Jim Schwartz addressing the media about Matthew Stafford's "outstanding" mechanics.
It occurred to me earlier that I had yet to even think about the Lions game this weekend against the Colts. These are the things that happen when your season degenerates into a forced death march through the desert of the damned back to the hell fires that have slow roasted our souls for far too long. I haven’t really thought much about the game against the Colts because I simply don’t want to. My brain is in revolt. When it comes to the Lions, it has gone on strike. Solidarity, brother.
Earlier today, though, the name Titus Young started being thrown around again and at least a few synapses of my brain decided to cross the picket line and so here we are. I wish it was a better place, a place where Titus Young didn’t get suspended for acting like a passive-aggressive five year old, but well… yeah.
Just in case you haven’t heard the rumors, here’s how it basically breaks down: against the Packers, Titus decided to throw a petulant little shit-fit because he didn’t think he was getting the ball enough, so, naturally, he did what all rational adults do and intentionally lined up wrong multiple times because, uh, that’ll show ‘em I guess. Of course, this then led to Jim Schwartz basically exiling Titus from the team for a while (and if this is true then “for a while” probably should have been “permanently”) only to welcome him back to the fold this past week. And now practice observers report a sullen Titus Young roaming the sidelines of the practice field, picking up trash like he’s been sentenced to community service or some shit. No word on whether or not he’s been wearing an orange vest.
I don’t really have anything to add to that. The inanity of it speaks for itself. It practically screams out LIONS DISEASE in big, flashy neon lights for the whole world to see. It is the Lions equivalent of the infamous SPARTY NOOOOOOO, which if you don’t know is a reference to Michigan State’s almost supernatural propensity for fucking up at exactly the worst possible moment in the worst possible way. It is a well-known phenomenon in this here state of mine, and while those on my side of the aisle laugh uproariously and use it as a punch-line, I can understand how my Spartan friends feel about it because goddammit, that’s how shit like this Titus Young news feels to me as a Lions fan. It is just so quintessentially LIONS, you know? In that strange and terrible way we are all too familiar with. ROARY NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Indeed.
It is with that crawling its way laboriously through the halls of my shattered mind that I sit down to write about this weekend’s game and while parts of me are trying desperately to cling to shreds of whatever leftover enthusiasm is still littering those weird halls (at least the ones that Titus Young hasn’t metaphorically scraped up along with his literal janitorial duties – and by the way, I think I’m going to nickname Titus Young “The Janitor” from now on.) other parts of me – and if I’m being honest, the more dominant parts of me – have simply ceased to care. At least in a way that doesn’t feel like some false put-on, some forced attempt to throw up shredded pom-poms and lead some sort of perverse spirit rally for the congregation. This season has sucked, yo. Actually, it hasn’t just sucked, it has suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked, and I will not pay fealty to it out of some misplaced sense of loyalty and honor. Fuck it and fuck this team.
I’ll still watch – why not? – but I’m not going to pretend that I’m into it just to placate some foolish juvenile need to engage in some sort of dumb tribalism. I have been through too much, I have seen too much, and goddammit, I will not put myself through this just to prove a point. I have too many scars, too many old wounds that never quite healed. I walk with a permanent limp, my face is disfigured and I drool when I talk. I have been beaten upside the head too many goddamn times and people look away when they see me because I make them uncomfortable. I go to support groups and am surrounded by people who tell me to love myself and that everything will be alright but goddammit, I can’t even feed myself without making a mess and I have to wear a diaper and sometimes the diaper leaks. Things are not alright and I’m not going to lie to myself. I am a Lions fan, and that is a truth that is filled with stark, naked horror, a truth that cannot be spruced up or made into an inspirational holiday story for the kids. My team’s mascot is Titus “the Janitor” Young and nothing I gibber on about is going to change that.
The thing is – the singular macabre piece of tragicomic horror that drives this whole absurd thing – is that I can’t help it. I can’t look away. I can’t turn away. I can’t abandon the idiot’s carnival that is the Detroit Lions because it is a part of me, they are a part of me. They are the scars, the wounds, the limp, the drool, the shit-filled diaper. I can’t abandon the Lions because abandoning the Lions would be abandoning myself. You can’t choose who you love, even if who you love is a crackhead family member who keeps stealing your shit and ruining your life. It is part of your DNA, encoded into your being and to try to extract it is a fool’s endeavor, like medieval charlatans trying to turn lead into gold.
I’m still here and I will be here until the end of time, just a ragged and broken skeleton, rotting under a hell-sun, wearing Honolulu Blue and setting fire to my eye-sockets and screaming a horrible death wail, a banshee scream that never ends, that just circles through time, frightening those in the past and those in the future, wrapping us all in one big goddamn horror show that is eternal.
Jesus Christ, this is maudlin and bleak, even for me. But this is where I am as a fan and I’m not going to lie about it. But what the hell, a new week is a new week and like they say in the support groups, we just have to take it one day at a time, or in this case one game at a time. The good news – if you can call anything “good news” in this season of the damned – is that this one particular week has the chance to be not a total and complete butt. And by that, I mean I actually expect the Lions to win. This is not that farfetched – I mean, let’s be honest here, for all the woe is me stuff above the Lions are not a horrible football team, they’re just a horribly dysfunctional football team which is a fatal flaw I have become completely convinced they will be unable to overcome anytime soon. This means that they will still win games, just like the Wayne Fontes era Lions won some games. If that’s good enough for you, then what the hell, have fun. I just wanted more. Fuck that, I needed more. But if Jim Schwartz channeling Wayne Fontes and coddling Matthew Stafford while he Scott Mitchells his way down the field and our one transcendent superstar, St. Calvin, takes the sins of the world upon his shoulders a la Barry Sanders is what works for you, then by all means, enjoy. It’s just that you and I remember that time very, very differently.
I should have mentioned this earlier when I was discussing the Janitor Young incident but I forgot and hey, these things happen when you sit down to write and have no idea what to say – you just free-write and hope that you make sense somewhere along the way. But yeah, anyway, that quick mention of Schwartz coddling Stafford reminded me of something I saw a couple of days ago. It was a headline on MLive that said “Matthew Stafford’s mechanics ‘outstanding’ according to coach Jim Schwartz.”
Yeah. What in the hell do you even say to something like that? That level of denial is so deeply ingrained that the only thing you can do is sort of shrug your shoulders and then collapse into a heap of tears, muttering “Oh God” over and over again and then writing maudlin suicide notes like this infernal post. That, coupled with the Titus Young story, is everything that is wrong, everything that has ever been wrong, with the Detroit Lions. It is exactly that sort of ridiculous Baghdad Bob bullshit that turns hard times into a culture of losing, into the culture of Lions Disease. It is a culture born of denial and passive-aggressive dickery. You can read the failed wailing and idiot epitaphs of a dozen catastrophic Lions head coaches in Jim Schwartz’s words. You can hear their ghostly whispers dancing around the word “outstanding.” Jesus, they have poisoned his mind and oh, the horror, the horror . . .
Look, I have kinda gotten carried away here the last few paragraphs. I meant to segue into a discussion about why I think the Lions will beat the Colts on Sunday – and I think they will – but there are more important things to discuss here. I am sick and goddamned tired of the willful denial which props up our fanbase. When things are going well (I know, I know, this occurs at roughly the same rate as the appearance of Halley’s Comet) the fear-mongers refuse to embrace it because they don’t want to be hurt again. They deny reality in order to save themselves. But when things take a turn for the Millen, people deny that shit too and claim all is well like Kevin Bacon screaming his ass off in the street in Animal House while anarchy reigns because they need to believe in order to protect themselves. It’s two sides of the same miserable coin and I’m fucking sick of it. This is not okay and if you say that it is, then right now you’re part of the problem and you’re just helping to perpetuate this miserable cycle of denial. You are feeding Lions Disease. You are making it strong. Congratulations.
It’s time to take a goddamn Big Boy Pill. It’s time for Jim Schwartz to walk up to Matthew Stafford and say “Yo, your mechanics are kinda fucked up so let’s fix this shit before it gets even worse.” It’s time for everyone involved to take a look at the situation and admit to themselves that what they’re doing isn’t working. You can cherry pick stats all you want and tell me that this is the same team that went 10-6 last year but they’re 4-7 and that’s all that matters. And honestly, even while you’re over there gibbering about them being an 8-3 team that’s just had some bad breaks I can point out that they could just as easily be 1-10 right now so let’s just split the difference which puts them at, well, it puts them at 4-7. You know who does that whole WELL WE COULD HAVE WON THIS GAME AND THIS GAME AND THAT ONE AND IF THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN THEN WE COULD HAVE TOTALLY WON THAT ONE??? Losers. That’s who. Denial worshipping losers.
I know these are incredibly harsh words and I am basically standing alone yelling at literally everyone else who calls themselves a Lions fan, and hell, I’m even yelling at myself because I’ve done that too, but goddammit guys, at some point you have to stop whining and playing the victim and denying that real, substantive problems exist. The simple fact is that the Lions didn’t win those games. They lost them and you’re right, they lost them because they didn’t get the miracles that they got last season. But what’s so fucked up is that so many people don’t seem to realize is that that’s the problem right there. If you’re relying on miracles to be the foundation of your team’s winning strategy then you’re not just up shit-creek without a paddle, you’re drowning in that foul son of a bitch.
I don’t want to be writing these words right now. I want to be praising Glorious Leader Schwartz and writing odes to The Great Willie Young but enough’s enough. Things are not right, Matthew Stafford’s mechanics are not outstanding, the Lions don’t somehow deserve to be 7-4 or 8-3 or whatever fantasy land scenario y’all have concocted in order to call a temporary truce with the horrors of your own heart, and this is not a good football team, or even anything approaching a good football team. This has nothing to do with offseason arrests or any red-herring bullshit like that and everything to do with the fact that this football team is fucking failing before our eyes. No one is out to get them. No one is unfairly persecuting them. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. THE LIONS ARE NOT A GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM AND THEY’RE NOT A GOOD FOOTBALL TEAM BECAUSE THEY WON’T TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR BEING ONE.
Sorry about the all-caps meltdown there but I’m sick of this shit. I’m sick of the excuses and all the mewling bullshit that accompanies it. Just stop it already. Christ.
Okay Neil, deep breath, we’ll get through this. You’re right, other Neil. You’re right.
Anyway . . . sorry, but a man needed to say some things and a man has said them. I wish I had talked more about the actual game against the Colts this week – I certainly intended to – but Great Truths got in the way and when Great Truths decide to speak, you just have to get out of the way and let them. The Lions should beat the Colts and, well, honestly that kind of says it all right there. The Lions should beat the Colts because they are just objectively a better, more talented football team. And yet the Colts are 7-4 and the Lions are 4-7. This is not a mistake, or a fluke or any other excusatory bullshit you want to throw out there. The Lions come into this game with a shittier record because they have earned that shitty record. If they stop reveling in their own denial and coddling those parts of themselves which tell them that it’s okay to be a 4-7 team because it’s not their fault but everybody else’s then they will beat the Colts. It’s as simple as that. If they stand up and take responsibility for themselves, for their record, for who they are and who they want to be as a team then goddammit, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win this game against a rookie quarterback leading a team without a head coach a year after that same talent-deficient team went to zombie town. If you can’t beat a team like that without making love to excuses then goddammit, just get the hell out of the way and let somebody else take a shot because I have no time for that weak shit anymore.
Lions win and if they don’t, it’s their own goddamn fault. It’s time to grow up.