Monday, April 12, 2010
Fighting the Ghosts of the Past
ESPN's NFC North Blog had a little snippet up today about the Unholy Trinity of Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Roy Williams. It seems that somehow, even though their bodies have long been laid to rest, their spirits still wander free, raising havoc, making news and keeping us from ever escaping their horrible clutches.
It's probably not fair to lump Roy Williams in with those other two dumpster fires. I mean, the dude did put up a couple of Pro Bowl caliber seasons, and was well on his way to becoming one of the best receivers in football before Lions Disease struck him down. But that's the important thing here. Roy was struck down by Lions Disease. Hell, mention Lions Disease to any doctor in America and they will flash back to their days in med-school, pouring over their case studies, the name Roy Williams popping up over and over again. Ah, those were the days, back when they would steal Rx pads from their instructors and spend their weekends running wild on a cocktail of Percocet and Viagra, animals with massive erections with lust in their hearts who felt no pain. But today they are just boring old family physicians, with a family and a mortgage, and the name Roy Williams cuts to their core, reminding them of the days when life was wild and carefree and the future was rife with endless possibility.
So it goes with us. All three of those names were names that promised to lead us out of the sewer and into the promised land. All three were held up as examples of can't miss prospects, of pure possibility. And as time went by, all three disappointed us, and left us sitting in our examining room with a 90 year old with goiters while we dreaded coming back home to the loveless marriage with the wife and the kids who were all spoiled ingrates. Terrible, just terrible.
But the past is the past, and our terrible memories are just that, memories - just like the weirdness above where I started inexplicably talking about doctors who don't exist is just a memory. It's not something that should haunt us. It is flimsy, pointless and most importantly, not real. Oh sure, it happened, but there is an important distinction to be made between happened and happening. The mistake that we so often make as Lions fans is confusing those two words, those two concepts, happened and happening. The past is not our present, and the present is not our past. None of those three players are in a Lions uniform today, and while yes, that has had a tangible effect on our present, it doesn't define our present. Unless we let it.
And really, that's our biggest sin as a Lions fans. We let the past haunt us and we let it define us. It's hard not to. I understand that. Believe me, I do. But you either move forward or you die. It's stark and it's brutal and it's cruel but it's also true. Roy Williams didn't understand that and that's why the Failure Demon caught up with him and gave him a fatal does of Lions Disease. If you allow the past to beat you down and rob you of your spirit then it will. Every time. If you are constantly afraid that you will fail again, just because you failed in the past, then you will.
Okay, I apologize. That was veering into some Tony Robbins bullshit, and that is really, really not my style. The point is, though, is that I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Aren't you? I mean, it's one thing to know about the horrors of the past. They happened, a lot of good people died and we should respect that. But we shouldn't wallow in it, either. We shouldn't start to fetishize it, to almost get off on being historically lousy. It's sad and it's disturbing and yet just about every Lions fan has fallen victim to this way of thinking. Hey, I'm not judging here. I include myself in this group. We bang the drums of failure, beat our breasts, tear at our hair and howl at the moon because we think that it somehow separates us from everybody else. In a sick way, we have allowed losing to become the thing that we are most proud of.
Okay, I know that sounds utterly ridiculous and I have probably lost a lot of you with that statement(if I didn't lose you after that bizarre gibberish about Lions Disease and med-school hijinks that is), but if you really think about it, it's true. We have no concept of what cheering for a winning professional football team feels like. We just don't. The only people in our fanbase who knows what that feels like are collecting social security and shitting their pants down in Florida wondering when The Wheel is going to be on TV again. The rest of us just know the losing. It's all we have and so we cling to it. It is a poisonous relationship, ugly and without decency, and yet there we are, hugging it tightly because unlike it's brother winning, losing has never left our side. We are stuck with each other and so whenever we talk about the Lions with other people, whenever we look at one another in our Lions gear, whenever we even think about the Lions, the losing is what dominates everything. We are the world champions of it, and we just don't know anything else.
But fuck all that. Really. Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Roy Williams are just ghosts. They may make spooky noises from time to time and rattle their chains in the attic, but they can't hurt us. Not anymore. They might be found lying in a ditch, drunk and high or spotted desperately tailing their college coach like a junkie tailing a dealer(Man, Coach Carroll, I'll suck yo diiiiiick for playing time . . . I'm sorry, that was awful.)or heard bitching out their quarterback, but none of those are our problems. It might sound cruel to say, but it's true. They may be human dumpster fires, but we don't need to be the ones standing around with a fire extinguisher every time they flare up again. Take that dumpster and roll it into Lake Michigan.
The present is hard enough to deal with without wallowing in the muck of the past. There are a lot of challenges on the horizon and we can't be constantly looking over our shoulders for the Failure Demon or else we will all end up like Roy Williams, a shell, broken by Lions Disease, bitter and uncomprehending. We won't understand why things aren't different. After all, we look the same as we always did, don't we? But the Failure Demon is an insidious beast, a mean asshole, and when he catches you, he won't let go. You're his slave, and even though you might tell yourself that you are a hopeful dude or lady dude, and that the future is still bright, deep down you will always return to your master, and in the end, when there's nothing left of you but bones and the stench of defeat, you will be discarded along with all the others into a hellish graveyard, from which you can never escape, and in which the only memory of hope is a mocking echo, laughing at you, reminding you of all that was possible, of all that was good, and all that you gave up because you were too frightened and too beholden to fear and failure. So smile, because you are better than that shit, and when I am old I want to be able to hang out with all of you and reminisce about the time our Lions kicked the shit out of everyone else, and those ghosts will just be distant memories, powerless and blown away by the winds of time and hope. They can't hurt us. So the next time one of them pops up, laugh in its face, tell it to fuck off and remember that the future is bright and that is what's real.