Friday, October 12, 2012

Standing on the Edge

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not sure what to write about this game.  I’ve already spent the last couple of weeks running around wearing a hair shirt, whipping myself with chains made of despair and so it would be sort of disingenuous of me to huff some ether and say that everything is going to be alright just because that’s what people want to hear.  Hell, it’s what I want to hear but I just don’t feel it in my bones.  Not this year.

Still, no one wants to read a bunch of bullshit every week about how the sky is falling and how about how there’s no hope so . . . yeah.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  The Lions fan in me feels ragged and beaten right now, sort of exhausted and on the edge of a precipice of sorts.  I’ve been here before and I don’t like it.  I don’t like it when I just feel snippy and bitchy about the Lions.  I don’t like it when the only thing I have left is a sort of sarcastic veneer behind which I hide my heart.  I don’t like watching the games with a sort of faint disgust, vaguely passionless, shaking my head and wondering why things just can’t be better.  I hate it.  I hate that feeling, you all know the one, where my heart dives behind those old familiar barricades, where parts of me just go . . . numb. 

I hate it.

But I love the Detroit Lions.  I always have and I always will.  That’s why I hate that feeling so much.  I want to feel that limitless sense of pure Hope that I’ve felt for the last few years, ever since Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz took over.  I want to believe, even when things aren’t going so well that eventually everything is going to be alright.  That’s how I felt even when the team was wobbling like newborn deer during that 2-14 season.  It’s how I felt in 2010 when Matthew Stafford had various body parts eaten by wolves, Sheriff Goodell and his Necromancers robbed St. Calvin of that opening week touchdown in Chicago and the Lions started 2-10 before rallying to finish 6-10.  Throughout all of that I believed, with all my heart, in the promise of the future, in its guarantee.  Last year I lived and died on every single goddamn stupid play and I did that because it all felt meaningful, necessary and exciting steps on the Road to Salvation.  I want to feel like that so very badly.

The problem is, is that I just don’t.  I care.  I absolutely care.  But that conviction isn’t there, the absolute belief in where this thing is headed.  And it’s not just that I’m nervous or conflicted or anything like that.  I wish I was.  At least that’s something.  Instead, I just feel drained.

I’m a Michigan fan.  Most of you know that by now and the way I feel today about the Lions is eerily similar to how I felt in the dying days of the Rich Rod era.  That is a horrible thing to say but it’s true.  And believe me when I say that I hung onto that ghost until Peter Venkman and the boys showed up to suck it out of Ann Arbor.  I believed with all my heart, with my head and various other organs that the Rich Rod era would end with parades, with candy and blowjobs and kittens and kittens made of candy and kittens giving blowjobs and . . . okay, I’ve gone too far.  The point is, is that I held onto that until finally I was just that dude clinging to a corpse, talking to it, making plans and screaming that everything was  gonna be alright even while most sane and rational people were trying to pry me away, shooing the flies away from the corpse and digging mass graves.  Hell, instead of gibbering on let me just copy and paste what I said on the subject in the comments section following my post after the loss to the Vikings:

“Right, it's the lack of progress that is just whipping my ass. In fact, they seem to be regressing. I'm not talking about scheme or playcalling or any of that shit but in terms of their cohesiveness as a team/their mental game/all those little things that bridge the gap from talent to wins. The talent is there - for the most part, they still have holes but then again who doesn't? - but that talent never seems to grow. I'm not asking for sheer dominance, just basic competence and in several fundamental areas they're still playing like a team full of rookies with a first year coach, which, uh, this is year number FOUR of the Jim Schwartz era. Granted, coming back from 0-16 makes it almost impossible to calibrate where this team should be and Stafford's injuries rocked the timeline further, but in year number four if all those little niggling things still haven't snapped into place then why the fuck would they in year 5 or year 6 or... you get the point.

I was so hopeful, not because this was a dominant team last year or because they were even a good team the year before that but because I was sure that all those little things would catch up to the talent. I was in love with the future and yet when I look at them today they are still that same team of talented fuck-ups. My hope, my belief was based on the presumption that all this shit would be cleared up once the team grew together. Instead, it just lingers, like a stale fart and nobody - no one, not the team's leaders, not its coaches, not Jim Schwartz - has shown the ability to do one goddamn thing about it.

There is a lot to like, a lot to get behind, a lot to believe in, but it all means nothing if that missing piece can't be fixed and right now I see no reason why it will.

That is an enormously hard thing to write. Nobody wants to shit on Jim Schwartz. I don't. I want to believe in Schwartz. I want to love him. I want him to be The Man who leads us to the promised land. I want this so very badly but I refuse to become a slave to delusions built on an altar of fear. I'm not going to convince myself that this is working just because I need it to or because I'm too afraid of the alternative. The Lions are a fucking mess and there is simply no excuse for that shit at this point. It reminds me of - here we go - the Rich Rod era at Michigan. It was so full of promise, so full of potential and I went down with that goddamn ship. I believed in it until nearly the very end, contorted myself every which way I could in order to make it work in my head and in my heart and then one day it fucking sucked when I had to admit to myself that it was broken and that it wasn't going to get better.

Now obviously the two situations aren't exactly the same, although there are similarities - both Rich Rod and Schwartz took over and had to rebuild programs/teams that had cratered, both worked from an early talent deficit, and both had teams that constantly fucked up all the little things. I'm not there yet with Schwartz. I still think it's too early to definitively say that but goddamn, it's not that far off and I'm not going to contort myself and the truth just because I need to believe in him. My eyes are wide open and the possibility that he is not The One is at least on the table in front of me, in front of all of us. I don't want it, I don't like it, but here we are and there it is.”

Right.  Anyway . . . yeah.  I stand by all of that, even if it was written in the heat of the miserable moment.  If anything, two weeks later, that feeling is even stronger.  That is not to say that I’ve totally abandoned all hope.  I want nothing more than for Schwartz and the Lions to make a goddamn fool out of me.  Five years from now, my hope is that you will all look back on this and mock me but goddammit, right now I have to be true to myself, and what I believe, what I feel, at this moment is all that gibberish above.  You don’t have to like it.  All I ask is that you respect it.  After all, I have given big chunks of my sanity to this team, I have ripped myself open as a fan and laid it all on the table for you to read, week after week, for over four years now.  When everyone else was burying their head in the sand and predicting fantastical playoff runs prior to the Trail of Tears 2008 season I was the only one beating the drums of Truth, warning everyone that the ship had run aground and sharks were eating the bodies of the dead and the dying.  And then when Jim Schwartz and Mayhew came aboard I dared to believe and I have spent the last three years painting glorious pictures with my heart.  The point is, is that I have never been afraid to listen to my own heart, to face the gods of Truth and take whatever they had to give me.  I am not just some asshole cowering before an altar of Fear.  I am Neil, and goddammit, if that means anything to you at all, then at least understand where it is that I’m coming from and what I’m trying to say and don’t reduce me to a simpleton caricature.

The bravest thing any of us can do right now is to respect the fact that we’re all dealing with this in different ways.  We’re all just trying to find our way through the dark places, trying to hang onto something, anything, that can . . . that can . . . look, I don’t know what to say.  I really don’t.  If you still believe in this thing, if you believe with all your heart that this is heading in a good direction and that this will all work out for the best, then may God, Buddah and Patrick Swayze bless you.   I have ridden with you for the last few years, but I get the sense that a lot of those same people were also the ones telling everyone to believe while Rod Marinelli was waddling around the field gibbering about pad level, you know?

I know, I know, it’s not fair for me to reduce you to a caricature either, and I am kind of talking in circles here but really, what else is there left to say?  At this point you either feel like that body riding shotgun is alive and kicking and that you’ll get to your happy destination together or you feel like you’re trapped in some horrible Weekend at Bernie’s sequel and that dude sitting next to you is just a corpse, man, and no matter how much you try to work its mouth and flap its arms around with wires and shit, it’s still just a corpse and pretty soon it’s going to start to stink.  Those two belief structures are so completely different that if you can’t agree on either one of those fundamental truths than everything else is meaningless drivel. 

Yes, this team went 2-5 over a seven game stretch last season, but the difference between now and then is that I believed that they’d pull out of that and that everything would eventually be okay.  I don’t feel that way now.  I just don’t.  Our varied perceptions of the basic structure of this whole damn thing colors everything else.  If you still think that everything will be okay then this is just a blip, a stumble on the Road to Salvation and you think I’m being a melodramatic ass.  But if you think that you’ve seen enough, that this goddamn thing just won’t be fixed because if it could then it would be already, then you think that this blip is closer to reality, that this is just The Way Of Things and trust me, that sucks.  I take no joy in being in that camp.  I am not some soulless misery merchant but goddammit, Bernie is starting to stink. 

Well there’s 2,000 words about anything and everything other than the Eagles and I would apologize but I think that’s where we are right now.  The Eagles are just a team, a game.  The story, I think, is about our identity as a franchise and that is just overwhelming everything else, and your perceptions about that identity are going to inform everything else you have to say about this team and this season.

I will say this – I don’t think the Eagles are that good.  They were embarrassed by the Cardinals and their three wins have been by a combined 4 points.  But hell, at least they won those damn games, right?  I mean, in the end, isn’t that what we’re talking about?  They won and the Lions, so far anyway . . . haven’t. 

Can the Lions beat the Eagles?  Of course.  I still think that on any given day, this team can beat any other shitbird team in the league.  We have the talent.  I just no longer believe that they will.  Every week feels like a tossup.  I don’t know what in the hell will happen.  The Lions might stroll into Philly, some switch having been flipped in the last couple of weeks, and they might style and profile all over those assholes.  Michael Vick might wind up covered in his own blood, rocking back and forth at midfield begging to be sent back to Leavenworth rather than deal with the Lions pass rushers.  And Matthew Stafford might turn back into Maverick and buzz the tower, fuck the girl and throw 8 touchdown passes while Val Kilmer starts a slow clap in the stands.  Sure, why not?

But I also feel like Vick could run for 100 yards, throw for another 300 while Ndamukong Suh gets wham blocked into oblivion, Stafford carries on like Morrissey and the Lions lose following a fifteen yard penalty after Titus Young runs on the field and trips DeSean Jackson during a fourth quarter punt return.  I just don’t know, and more importantly, I have no faith that the good scenario is more likely than the bad.  If anything it’s the opposite and trust me, that sucks.

Right now, if you leave aside the larger questions about where we’re headed as a franchise– and that’s almost impossible to do but try to stay with me here – I sort of feel like I did before every game in 2010.  I was not especially confident then.  I believed in the future, sure, but week in and week out I sort of felt like anything could happen, and it kinda did.  I never knew whether the Lions would win or lose or whether they would get blown out or blow some fool team out themselves.  All I could do was sort of shrug and watch and wait impatiently for the future to get here.  And that was fine then.  But that was 2010.  This is 2012 and it’s not fine now.  It just isn’t.  That’s called regression.  I shouldn’t be feeling before games this season the way I did two seasons ago, when we were still digging out from beneath the rubble of 0-16 and yet, here we are.  No matter how you want to frame it, that isn’t a good thing.  Maybe that says more about me than it does the team, or maybe it says everything about the team.  I don’t know.  I really don’t know.  All I do know is that this is not where I wanted to be, where I expected to be, as a fan at this point.  Some will say then that the problem is with my own expectations, that they were somehow wrong, but to hell with all that.  I have always approached this thing with clear eyes and a thunderous heart.  I am not afraid of the pain.  I just don’t like it.  And I don’t see why I should have to force myself to feel something I don’t just for the sake of belief.  Belief without reason can be a tragic, tragic thing.  It can also be a beautiful thing, a romantic thing.  I’m not denying that.  That’s something I value.  But goddammit, this team just isn’t any good.  I feel it in my bones, and honestly, that trumps everything else right now.

The Lions might win or the Lions might lose.  I don’t know.  I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.  I’m not sure how many times I can say that but right now, that’s all I know.  You know?  And as I believe Socrates said, during his guest run on GI Joe, knowing is half the battle.  Or something.  Blah.

I suppose right now I just want this team to win.  I don’t care how they do it.  I don’t even care if they luck into it somehow, if it is more the result of the Eagles shitting the bed than the Lions kicking ass.  What’s important is that they just win – that for a change they not be the team that fucks up and looks like a team of coked out rookies with ADHD – and then we’ll go from there.  Just win, baby.  That’s something else Socrates said, or maybe it was Al Davis or maybe Al Davis was actually Socrates.  He was certainly old enough.  But we’re getting weird here and so, to end this morose dumpster fire of a post on a positive note, I’ll say it again – just win baby.  Please.


Marc said...


The confidence I had in this team has been severely shaken. The only thing that makes me hold on is two-fold....

I am a ride or die Lions fan....and the fact they have the talent, *as U have pointed out*, to thoroughly beat down any opponent at a whim.

Just haven't been many of those beat the other guys down type whims this season. I don't like seein' my team givin' in or seemingly givin' in to their opponents fact, I hate that shit. But facts are facts, Lions haven't played well at all up to this point U, I simply don't know what to expect.

Not knowin' is what bothers me about this team more than anything else....

I don't know that they are in crisis meltdown mode....but fuck if they shouldn't have all the red sirens and warnin' buzzers goin' off right about now....

I want them to get back to fuck the league and what every1 else thinks, we're playin' Lions football, rippin' linebackers and secondaries to shreds while our defense makes the other teams' O line and QB's curl up into whimperin' little shells on the turf cryin' for their Mommas....

Enuf of all this passive well adjusted bullshit....

Raven Mack said...

Even with Snake Stafford turning into Shake Stafford, this is a good winnable game for the Lions. The Eagles are a fraud, and looking to get humbled. I think the sketchiest part of the Lions is really Stafford. The defense can tighten up, but the chinks in Stafford's armor are starting to suggest it's something more than just injuries. Not to say he's terrible, because he's not. But I think even as a non-Lions fan, I sort of assumed he could be part of that upper-echelon of NFL QBs. I'm not sure I think that any more, and that has changed during this season.
At the same time, he can own that shit and be pretty awesome as a middling QB (see Joe Flacco). But if the pressure of elitism is put upon him, it will crush all the usefulness right out of his soul (see Mark Sanchez).

Neil said...

I have seen Stafford do enough ridiculous things that I think he can be the Truth. He's still pretty young. It's like his passion just disappears or something for month long stretches at a time which admittedly freaks me out but goddamn some of the shit he does... I've never seen that sort of shit out of a Lions QB. Insert jokes about Andre Ware and the gang here. I don't know, maybe he's sweating out the results of a paternity test or some shit like that.

And honestly, I don't think he's really the problem. His receivers keep dropping too many passes and everybody else keeps fucking up. My faith in him is still fairly strong but fuck, ask me again in a few weeks.

As for the Eagles, yeah, fuck them. I should have been a bit more positive but, well, you know...

I do think the Lions can sack the shit out of Vick while fat Andy Reid stands uselessly on the sidelines thinking about sandwiches and sending his kids to special Mormon reeducation camps.

Raven Mack said...

The Eagles record betrays the fact they are a team dangling at the edge of breakdown, and crumpling the black Mike Vick into piles of despair would be the first domino. No team is quite equipped to do such a thing as the Lions right now. It could be one of those beautiful symbolic victories.

Anonymous said...

I'd take any kind of victory it doesn't have to be a beautiful symbolic one