When Matthew Stafford’s desperate 4th down pass to Tony Scheffler was batted out of the air and the Lions went 3 and out (well, 4 and out . . .) only moments after the Packers had all too predictably yanked the lead away which itself came only moments after the Lions were forced to settle for a field goal to go up only 6 rather than a touchdown that would have put the game on ice, I just sat there and I laughed hysterically, like a goddamn mental patient, and I couldn’t stop laughing such was the stark naked horror of the moment. Yes, the Lions caused me to suffer a temporary mental break. It has finally come to that. But honestly, what in the hell else was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to react? With anger? Been there. Sadness? Like an old friend to me. Righteous indignation? My whole fandom is one built on a pile of righteous indignation and the skulls of those fans who have done the only reasonable thing and put a goddamn bullet through their brain after drinking a gallon of Drano and then putting their heads in the oven. I have no room left for righteous indignation, for anger, for sadness. The only thing that’s left is that grim sort of macabre idiot’s laugh, the ghoulish howl of an insane man. Oh Lord, why???
I could sit here and bitch about this team, to dissect the whys and the what to dos, just like I have way too many times this season but by now what’s the point? We all know the deal. Trying to desperately find some sort of reason, something, anything to desperately cling to just sort of has the air of frantic Titanic passengers listening to the band and trying to pick out the occasional sweet note in between the terrified shrieks and the sound of the ship breaking apart while that bastard iceberg floats on by. It doesn’t really matter what the iceberg is. It just matters that the ship is sinking and I don’t know if I can squeeze myself into a lifeboat yet again and I can sort of empathize with ol’ Jack right about now because it’s so very cold and if I just let go then. . .
I’m getting maudlin. Clearly. But I don’t know how to deal with this like a rational fan and goddammit I shouldn’t have to. After all, the rules are different for us, aren’t they? A 4-6 team is just a 4-6 team and hey, half the league is hovering around that mark but a 4-6 team suddenly becomes something completely different, something infinitely worse and unfathomably more terrifying and gross when it has a fifty plus year weight, an immense weight burdened with the terrible, terrible fears and disappointments of fans who have had to put up with this madness for an entire lifetime, hanging around its neck, dragging it into the abyss where not even the devil can hear you scream.
The Lions are a shitty football team. Again. Anyone trying to deny that at this point is just a gibbering lunatic broken by reality, a mental patient claiming to be Napoleon standing before a mirror and barking out proclamations with a grandeur and pride that ignores the fact that he’s wearing a diaper and his aide-de-camp is actually a senile old beast with no teeth with applesauce running down his chin and piss down his leg. It is unseemly. And so yes, the Lions are pretty undeniably a shitty football team. What in the hell am I supposed to do with that? How am I supposed to face that when I had to summon everything I had left as a fan to pick up the pieces after 0-16? That season was a savage, damn near mortal blow, and it took ungodly strength for us to crawl out of that pit of despair and try to move forward again as something resembling real live human beings. I needed this team to carry me, to take up the fight for me because goddammit, I just didn’t have anything left.
And now here we are, living in a world in which every goddamn professional football dream has blown apart, in a world in which Matthew Stafford has regressed to the point that I’m worried he’s going to be wearing diapers and shaking a rattle by the end of the year and crawling back into his mother’s vagina by March and a world in which Shawn Jefferson openly screams at an impotent Scott Linehan on the sideline while the world watches and it’s both awful and all too familiar and please just make the bad man stop.
I gibbered on a lot in my last post about the return of the dreaded Lions disease and goddamn, that scene was about as stark an example as you can get of that heinous beast. That right there is the epitome of Lions disease. That is an echo of Jon Kitna screaming at the sideline in the early days of 2008. That is Dre Bly sneering and telling everyone that Joey Harrington sucks. That is Dom Raiola challenging the fans to a fight. That is . . . everything.
Let’s get back to Stafford for a moment though. For once the Lions didn’t lose this game because of penalties or because they were acting like a bunch of jackasses. They lost because Stafford was terrible. He just was. In a season in which he has been teetering on the brink, he finally fell, deep into the canyon and I fear that he is still falling and that when he goes splat we may not be able to save him. He basically kept the Packers in the game with his rickety arm, throwing interceptions and missing wide open receivers over and over again. Even his one touchdown pass should have been intercepted but St. Calvin swooped down from the heavens and snatched the ball away and gave Stafford – and all of us – a temporary reprieve from the horrors that Fate had in store for us. The argument about his mechanics has ceased to become an argument and has become more a gigantic farce. Early in the season, folks liked to gibber about how it was just evidence of that Favreian playmaker GIT ER DONE LOOKIT THAT BOY HAVE FUN bullshit. It was excused and the coaches publicly said that they weren’t worried, that they believed in him, that it was cool. It’s a refrain we’ve heard far too much of, that JUST STAY THE COURSE AND EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY horseshit, a ballsy load of drivel which has only managed to drive the team further into its own degeneracy, codifying its weaknesses, solidifying them and then feeding them like some treacherous cancer until soon they’re not just idiosyncratic little blips and bumps in the team’s road to success but its entire identity, the very essence of its being. And because of that Matthew Stafford isn’t just making the occasional playground play. No. Instead, he’s damn near throwing the ball underhanded on every other throw, rocking off of his backfoot and watching as the ball is either turfed or sailed away into oblivion – that is when he’s not turtling on the turf after having run himself into yet another sack with his almost nonexistent pocket awareness.
The absolute degeneration of Stafford has been the worst part of this whole damn thing, the one piece of evidence that has made me understand, with a depth that has left me utterly bereft of anything worth hanging onto as a fan, that this thing is headed in not only the wrong direction but a catastrophic one. And the entire time, Jim Schwartz stands there, impotently, and gibbers on about keeping the course, confidently riding on the coattails of the last vestiges of barely earned credibility, a hee-hawing fool pretending that his team is anything other than a 6-10 ship sinking, sinking, sinking to a black death on the bottom of a sea of failure.
I don’t like having to say such things but the time has come to say them. Saying anything else, pretending that anything else is the reality, only makes the situation worse and rewards this team for its all too obvious failings. I have seen a lot in my life as a Lions fan and right now I have seen enough of this horseshit.
I’ve said it over and over again this year: when it’s always something, that’s everything. Sometimes it’s dropped passes, sometimes it’s penalties, sometimes it’s special teams breakdowns, sometimes guys simply don’t put in the effort, sometimes the offense breaks down and then when the offense gets going the defense falls apart. Today, it was Matthew Stafford just saying fuck it and throwing the goddamn football like he was bowling. Today, it was 17-39 with 2 INT. When it’s always something, that’s everything.
It’s a goddamn shame too because there is one dude, a certain sainted wide receiver who is performing like an absolute warrior, a hobbled thunder heart who is rising above all the bullshit and having himself a damn near heroic season. Forget good, we should be composing sonnets and epic poems about Calvin Johnson. His performance in spite of a body that is practically decomposing on him is awe inspiring. But we don’t write such things – we almost can’t write such things – because while he tries so valiantly to hold the world together for us and him and his teammates and an entire city and state which is just sick of this bullshit, that same world catches on fire and burns, burns, burns. In the end, his heroism is tragic and if I think too much about it, I will just get even more pissed off at his asshole teammates and I don’t want that. Hell, I can’t afford that.
I don’t have any answers for you. I wish I did. Frankly, no one has any answers right now. We’re all just watching with a combination of horror and revulsion, naked and gibbering while the bombs drop all around us. We don’t even have the strength left to run for cover. We’re just waiting for that direct hit to finally put us out of our misery or for some magic wizard to show up, tap us with his wand and transport us to some faerie land where this season never happened and where we can just pretend that everything will be alright.
Make no mistake, this is a 6-10 team. And it’s a 6-10 team because it’s essentially the same team as it was last year, only without the absurd, charmed magic that turned that team into a 10-6 team. The thing is, is that you can’t rely on magic, and you’d have to be especially insane to even consider relying on magic when the world of magic we’ve seen in the past half-century has been black and foul magic. In the end, this 6-10 team is just like last year’s team, which was basically a 6-10 team, one that we forgave and even celebrated because we were seduced by magic, forgetting that magic has never been our friend. We overlooked the cold, hard realities, the brick and mortar of the team, in favor of wizard’s spells and we told ourselves that once that magic went away that we wouldn’t need it anymore because by then the foundation would have been repaired, the brick mortared, but it turns out that the dudes who were supposed to be doing all that work were content to just get caught up in the same spellbound idiocy as the rest of us. And now the magic is gone and all we’re left with is a crumbling house and a bunch of dudes with no clue how to fix it. No, even worse, what we’re left with is a bunch of assholes unwilling to even admit that the house if falling apart. They’re talking about adding on and building an in-ground pool and meanwhile the toilet just start spraying shit water and the chimney just collapsed.
And so what we’re left with is a 6-10 team, and it’s been a 6-10 team for the majority of the last three seasons. You can’t take away the 4-0 finish to the 2010 season and you can’t take away the 5-0 start to the 2011 season that followed it. You just can’t. Those things happened and they were good. But it’s become increasingly obvious, appallingly obvious, that that weird streak was the exception, not the rule. In fact, the best the team looked during that run was probably the 4-0 finish to the 2010 season, when they just ambushed people with a monstrous defense led by an all-in Ndamukong Suh and a grit-merchant quarterback named Shaun Hill. Even the 5-0 start felt more like an insane roller coaster ride than any sort of dominant bit of asskickery (the Passion of Jay Cutler Monday Night game aside which I’ll happily admit was the absolute highlight of this whole tragicomic era.) But I have said all this before, in varying degrees of breathless bitching. These are not new revelations but they remain important ones, and they sit firmly as the foundation of a new and despicable truth, which is that the Lions are a shitty football team, they are not the team we thought they could be, the team we needed them to be, and as of right now, it doesn’t seem like they ever will be. And in the face of that, the mind reels and all that’s left is the insane laughter of the broken fool.