gets new robot legs . . .”, and it’s that crucial difference that separates the two teams. The Lions need certain things to happen to beat the 49ers. The 49ers just need to go out and play to beat the Lions.
I don’t mean to rub dirty salt laced with Fear into your all too fresh wounds but – and this has already developed for me as the key theme this year – it doesn’t do us any good to harbor delusions, to make love to unrealistic fantasies and dreams because when we wake up, Truth won’t care for such things. No, Truth will just care about what is. And what is, is that the 49ers beat the Lions not because of any sort of epic weirdness or injustice but simply because, well, right now, they’re the better football team.
I know a lot of you don’t want to accept that and you’re probably going to yell at me in the comments and tell me that I have lost faith but that is a hell of an accusation and you should not make it lightly. I still have faith, it’s just that my faith is rooted in something real, something other than my own desperate desire, my own desperate need, to believe. I talked about this in the preview piece. That sort of gun to the head OMG THEY’RE GOING 16-0 AND BEATING EVERYONE 56-7 is rooted more in a fear of disbelief than it is in actual belief. It is what happens when a fanbase is so terrified of the alternative that they grab a hold of Hope way too tightly and then squeeze the life out of that motherfucker until all that is left is just sort of a grotesque and macabre corpse, a twisted, broken version of Hope that looks an awful lot like the False Idol of the god Fear we worshipped in the dark for so long. True belief is being able to look Truth in the eye, even when it tells us ugly and cruel things, and remaining strong.
You can see it today. A lot of the same people who were riding the streets on Friday, clubbing everyone upside the head who dared to say “Hey, now wait a minute guys, I don’t really like this game . . .” are the same ones leading the lynch mobs today. They can’t accept that the Lions just lost to a better team and so they need to come up with sacrifices, with scapegoats, with reasons beyond the truth, harsh and naked as it may be. To them there has to be some awful and hideous reason why the Lions lost, some terrible fuck-up that needs to be exorcised before we can move on. But the truth is that they’re just trying to tie a noose around ghosts.
I understand all this because, hell, it’s hard for me to just sit here and say “Yup, the 49ers are just better.” And I’ll admit that’s a little oversimplified and troubling enough on its own. I mean, it sucks that that’s the truth, and yet here we are. After all, I’m not writing about how the Lions went in to San Francisco and beat the 49ers. I’m writing about how the Lions lost to the 49ers, just like I thought they would. I mean, come on, there’s a reason why I thought that would happen and I’ll be honest with you, the game looked almost exactly like I thought it would. What else do you want me to say? If I saw it playing out that way and it did, well, uh . . . maybe I’m on to something here.
The problem, though, with all of that, is that it doesn’t change reality. It doesn’t suddenly make it okay that the Lions lost to the 49ers. There’s no joy in saying “Well, I guess the Lions just aren’t quite as good.” Trust me, I’m not sitting here taking some sort of perverse glee in that sentiment. It sucks. It would be far, far easier to rant and rave and construct false narratives in which the universe cruelly robbed us of our glory somehow because in that narrative the Lions are still that 16-0 Wonder Team of our dreams, even if they do have a 1 in the loss column now instead of that 0. It’s harder to actually sit here and acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the Lions aren’t quite as good as our Fear-based Hope needs them to be.
Acknowledging that is an extraordinarily difficult thing. It involves looking at the whole of this fucked up story of the Detroit Lions and facing the hideous thing that terrifies us the most: the dread specter of Fear. It’s too hard for most of us to do that without letting it consume us, without letting it embitter us and start gibbering bullshit about the Same Ol’ Lions and all that nonsense. Fuck all that. But it’s hard. I understand. Believe me, I understand, and that’s why no one wants to do it. They either want to force their eyes to stare straight ahead, never looking back, never even considering that things, well, that things might not be exactly as they picture it in their dreams, or they want to bury their heads beneath a mountain of shit and wallow in their own perpetual misery machines as they burrow down into hell. The true fan, though, and this is what I am begging you to do with me, turns around, looks at Fear and says “I know you’ll always follow me, but I won’t let you own me anymore.” We have to accept reality for what it is and then move on from there. Doing anything else is an injustice to our own hearts, a betrayal of everything that we’ve been through as fans. We have to acknowledge reality because we deserve to. We owe it to ourselves because that is the only way we will ever break free of the acid-tipped talons of The Fear.
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m just shrugging my shoulders and saying to hell with it, because I’m not. I’m pissed off that the Lions lost. I’m pissed off that they’re not as good as the 49ers right now. I swore at the TV last night, tried to make deals with the old gods and I may have even thrown a shoe. I’m tired of losing these types of games. I’m tired of showing up on national TV, in big games against big teams, and coming up just a little bit short. It’s great that I can see a path to victory in these games, but I actually want to start walking down that path, you know? That’s the next step in this story, the next stage in the evolution of this team. We’re not there yet but if we just try to stay a little more patient, and acknowledge and accept that as reality, it will make it that much more gratifying when we watch this team start to travel that path. They will win these games. One day. Maybe even this season. But right now, in week two, they’re still just standing at the foot of that path and no matter how much we try to push them forward with our brains and hopes and wishes, they still have to start walking it on their own.
The good news is this: for all of my bluster here, and for all of the SERENITY NOW SERENITY NOW angst in the fanbase, if you look at what my comrade Whiouxsie wrote below me here, there is a real sense that this Lions team brings the fight. Sure, the Lions might not match-up with the unrealistic expectations of our fever-dreams but they’re still in the goddamn game. They still made Alex Smith bleed and they come with it hard enough to be considered legitimate rivals and not just some chump team like the Rams or Panthers or some shitbag team like that. I mean, hell, for as bad as they looked, the Lions were still in it for most of the game. That’s the thing none of us can forget. That too is a part of standing in the crossroads and looking both backwards and forwards with open eyes and open hearts. If we acknowledge that the Lions just aren’t quite as good as the 49ers yet we also have to acknowledge that, hell, they’re not that far away either. This game wasn’t a full-on beatdown as some feared it would be, and while that may seem like cold comfort to most of you, take comfort in it nonetheless because it’s true and if I haven’t beaten it into your skulls yet, Truth is this year’s buzzword.
So . . . where do we go from here? Well, we play next week and we win that game. And then we win the one after that and then the one after that, and eventually we’ll play this team again, or a team like it, and we’ll get to see how far the Lions have come, and hopefully next time it will be different. I’m actually kind of excited, as stupid as it sounds, to see what happens next. I feel like I’m in a good place as a fan right now. I feel like I know what to expect and so I’m not riding the great Peaks and Valleys that I have the last couple of seasons. I know what this team is and I know what it isn’t. What it is, is a legitimate playoff team. What it isn’t, right now, is a Super Bowl champion. But there is a lot of time in between now and the Super Bowl, a lot of time for what is and what isn’t to change, and I’m looking forward to that day when the Lions can strut into San Francisco and win, not because of some miracle, not because A, B and C all had to happen in the right order, but because they deserve to, because they’re finally ready to walk down that path and take the next step in their glorious evolution. And it will be that much sweeter when it happens that way because it will be the Truth. And in the glow of Truth, nothing else matters, not Fear, not the past, not the future, nothing but what is real, and that’s what I want.