Back in 2001, that year when that asshole HAL went apeshit and apparently some monkeys threw some bones in the air while dramatic drums played in the background, I found myself piss drunk in the backyard of a friend deep into the night with a pair of boxing gloves strapped on my hands and one of my best friends standing across from me, pummeling me.
Now, this might strike you as vaguely odd, but if it does then you really haven’t been paying attention. Shit like this happened to me all the time in college, largely because I was an utter degenerate.
Anyway, earlier that night I had helped celebrate another close friend’s 21st birthday by buying him a metric shitload (technical term) of shots. I, of course, felt it was my duty to match him shot for shot because I am a real friend. Cut to several hours later and I was standing in the living room of another friend with boxing gloves on. She seemed obviously ill at ease with the whole idea, but I assured her that everything was cool and I just wanted to wear them for a while. Then I punched out a window in her living room. She was remarkably patient with me, but still, it was time to take that shit outside.
One of my closest friends during that time was a dude who was an all-state football player in high school who had drifted, like me, into degeneracy. He joined me outside. He was soberish (I won’t say sober because nobody was, but in terms of relativity, he was sober. I mean, I was so drunk that Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas was sober by comparison. Anyway, for further discussion, see Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.) and he had also acquired boxing gloves. Meanwhile, I am a fairly athletic dude. I can throw a punch. But I was so drunk that I could barely stand which is, naturally, a fairly important thing when it comes to boxing.
I had another friend who sat outside and watched us because, hell, that shit was funny. He sort of took on the role of de facto ref because that’s the sort of thing you do when you’re all fucked up at three in the morning.
So, the stage was set for an epic battle. My friend was a sober beast and I was incoherent and even Iggy Pop probably would have told me that I needed to chill the fuck out. But fuck all that, it was time to brawl. Naturally, I got knocked the fuck out over and over and over again. But I kept getting back up, much to my friends’ amazement. They would just laugh – mostly because they were assholes – but I was out of my head and I would stagger back to my feet after a 40 count or so and start slurring a bunch of unintelligible bullshit and then I would get knocked out again. But I kept getting up because fuck them, that’s why. I kept getting up because there is something inside of me that is hardwired to not stay down. I am stubborn and the more I get beat on the more ridiculous I get. After probably the 912th time I got put on my back, I crawled back to my feet and called my friend a coward and a cocksucker and a lot of other hideous shit. I was indignant and defiant, drunk and disorderly, completely out of hand, and he just laughed again and knocked me the fuck out one more time.
There was never a moment when I thought “You know, you might want to stay down you damn fool. You can’t win this. You’re too drunk and you can’t even stand up to throw a proper punch.” No, in my mind I was convinced that I would make it back to my feet and this time I would connect with a miracle punch and knock my friend out cold. (By the way, I know this makes no sense. Why would I want to knock my friend out cold? Just remember, I was shitfaced, and this is the sort of thing that happens when you are a man, young and filled with a combination of adrenaline and booze. There is no such thing as reason. He was there, we had boxing gloves on, and so damn it, I was gonna knock him the fuck out.) If anything, the only way I was winning that fight was if I vomited on him and he gave up.
It even got to the point where my friend who was doubling as the referee started to bellow the theme to Rocky every time I scrambled to my feet. Even in my addled haze I knew that he was mocking me but fuck it, sometimes you just have to fight for yourself even if no one else believes in you, or hell, even cares at all about the outcome. I am an intensely competitive person, to the point where it is not fun to even play a game of cards with me. I can make a game of darts miserable with my shit talk. I am relentless and blood thirsty and I recognize this about myself. I am not proud of it, but there are times when I shouldn’t win but I do because I won’t back down. You can name just about any sport or game and I can point out at least one time when I won just because I was a psychotic asshole who had to win.
That’s all great when you’re sober. But when you are completely shitfaced, and you can’t see right and everything feels like some giant psychedelic hillbilly circus, you’re just going to get your ass kicked over and over and over again. And that’s what happened. I had the will to keep fighting but I was too fucked up to really do anything about it. I was fatally flawed and that was that.
I want to say that there was some grand moment where I stood up and my friends all respected me as a fighter but the truth is, is that they just laughed at me until finally the night just got old and everyone went back inside. And then, I sat in the passenger seat of my friend’s car – the same friend who had just spent who knows how long pummeling me – and I wept like a stupid baby. I wasn’t sad or angry or upset or anything like that. I was just overloaded with adrenaline and booze and the combination makes for some weird side effects. One of those is crying. It just happens. You don’t even know why you’re doing it, but there you are, blubbering like a damn fool while your friend tells you that he understands and hey, it’s cool because it’s happened to him before too and then the next thing you know, the sun is coming up and you feel like a zombie and you have already wrecked the toilet with your vomitous thunder and so now you’re on your hands and knees on the back patio dry heaving and wondering if you accidentally slipped through a secret portal into hell.
I woke up the next day on my friend’s couch like some vagrant and my entire face was killing me. I looked in the mirror and my gums were all caked with dried blood and there was a mat of what I hoped was blood right underneath my nose, my poor, poor nose which would hurt for a month afterward. Everything was swollen and Goddamn, if there was ever a point in my life where I could have been thrown into some sort of shelter or rehab facility without anyone questioning it, it was then.
One thing about me is that even if I get stupendously drunk, I never black out. I always (okay, almost always. I am allegedly only human, after all.) remember what I did the night before, which can, uh, lead to some embarrassment. So, there I was, staring into a mirror in my friend’s bathroom (By the way, I just crashed at his place because my place was further away and, well, let’s just say that distance may have been a factor when it came to his deciding whether to drive home or not that night.), staring at my wrecked face, dried blood everywhere, and I felt both embarrassed and proud. I was embarrassed because, well, obviously . . . but I was also strangely proud because I remembered that I kept on getting up. Even though my friends were laughing at me and even though no one was taking that shit seriously at all, in my heart, my drunken foolish heart, it meant something to me. I kept making myself get up to prove something to myself. I had to get up because no matter how much I got knocked down, if I did that, then I couldn’t lose. There was no way I could win the fight because I was drunk and had been rendered retarded. But if I just managed to stand up after I got knocked down, then hell, I’d still be there and really, wasn’t that the point?
I finished looking into the mirror and I walked back out into the living room, looking and feeling like I had just walked off the set of a Romero flick and I saw my friend standing there. He saw me and just started laughing. I laughed too because really, what else can you do? But in my heart I was proud because I looked at his face and on his forehead was one big raw mark where a bunch of skin had been ripped off. It would seem that at some point, I had managed to land one shot. I was drunk and I couldn’t win, but I always got up and I never quit coming. Time eventually ran out and everyone went home, but I never lost, never looked at him and said I quit. Instead, I gave him a nasty looking cut in the middle of his forehead. I was behind on points, but if we fought forever, I still think that eventually, I would have won.
That is a convoluted metaphor for what just went down against the Giants on Sunday, on the anniversary of my birth. I meant for it to only be a paragraph but, well, much like that night, shit got out of hand in a hurry. But as that game was finishing up, that night went through my mind and for good reason. The Lions fought and they fought and they fought and they never stayed down, even though they kept getting knocked on their asses. But they were also drunk and fatally flawed. They were never going to win that fight. They couldn’t. But they kept fighting anyway until finally, time just ran out and everybody walked off the field.
It seemed like a game where everything from the ref to Dick Stockton to fate itself conspired to keep the Lions from winning. Hell, God even tried to kill poor Zack Follett. But still, the Lions wouldn’t go away. Dick Stockton spent half the game blathering about how the Giants could do anything they wanted against the Lions defense – which, no, damn it, just . . . no – and then spent the rest of the game gibbering like a fool and openly wondering how the Lions were still in the game. It wouldn’t have surprised me if the cameras cut to the booth and a shot of ol’ Dick wearing a Giants jersey. Really, shut the fuck up, old man.
But what made Dick’s dickery even more obnoxious was that it was a narrative that just didn’t mesh with what was actually happening. The story he was telling and the story that a lot of fans will come away with is of one team dominating the hapless Lions yet again while the Lions shit themselves, roll over and then die. But that is all a bunch of hideous horseshit. The Lions kept stopping the Giants. On a down by down basis, they were punching with them, hanging in there, and damn it, in a position to win that fight. But they were also drunk and fucked up, and they couldn’t recover from that.
Really, you can point to a handful of moments that decided this game. It wasn’t outright dominance by the Giants – the Lions actually outgained the Giants over the course of the game – and anyone who thinks that’s what it was either didn’t watch the game or is just being lazy. On the Giants second touchdown drive of the game, the Lions had them stopped on a 3rd and 20 but Ndamukong Suh’s hands wandered up a little too high onto the face of the center, Shaun O’Hara, and what was a dead drive, killed by the Lions defense, was given new life that ended with a touchdown. It was a penalty that really had nothing to do with the effectiveness – or ineffectiveness in that particular case – of the play. It was just a stupid, quirky little thing. His hands got a little too high and that was that. It seems like such a fractionally stupid thing, such an unimportant little incident that it’s absurd that it should have had such an impact on the result of the game, but it did and here we are.
On the Giants third touchdown drive, the Lions stopped the Giants on 3rd down and had forced them to kick a field goal. But, wait! Hey, isn’t that Cliff Avril swinging away like a drunken degenerate at some fool? It is! Well, hey, that had nothing to do with the play but let’s just give the Giants a first down inside the five yard line. Touchdown, thanks for trying.
That’s 14 points that should have been 3. By my count that takes the Giants to 17 points, and well, that’s a slippery slope, the whole if this then that game, but well . . . yeah. It’s not like those were pass interference penalties or things that actually had an effect on the damn game. They were away from the play incidents, things that had nothing to do with football and they lost the Lions the game.
There are those who will tell you that is the point entirely, that those moments are relevant and are what separate the good teams from the bad, and honestly, those people aren’t wrong. But when it comes to football, to snapping the ball and stopping the other guy, well, the Lions did that. They were just too drunk to win.
I will talk later about Drew Stanton gritting his way down the field and about how that game was the perfect summation of the entire being of Ol’ Plucky, but all that is just background noise for what really mattered, and that is that the Lions actually showed that they could play with anyone right now. It’s just that, well, they need to sober up.
Every time they would stagger back to their feet, they would just fall back down again. Drew Stanton would fumble or Nate Burleson would lose the ball in a fumble that was so barely a fumble that it felt like the refs should let the Lions keep the ball just out of principle or Ahmad Bradshaw would finally break loose and Goddammit, you’re so close, just take a swing and you can win this fight!
But . . . no. The truth is that no, no they couldn’t. Because they were drunk and fatally flawed. Did the Lions deserve to win this game? No. Did the Lions deserve to lose this game? No. That’s the best way that I think I can put this. They couldn’t win because they were too fucked up. But they wouldn’t lose either. Time just ran out and everybody went home. But even though the Lions are caked in their own blood, the Giants also woke up today, looked in the mirror and saw a big, nasty gash on their forehead.
I don’t believe in moral victories. I believe in winning or losing. And so, naturally, I’m pissed that the Lions lost. I’m pissed that there are people who will take this game and look at all the penalties and all the mistakes and think “Same old Lions.” But, Goddamn, this was a team that was down to its third string quarterback, on the road against a team that has a pretty decent shot at the playoffs, with a star receiver who spent the whole week unable to even lift his arm high enough to put a shirt on without difficulty, and they were drunk off their ass. And somehow, still, if one or two things happen differently, they would have won the damn game. That is almost miraculous. I’m not happy, but I’m not mad either. I’m just sort of sore and upset because we got knocked the fuck out, but I’m also proud because we always got back up and if that fight would have lasted forever, eventually, we would have won.