Friday, July 31, 2009
Training camp kicks off this weekend, and when it does it will signal the beginning of the end for a lot of dudes. And of those dudes, there are always a handful that everyone is sad to see go. Whether they're old beloved veterans who either make too much money or are holding back the progress of some young prospect, or they are young dudes who seem kinda crazy but don't quite have the talent, it sucks to see players you become attached to - often for inane and bizarre reasons - pack up their shit and go home. And with that in mind, here are four(Why four? Must there always be a why?)players who might not make it who I want to see make the team. Really, this has nothing to do with how well they might be able to help the team, I just like these dudes and want to see them hang around, even if they never play. Some of them might not even be on the team anymore, but I'm going to allow them to enter the discussion if they were signed for even a day as an undrafted free agent. No, this is not really constructive, but fuck it, I feel like doing this, and so here we go.
Yeah, Reggie Ball. For those of you who don't know, Ball was the quarterback at Georgia Tech when Calvin Johnson was there. But, Ball sucked. I mean, he really, really sucked, and so when the time came to try to make a move to the pro game, Ball did the only thing he could and switched over to receiver. I can just about hear Adrian swearing at Ball right now from in front of his monitor but we will let that shit go. Anyway, I am assuming that Ball and St. Calvin are pretty good friends, and maybe that's why the Lions keep Ball hanging around the team. I doubt he's a really useful part, but if he keeps Calvin the Great happy, then fuck it, keep him here. If you have to cut him, give him a job somewhere else. I don't care what it is, ballboy, janitor, assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the secretary to the assistant of Martin Mayhew, I don't care. The important thing here is to KEEP CALVIN JOHNSON HAPPY.
When Robinson was drafted as Mr. Irrelevant a couple of years ago, I remember reading the usual puff piece bullshit that everyone writes every year about Mr. Irrelevant. The last guy picked in the draft gets all sorts of dumb things thrown at him, like a parade in his honor and a bunch of useless shit he probably ends up hawking on e-bay to help eke by when he's working at Safeway after getting cut. It always seems to me to be something that would be vaguely embarrassing to have to go through, like everyone was kind of making fun of you. I've always wanted those dudes to turn around and make it and tell everyone to fuck off. And in the article about Robinson, I was struck by how much the guy really needed to make it. This wasn't some gumpy lineman from a well-off upper middle class family. No, this was a dude who needed to make some money. I remember reading about how he was living in a shitty motel on a per diem basis, just trying to get by until he made the team and since then, I've wanted him to make it even more than I normally want these dudes to. He worked his ass off to get where he is, and even if that's a spot as nothing more than a fringe player in the NFL, that's still a hell of a thing, and I like having a dude like that on my team.
Normally, I can't stand the whole Scrappy-Do, David Eckstein HEY LOOKIT THAT WHITE DUDE PLAY kind of thing. It's always those types who are the fan favorites and it always faintly stinks of racism and bullshit provincialism. Case in point: David Kircus, who everyone loved even though he pretty much sucked and was maybe the weakest player in the league. But he was white and he was a Michigan boy, having starred at DII Grand Valley State, and so he was treated as a prince. And already, I can see fans falling in love with Follett. But the thing is, I have a feeling they will love him more because he seems like a total psychopath who will run and hit like a maniac and that's my sort of dude. There were some reports earlier in the spring and summer about Follett not grasping the system, being lost and all that shit, and that has everyone worried that he won't make it. He's only a seventh round pick after all, but he's got that thing that makes fans want to cheer for him for the right reasons, and that's because he goes out and acts like he wants to kill a motherfucker for his team. He was productive as hell at a very high level in college, and given time, I would like to see him progress from being a special teams demon to a terrifying blitzer on defense. I usually don't fall for these types of players, but I like Follett. He's raw as hell, but he seems like someone who can be a real player if you just give him some time. Unfortunately, coaches want dudes who can produce right away, and you can't really blame them. Still, I will be a little sad if Follett ends up spearing dudes while digging ditches or something instead of playing for the Lions.
Okay, I don't really know anything about this dude, other than he's a kicker who was never going to make the team and was one of those blink and you'll miss him undrafted free agents. But, the dude's name is SWAYZE WATERS. Come on! How could I not want him to somehow end up as a Lion? Maybe my favorite movie in the world is Point Break, and yeah, this whole fucking post was basically a convoluted excuse to talk about Swayze Waters and Point Break. Sadly, Swayze Waters is probably about as long for this world as poor Patrick, and so when the season starts and he's nowhere to be found, I won't have an excuse to get into all this nonsense. But really, we need a dude named Swayze Waters on this team. When the Lions are losing this season - and despite all the rabid optimism being spouted all over the web, including here, they are probably going to lose a lot again this season - I just want to look at the sideline and see Swayze Waters hanging out.
It will remind me of Point Break every time. And that's a good thing. How could it not be? I mean, just look at that movie. You've got Patrick Swayze as a surfer named Bodhi who likes to jump out of airplanes and rob banks wearing a Ronald Reagan mask. You've got Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent who used to be a star college football quarterback and who lies his ass off throughout the movie, and gets sucked along in the Great Swayze's wake. And let's not forget John McGinley as a gigantic dickhead of an FBI officer, and fucking GARY BUSEY running around like a crazy motherfucker as Keanu's partner. It's all very California and all very late 80's/early 90's and it's all awesome as hell. There's even a chase scene involving Keanu running after Swayze, who's wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, and Swayze actually THROWS A DOG at Keanu. Just read that sentence again. IT'S ASTOUNDING.
There are all sorts of Surf Nazis and jacked up assholes running around throughout the movie and Keanu fucks up repeatedly throughout the movie, but it doesn't matter, because Swayze is Swayze in this movie, at his very Swazeiest. I mean, this is a man who has Road House on his resume and in many ways this movie is even more awesome than that ridiculous piece of shit. And that's saying something. I know everyone loves their Van Dammes and some people even swear by Steven Seagal, and of course it goes without saying that Arnold and Sly get much deserved love for their respective milestone movies during this time period, but for me, Patrick Swayze is the dude and Point Break is the pinnacle of that wonderful man's career.
Anyway, I am well aware that Swayze Waters will not be a Detroit Lion and the only thing I can do is hope that when they released him, they had the decency to allow him to try to paddle to New Zealand.
Okay, I am well aware that this has been my shittiest post, just a rambling stupid mess, but I don't care. I love that damn movie, and I will not apologize for any of this nonsense. Now that training camp is getting underway, there might actually be some real things to talk about. In the coming month, I will try to talk about what's going on in the run up to the season in between writing a million words previewing the season. Everything's revving up, and in about a month there will be real live meaningful NFL football being played again, and I will write a shitload about it.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Okay, given the general state of the Detroit Lions franchise over the past decade of pain, it is probably foolish to say that there are only five areas that need to be closely monitored over the next month or so. The sad reality is that despite all the good done by the new regime since the conflagration that both mercifully and terribly ended the season, that decade long fire that turned the franchise into a pile of ashes left the team bereft of anything resembling quality depth. And so, wherever you look on the field, you're going to see some enormous holes. Instead of focusing then on the weakest and the saddest, I'm going to focus this little list on the things that interest me the most, good or bad.
1. The Linebackers
This is probably the most pumped up part of the team - certainly of the defense - and it's kind of odd heading into the season feeling like there's a very good chance that our linebackers will not only be functional, but that they will also be difference makers. It's been so long since the Lions got quality linebacker play from the group as a whole that I'm not sure if I can think back to a time when it was an actual reality. There have been a few decent players here and there, but for the most part guys like Ernie Sims or Reggie Brown have either been a lone superball bouncing in a world of retarded bowling balls or they have been broken in half and almost died on the field. In the case of Sims it will be interesting to see his freakish athletic talents complemented by linebackers who bring their own gifts to the table. He won't have to make so many plays on his own - or fail in spectacular fashion while trying anyway - with them there to cover their own ground. Hopefully, this will mean a more controlled Ernie Sims who will use his gifts for the forces of good instead of the forces of evil who he was devoted to all of last season. And aside from Sims, it will be very interesting to see just how Julian Peterson is used. He's another physical specimen(Good Lord, do I ever hate writing things like that because it sounds like I'm about two steps away from prodding him with a stick and then jotting down my observations in a notebook. Football scout talk is fucking creepy. At least I haven't called anybody "long" or started yammering like a degenerate about how a player looks with his shirt off. Not yet anyway.)Anyway, strange digressions aside, Peterson can both get to the quarterback and cover his man(great, now everything sounds dirty to me), and it will be very interesting to see how the coaches use him. I'm also eager to see how much he has left in the tank. He's still fairly young - just a hair over thirty - but he seems as if he's slightly past his prime. The same can be said of Larry Foote, the presumably new starting middle linebacker. I'll be anxious to see if his physical impact on the Lions measures up to the Super Bowl winning veteran leadership he should provide. There is also the curious case of Jordan Dizon, whose horrible rookie year led me to forecast a career in ditch digging after the season. Apparently, the coaches really like him, and it will be interesting to see if he can make giant strides in his second season and become someone who we can count on to replace either Peterson or Foote when the time comes. Also of interest will be whether or not DeAndre Levy can show enough to make people comfortable that he can step in as a starter when Foote either goes over the hill or chases his next contract. There is a lot to watch out for here, and this is probably the one position group I am most eager to see on the field.
2. The Cornerbacks
The defensive backfield has long been an apocalyptic wasteland in Detroit, and sadly, the new faces that the Lions brought in over the winter and spring don't really offer a whole lot of hope. And with the defensive line still being a general disaster area, the Lions really need players back here who can stick with their man. Phillip Buchanon is probably the key here, and according to insiders, he seems like he's impressing thus far. If he can give the Lions one player who can lock down the opposition's best receiver, it could create a sort of domino effect, allowing the rest of the defense a little cushion to make plays instead of having to sit back and cover for yet another sub-par corner. Other than Buchanon, things are looking frightening at cornerback. There's Anthony Henry, who the Cowboys practically threw at us in exchange for Jon Kitna. Old, slow, these are not words that you want to describe your starting cornerback, and there has been some speculation that Henry will eventually be moved to safety, which leaves . . . HEAD FOR THE HILLS ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE. Otherwise known as career backup Eric King and who the fuck knows what Keith Smith. These are not appealing options, but the truth is that even if Henry and Buchanon both perform well, either King or Smith is going to have to give the Lions quality time as the nickel back. And like the band of the same name, our nickel back will likely cause fans to break out in tears of agony, wailing and begging anyone who will listen to just make the pain stop.
3. Matthew Stafford
This one is obvious. But just because it's obvious, doesn't make it not true. Matthew Stafford was the number one pick in the NFL Draft and the Lions hopes and dreams for the future are riding squarely on his frat boy shoulders. Unfortunately, there are no statistics for keg throwing or coeds fucked in a pool of jello while your boys hoot and holler behind you, drunkenly cheering on your exploits while surreptitiously checking out your ass the whole time. Jesus. I'm sorry. That was just a string of terrifying gibberish and I'm sure Matthew is a wholesome young man who loves apple pie and wouldn't even think of messing around with jello. Anyway, the Lions have committed a billion dollars(just a rough figure)to Stafford and because of that, they're locked into him as the future of this franchise. You'll excuse me a minute while I go vomit. The names Joey Harrington, Andre Ware and Chuck Long just flew through my head in terrifyingly bright colors. I may be hallucinating. JESUS, THROW THE DAMN BALL PAST THE FIRST DOWN MARKER JOEY AND QUIT SMILING. NO, ANDRE, DON'T THROW THAT BALL TO . . . OH LORD WHAT IS HAPPENING??? So yeah, there are some concerns here, and that's before we even get into this little article written by Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution comparing Stafford to - hang on, breathe, it will all be okay - David Greene.
4. The Offensive Line
I thought about going with the defensive line here, but really, we know that will be bad, so why bother getting all worked up over it? The offensive line on the other hand is mildly intriguing, if only because for the first time in a while, the Lions seem to have a semblance of cohesion here. Four out the five starters are pretty much locked in, and all four have the potential to be okay players. If they all play up to their potential instead of down to their reputations, this could actually be an area of the team that ends up not being quite so horrible. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but given that the Lions really didn't bring in too many new players here, that's sort of remarkable. The one player that the Lions did bring in who has some credentials of his own is Jon Jansen, the former longtime starter at right tackle for the Redskins. Hopefully, Jansen will at least push Gosder Cherilus to be something more than the dude who takes out Jared Allen's knees and then backpedals away while Allen chases him down like an escaped vampire ape. There is potential on the line, and with the new coaches, I'm interested to see if it actually blossoms or if the line dissolves in front of Stafford and Kevin Smith like it was just zapped out of there by Mr. Scott.
5. Jim Schwartz
Really, this applies to the whole coaching staff, but to Schwartz more than anyone else. He's the head man, and the one who has everyone in the Lions universe composing sonnets and throwing rose petals at him every time he walks by. We have collectively acted like a bunch of love sick schoolgirls, and soon we'll get to see whether or not he turns to us, smiles and asks us to dance, or whether he laughs in our face, tears up our love notes and speeds away on his motorcycle with the school slut while we sit in a puddle of our own tears, everyone laughing at us once again. Okay, so I may have dragged that metaphor out a little far but this team does weird things to even the best of us. The point is that Schwartz has yet to coach one game as the head man and really, until we see what he does, there are going to be insane mood swings happening in the Lions fanbase. One moment we will be dreaming that Professor Schwartz will mindmeld with the opposing team's coach and cause the other team's pants to fall off or some shit like in that movie Zapped. And the next moment, we'll all be worried that he will turn out to be just another pretender and that halfway through the season he will wander out onto the field, a glazed look in his eyes, pants missing and we'll all hang our head in shame while Old Man Ford quietly putters onto the field in a golf cart to retrieve his latest disaster. Look, we're all hoping for the best here, but let's face it, we're not exactly a franchise accustomed to sunshine and roses. Our collective memories of this team most resemble the shots of the future from the Terminator movies, all bleached skulls and dead people. Okay, so we've never been hunted by robots, but none of us really ever thought that 0-16 would happen either, so you never know. Hopefully, it turns out that Schwartz and his 912 IQ actually is a good football coach and not just the wet dream of a perpetually blue balled franchise. I'm sorry, that was weird and sort of gross, but fuck it, that's why we need the football season to just get here already, so we can stop speculating about such nonsense. Okay, fine, once the season does get here, that sort of weird bullshit will likely only increase, but I am a strange man in a strange world, and really, I know no other way. I am a Lions fan, after all.
Friday, July 10, 2009
This might be a rambling mess of a post(yeah, yeah, what else is new), but I felt like posting something, and so fuck it, here we are. And as Lions fans, where we are seems to be a weird place, one moment full of wailing and despair, with people howling and gibbering about our mournful past, unable to escape its horrible grip, and the next moment, everyone is all sunshine and lollipops, with Jim Schwartz carried around on a throne of candy and blowjobs. It's an odd world to be stuck in, a strange mixture of hope and dread which causes our battered and fragile little minds to react like we are a gaggle of pregnant schizophrenics. It's a crazy world, and those who survive its horrors are both twisted and hardened. It takes both a certain kind of cynicism and an innocent optimism to survive. You have to both expect the worst and hope for the best to survive as a Lions fan. It is completely contradictory, and completely insane, but if you don't have both you will break down along the way.
It's a difficult thing to look at your favorite team and say "Yeah, these guys are probably going to stink." I hate it, and yet, year after year it's almost a necessity. It's simply the way it usually is, and only a great fool would put himself through the heartbreak of expecting great things from the perpetually putrid. And yet, most of us are great fools. We are Lions fans, after all. And despite our proclamations of doom and our gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts, when the season is getting ready to get underway, we always fall to our knees and start speaking in idiot tongues about how we're really going to turn it around this time, and about how we've got a real chance to be good. It's bizarre and inexplicable, and yet it happens every damn year. Hell, last year, everyone was all pumped up, figuring that we could build off of that magical 7-9 season, and then when those shitbirds went 4-0 in the preseason, everyone was getting ready to bask in the glow of the dawn of a new age of, well, of competence anyway. And then 0-16 happened.
So, which one is real and which one is the defense mechanism? Oddly, I think they are both kind of real and both a defense mechanism. We have watched too long and seen too much suffering and senseless death on that football field to truly believe that things are going to get better, and so it's only natural that we would see the four horsemen of the apocalypse thundering through the tunnel and through the end zone every time we chanced a glance down the field. And yet, there's a theatricality to it all, a sense that we have to bitch because that is what we are supposed to do. It goes so ridiculously far. If the Lions signed Tom Brady with Jesus as his go to receiver and Moses as his possession guy, along with a cheetah on PCP at running back, an offensive line consisting of Bigfoot, Paul Bunyan, Darth Vader, Goliath and Frankenstein's Monster and a defense made up of deranged vampire apes and pissed of werewolves, Lions fans would still doom the team to failure before they even took a snap. I can just hear it now, people calling into talk radio, screaming and gibbering about how Frankenstein's Monster is too stiff on the left end and that he'd get killed by speed rushers. A horrible thing, just horrible. Lions fans have to be so cynical in order to protect themselves. Having to go through those seasons is hard enough. Dealing with them when you are expecting glory is fucking heinous.
And yet, there is still that undercurrent of hope that travels through everything, that shrug of the shoulder and the "Oh hell, why not?" that invades every Lions fan before every single season. And that has to be real. It wouldn't exist if it wasn't. It speaks to how resilient as fans we can be. I mean, we have to be to support this team, right? Those of us who have stayed are crazy. There can be no doubts about that one, but the reason why we have stayed is because underneath it all, we are a bunch of eternal optimists, ready to see the sun shine again. Still, some of this optimism is the byproduct of our need to talk ourselves into something good happening. Without hope, we would go mad following this team. It has to be there, and if we have to manufacture some of that hope, then that's what we do.
Which brings us to this season, a season where we seem to be swinging between these extremes even more wildly than any other time I can remember. And really, can you blame us? We're in completely uncharted territory here folks, in a place where Kirk and Spock would be shitting their pants in mortal terror. 0-16 is a difficult thing to wrap the mind around and, yet, it happened and we have to deal with it. It's an incredibly difficult thing to feel optimism - it's absurd really - coming off of that kind of a season. But then we happened to go out and hire a head coach who everyone has fallen in love with and whose visage is currently doodled on the inside of all of our Trapper Keepers, and so we look at the future and see, for the first time that many of us can remember, an honest optimism, a sense that we can really believe in what's going on here. You mesh those two realities, 0-16 with the excitement of the new, and you get this weird, stormy world, where one minute(or one paragraph)someone will be predicting apocalyptic doom and the next they will be composing sonnets for Jim Schwartz and rhapsodizing about our glorious future.
Many of us have settled into kind of a groove with this whole deal, predicting yet another tragic season with a silver lining. We're not expecting us to be any good this year, but we are expecting the groundwork to be laid for a future rife with glory and parades and Jim Schwartz being carved onto Mt. Rushmore and ushering in an unprecedented era of peace much like that generated by those two sages, Bill &Ted. I think what we're hoping for here is something akin to what the Cowboys went through when they hired Jimmy Johnson, a team that struggles mightily, but after passing through the fire starts whipping the shit out of the rest of the league. That would be okay, minus the batshit crazy owner and the drunken hillbilly coach that followed anyway.
And yet, even those of us who see doom on the immediate horizon are looking at this season and saying "Hey, why not?" There are bright red arrows in our brains pointing to the Falcons and the Dolphins of last season, and there is Larry Foote and Julian Peterson and the brand new and improved Lizard King Cinnabon Sims at linebacker, there's St. Calvin, and the rookie with the arm that can throw the ball across Lake Michigan. There's Kevin Smith ready to rush for 4,000 yards and there's a competent group of coaches led by a wunderkind with an IQ of 912 who likes to drink beer and listen to Metallica in the parking lot with the fans and there is an owner who . . . okay, never mind.
And that's when the other halves of our brains descend like vultures and start telling us that the secondary is still pretty shitty, the defensive line is paper thin and soft like Downy, and that the offensive line is still the same group of put upon shell shock victims most skilled at running around in panicked terror. There is still an appalling lack of depth and a rookie quarterback who was kind of a gamble with the number one pick, a lack of gamebreakers aside from St. Calvin and a rookie coach who has still yet to win a game in the NFL, and of course there is the big one, that we are still the Detroit Lions and good things simply don't happen to the Lions.
It's a war between the better angels of our nature and the pile of broken bodies which lies hideous and terrible in our memories. We want to believe. We want it so very badly, and all we can do until hope blossoms into something tangible is to keep running from those terrible memories, run until they fade into just a vaguely unpleasant blob somewhere far behind us. They'll always be there, but we are Lions fans. We're tough, maybe a little crazy, perhaps a touch dumb for putting up with all this nonsense, but we're tough and we're dedicated and when the good times do start rolling, Jesus will it ever be sweet.