It will make sense once you finish reading. Hopefully. Aw hell, just read the damn thing.
This season has become one of constant reexamination, yet another battleground in the seemingly endless war between Hope and The Fear, and on some days we (or at least I but I am an egotist so I assume everyone is just like meeeeeee, or at least should be) dance under a pale moon, laughing, naked, before engaging in an orgy of the soul before smiling gods, while on other days we bark at the moon, brawl with our friends, still naked but only because we tore off our pants in a tantrum, and curse those now frowning gods who play lightning bolt target practice with our souls and the world turns oh how it turns and I am still writing only because I want to see how long I can drag out this run-on sentence and . . .
Okay. The nerd math has become a bit of a live-preserver for Lions fans, and frankly I don’t blame anyone who clings to that shit because, well, we must take what we can get. I don’t have the numbers right in front of me – I could look them up but I don’t want to, so there – but you can find them elsewhere and if you are a Lions fan I’m sure you’ve had them rammed down your feedhole at some point in the last week. Anyway, they tend to show a team that is on the right side of the great line of mediocrity that separates football heaven from football hell, both offensively and defensively and so hey guys, there’s totally hope and everything is gonna be alright ‘cuz math don’t lie yo.
And you’re right – to a point. Math doesn’t lie, and math says that things are better than they seem. That’s good. That’s very good. What that tells me is that the framework is still there for this to be a good football team, a football team that can finally punch through the misery of the past to the grand dreams of a half-forgotten future.
But the math also says that the Lions as a whole – taking into account special teams fuck-ups, assorted tomfoolery and all that jazz – are barely hanging onto even the barest hint of mediocrity and that also doesn’t lie, and therein lies the point – for as much as that framework is still intact, for as much as the house still stands, the timber is good and the wiring sound, inside of that house lives a gang of vicious street trash who will inevitably burn that goddamn thing to the ground.
That is what my heart tells me and I want to tell my heart that it is a filthy, filthy liar but alas I cannot. There is an argument to be made that the Lions could be 5-2 in some perfect world where Dom Raiola doesn’t fuck up a snap and the team brings a defibrillator with them to the Vikings game or doesn’t succumb to the madness of buttered demon fingers which plagued them in Soldier Field and I can see people building the ramparts around this alternate reality and guarding their hearts behind it and, hey, I don’t really blame them. But there is an even better argument to be made that this team could be 0-7 right now. They haven’t led at the half in a single game this season, and they’ve trailed late in the fourth quarter of every game – every single fucking game.
Obviously that argument is pessimistic and awful and only a masochist would allow his heart to be trapped by such an awful thing but that brings into sharp focus just how absurd the notion that the Lions should be 5-2 is as well. The most practical approach is to split the difference and that approach says that we should be, well, 3-4.
Right. The question, I suppose, is how is a team that is statistically a top ten team both offensively and defensively stuck at 3-4 and on the brink of being a 0-7 team? That just seems absurd, doesn’t it? But that’s the whole point. That’s the essence of what I’ve been gibbering about for weeks now. For as good as this team can be – for as good as it shows it is sometimes – in the end, it is swallowed up by the gods of mediocrity because of all the little things, which then become the big things, which then becomes everything. I’ve said it a few times this season already – when it’s always something, that’s everything. And with this team, it’s always something. It’s always a special teams fuck-up. It’s always a dropped pass, a terrible penalty, a missed tackle, a botched snap, a . . . you get the point. It’s always something and that’s everything.
In the middle of writing this, I was struck by something. There was a team a couple of years ago that finished either first or second – I can’t quite remember and again I am too lazy to look it up – in both total offense and total defense and ended up missing the playoffs. That team was Norv Turner’s San Diego Chargers. If a cold and awful shiver just went up your spine and a hideous banshee wail just tore through your soul then I don’t blame you. That is not the team you want to be compared to – a gang of perpetual underachievers with an impotent (in probably more ways than one) coach, blithering on year after year, never changing anything because hey, look at those offensive and defensive numbers it’s totally working you guys! Only it isn’t and everyone knows it and the result is a sort of zombie death march through the streets of San Diego until everyone is eventually massacred by Tijuana street gangs. If that’s what you want for the Lions then, hey, bang that fuckin’ drum all goddamn day. But as for me, I want something better.
The good news, like I said, is that the framework is still in place. The bad news is just that I am not confident that this team will put together all those little things that make that framework worth anything. They’ve had more than enough time to do it and then they never do. Even last week, which was the team’s best game of the year, they had to come from behind in the closing minutes to pull it out. Something is wrong here and anyone denying that is just being willfully oblivious to reality, clinging to some absurd alternate reality because it’s just easier, because, like me, they simply can’t take the idea that this might not work. The only difference between us is that I stand on that rock like Prometheus and let the eagle eat my liver because I don’t know any other way while they guard themselves in a safe little house of their own making, throwing rocks at any liver-eating bird that gets close.
Look, every time I sit down to write one of these things I do so with the intention of being more positive but then The Truth takes over and I end up gibbering for paragraph after paragraph like some terrible doomsayer. I don’t like it either but I can’t help it. The thing you have to recognize, though, is that this is not a black or white situation. I hate it when people try to carry on like it has to be either one way or the other. It’s not all good but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not all bad either. Like I’ve said a few times in this idiot’s screed already, the framework is still there, the house still stands and now all we have to do is hope the dudes living inside find civilization, or at least something like it.
Obviously, that is the challenge – and like I said, I have my doubts, extreme doubts, that it will ever happen – but as long as that’s the status quo there is still at least room for Hope to survive, if not flourish. What will help will be stringing together a bunch of wins. I’ve already said that the idea of the playoffs is highly improbable at this point but hell, it’s not impossible and, well, we’ve gotta start somewhere, right? Right. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single cliché or some such nonsense and so I guess all we can do is look to the next game and start trying to lurch forward with this damn thing.
And that brings me to the really good news, the thing that is fueling the hopeful side of me more than anything else right now, and that’s that the Lions play the Jacksonville Jaguars this week, and, well, the Jaguars are the new reigning kings of shit mountain. The Lions will beat the Jaguars because the alternative is simply unfathomable. The Jaguars are a team in absolute free-fall, a Millenesque organization devoid of talent or hope, a living symbol of despair. We should crack their heads open and suck their brains out, lick the inside of their skulls clean and then polish those fuckers to use as beer steins. Their quarterback sucks, their one good player, Maurice Jones-Drew, didn’t even play last week because of injury and that came only after he finally wandered into camp following a prolonged and bitter hold-out, which presumably alienated him from his teammates, his coaches and the Jags nine remaining fans, and there is a necrotic sense of Oh God This Is The End And We’re All Moving To Los Angeles So Let’s Just Try Not To Hurt Ourselves Before That Happens circling of the drain going on here. They are a dead team, a lifeless ship floating aimlessly in the sea because the crew all contracted smallpox or were set upon by cannibal pirates or something and all that’s left for us to do is calmly loot whatever’s left and then set the ship on fire.
Of course, it was only a month ago or so that I sat right here and said the same thing about the game against the Titans and we all saw how that went. Right. And that’s why this season has largely been a butt. Because, in the end, we simply don’t know. All we can do is hope that good things happen because we’re good people and we deserve it, but we just don’t know and every week is a goddamn game of spiritual Russian Roulette and goddammit here I go again with the bitching and the moaning and I apologize.
The Lions have to win this game. They have to. And not just because they need it to keep their mildly delusional playoff dreams alive but because if they don’t then, well . . . we will experience a collective apocalypse of the soul. I’ve said it too many times to go back on it now – the Lions can beat any team they play and they can lose to every team that they play, but goddammit, there is no reason the Lions should ever lose to this shitbird team. None. They have to win. They have to because I can’t even write about the alternative and goddammit I won’t. If the Lions lose this game that’s pretty much it for me in terms of coherence. It’s not that I’ll refuse to write about the Lions if they lose this game it’s that I won’t even be able to because the part of me that I have to keep open in order to do so with any sort of meaning will close itself down just so I don’t completely lose my mind.
But that is a dark and ugly thing, not worthy of any more exploration, and I won’t go down that horrible road for it is the path to madness and I prefer to look to the light, and the light says that the Lions should win this game and they should win it easily for a change. If they win 27-24 in the dying minutes, I will mutter dark words but I will still be able to go on, to find Hope somewhere in the wilderness of my soul. I can at least accept that. But for one goddamn weak at least, I don’t want to have to compromise with myself, to hunt for Hope in that wilderness. I want the Lions to leave a goddamn Jaguar shaped stain on the field. I want them to burn that ship and then calmly sail away, their clothes scented with the Jaguars smoky remains. And given the way that Snake Stafford played against the Seahawks, I am going to embrace the fullness of the light for the first time in a while and I will say that, yes, yes they will.