THERE. There, there, there, there . . . THERE. That’s what I wanted to see. That’s what I’ve been waiting to see. The Lions demolished the Jaguars and while I am not prepared to start gibbering about the playoffs again quite yet, I can see the sun peeking back over the horizon and maybe, just maybe, this whole damn thing can still work out after all.
You see, it wasn’t just that the Lions beat the Jaguars, it wasn’t even that they crushed them, it was the cold methodical way in which they beat them down. In the past, we’ve seen this team whip up on shitbird teams with fire in their hearts, rambunctious and hyper-talented young warriors who burned the village, took the villagers prisoner and then pissed in the well at the center of town while laughing and drinking straight from the bottle, real swaggery pirate type shit, and I liked that. I did. To a point. You see, the problem with pirates is that they are also transient fuckups and they will end up eventually sinking their own ship after getting drunk and shooting a hole in the hull. But these Lions, the ones I saw today, finally acted like grown men. They rode into the village with a job to do, calmly did it, butchered their enemies and then calmly rode back out of town. They didn’t act like it was their Super Bowl or like this was the game of their lives, like they had something to prove to us, to the world and most importantly to themselves – which is how they’ve had to play to win in the past, but they played like a team that expected to win simply because they were better, because they were the men and the Jaguars were the wasted youth. And that right there is what I have been waiting to see for a loooooong time.
My disappointment this season wasn’t a product of the 3-4 record – although that certainly didn’t help – but of the fact that this team didn’t look like it was progressing in any way. In fact, it looked like they were regressing and I’ll admit that I lost faith that they would ever evolve from a Wild West team that reveled in gunfights and an early, pointless death into the sort of team that we saw today. It just wasn’t happening. It seemed to me like the DNA of the team was fully formed, that all that maddening bullshit was simply who they were. I just wanted them to prove me wrong. Just once. It’s just that they never did. Until today.
I know that seems like just another chapter in the Bipolar Madness of the Book of Neil and hey, what can I say, you’re not wrong. I place no faith in what I am supposed to feel and instead pay homage to what I actually do feel. The result probably seems inconsistent and highly changeable, but it really isn’t. I like to think it’s more of a willingness to not allow myself to become tethered to an ideological sort of parody. Most people decide how they want to feel and then bend everything that follows to that ideological stance. The result is one-dimensional gibberish, the empty parroting of cheap clichés and worn-out talking points, preaching to a vast echo-chamber of like-minded fools, all vicious and stupid parodies of both themselves and each other. I try to constantly reexamine things and if I decide that I’m wrong, then what the hell, I’m wrong. Actually, “wrong” isn’t the best way to look at it. It’s more that what’s “right” is more an evolution of perspective. In other words, things change, facts are not always stable things, and when they do only a blind fool refuses to accommodate those shifting variables and let them help reshape his worldview. The world changes every day, every hour, every minute, and the moment we stop changing with it - the moment we solidify a world view and adhere to it dogmatically no matter what - is the moment that both we and that dogmatic worldview become irrelevant and we then become clownish parodies of ourselves, empty and useless, dumb noise machines that occasionally eat, shit, fuck and sleep. Truth is subtle and often elusive and it has a way of tricking us and doubling back on our own convictions. Each moment is an island unto itself, with its own set of facts and its own meanings and to blithely try to throw one big ass blanket over everything rarely works and usually only serves to befoul the situation even more than it already was. We all have our convictions, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the shallow need to create a dichotomous belief structure in which everything either fits on one side or the other without regard for the subtle details that are always present. You can still have a belief in absolutes – only a coward refuses to take a stance – and I am not advocating some shapeless, gormless shades of grey juvenile worldview. I’m just saying that the world is delicate, and each moment should be judged on its own merits, and that judgment should be augmented by our truths, by our worldview, by what we already believe, but not necessarily defined by those same things. I apologize, though, because I’m getting weird and way, way too carried away with this and to be honest I’m not even talking about football anymore and so I’ll stop.
The point as it relates to the Lions is this: sometimes I’m going to say “Yo, this sucks and here’s why . . .” and sometimes I’m going to seem to go completely overboard and say “Yo, this was fucking awesome,” and often these two incongruous statements will occur within a day or two of one another. One is not a repudiation of the other, only an acknowledgement that, well, the facts changed. I still believe what I’ve been writing but I also believe what I am writing today, even if they seem sort of contradictory, and what I’m saying today is yo, this was fucking awesome. The key, of course, is to find a way to keep both the OH NO THE SKY IS FALLING and the OH YES LOOK AT THE BIG BEAUTIFUL BLUE SKY in perspective. Even when my sense of hope was rapidly diminishing, I still kept the door open to my heart. I never completely bailed out. I simply said that I wasn’t sure anymore. Similarly, I’m not about to declare that this is now a team headed to a Super Bowl and the Promised Land of sunshine, blowjobs, candy and monkey butlers and monkey butlers eating candy and giving blowjobs while the sun shines. The Lions victory over the Jaguars – and more importantly HOW they got that victory – is exactly what I wanted to see. Now I want to see them do it again.
But for now, for today, I am content to bask in the beautiful glow of evolution, of this team finally walking upright and learning to speak in something other than guttural grunts and savage hoots. I think what’s most impressive is that they did all this – they both physically and for the first time mentally (and how sweet is that?) dominated the Jaguars, imposed their will on them, broke their backs and made them humble - even without Louis Delmas, quite possibly the team’s most important defensive player and emotional leader, without DeAndre Levy, an important cog in that same defense, with a banged up secondary, with a certain besainted megastar wide receiver running around on one leg and with the knowledge that if they didn’t win then the season would descend into the realm of the Chaos Demons hanging over their heads. The ingredients for this sort of triumph didn’t really seem to be there and yet the caked got baked and goddamn it’s delicious.
Of course, people will say that it was “only” the Jaguars and hey, they’re right. I’m saying that too. But here’s the thing – this is exactly – EXACTLY – how you beat a team like the Jaguars if you want to be a real, grown-up football team. They dispatched the Jaguars coldly, professionally, physically breaking them not through some animal effort but through sheer force of will, through sheer personality. They beat a shitty team because they were just better, because they were the team they always could be if they just grew up and took care of all the little things. This, right here, was a goddamn playoff team. Maybe they won’t make the actual playoffs, but the team that took the field today was a team that could not only make the playoffs, but actually WIN a game in the playoffs. This was not some frantic roller-coaster ride or a gambler playing Russian Roulette while someone tried to shoot an apple off his head with an arrow. This was a complete football team, in every sense of the word, a team that could throw on you, run on you, stop you cold on defense and not shoot itself in the foot with the cursed Failure Gun. Sure, they gave up two garbage time touchdowns and allowed the Jaguars to move the football in the fourth quarter, after the game was already out of hand, but even with all that they still outgained Jacksonville 434-279 and held the ball for ten more minutes. That’s called dominance, kids. That isn’t luck, that isn’t a hyper-adrenalized comeback, that isn’t OH GOD MARTHA HIDE THE KIDS AND THE DOG AND FETCH ME MY NITRATES AND A BOTTLE OF ETHER, the sort of wild coked up donkey show we’ve come to expect, win or lose. No. It was simply cold, methodical dominance. My heart-rate barely moved during that game. I never paced my living room, never had to plead with the gods, old or new, never had to make up all new swear words because the ones we all know simply weren’t powerful enough, never drove my neighbors from their homes in fear. As I said on Twitter after the game, quoting a wise man (I think it was Moses) - today was a good day, I didn’t even have to use my AK. Indeed. Instead, I just sat on my couch and calmly watched my football team, the Detroit Lions, just as calmly destroy the Jacksonville Jaguars. And it’s about damn time.