Normally, this is when I go over my predictions from the game preview post, but in a petulant fit, I said fuck it, no predictions were made, and so there is nothing to go over. I did this to protect my own sanity. I mean, I could have just made a bunch of shit up (yeah, yeah, how is that any different than usual, etc.) but that would have been unprofessional and the mark of a goddamn lunatic. And if I am anything, I am professional and rational in everything that I do. I’m a scientist for fuck’s sake, like Dave Copernicus or Norman Einstein.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) this means that I won’t be delving into the who, what and why of the Cowboys game. I mean, I could but I have lost the construct through which I normally do this, and, well, fuck it, you know? Besides, I don’t want to have to think about that godforsaken game any more than I have to. I’m just holding on by a thread here, and I don’t want to end up cutting that thread and then parading through the streets, naked with only an umbrella, accosting strangers in a falsetto voice and claiming that I am Mary Poppins. And if I’m forced to try to explain why the Cowboys were able to return that punt for a touchdown or to explain the vagaries of the NFL’s hair statutes again, then chances are at least decent that tomorrow you’d be reading about me trying to fly off of a bridge using my trusty umbrella and the power of positive thinking. Also, I’d end up fucking a chimney sweep and maniacally spoon feeding pure sugar to local children, ranting and raving about how it makes the medicine go down while they wept and called for their horrified parents. This is just a simple cause and effect scenario here. I wouldn’t have a choice.
And so, fuck the Cowboys game. Let us never speak of it again, except for in harsh, guttural whispers that live in the darkest parts of our hearts, only coming out when we need to access pure rage. Instead, I thought I would take this time to just talk, you know? No constructs, no gimmicks, just a nice, honest conversation about being a Lions fan. Because it’s Thanksgiving, this week is kind of fucked, so we’re just going to wing it. Cool? Cool. Tomorrow, I’ll have the game preview up and then Thursday is the turkey holocaust (seriously, I am this close to riffing on Hitler stuffing turkeys into giant ovens), which means that most everybody will be watching the game and then gorging on a mountain of food and drinking the tears of a starving Somalian child, and then afterwards, everyone will pass out, drunk on said tears, drugged by the souls of the dead turkeys, and so I won’t post anything about the game until Friday. I mean, hey, I like to commune with Indians too and wear hats with buckles on them and chase savage half-naked red women around with a giant musket while their men plot ways to get me to go back to England. That’ll be my Thursday. But Friday, I do plan on putting up the game reaction post, so look for that then. Um, what else? There will be no Willie Young this week – such is the sacrifice we must make for the turkey holocaust – but since the game reaction post will be up on Friday, I might do a Willie Young story on Monday. Maybe not, though. We’ll just play it by ear, okay? Okay.
Anyway, this post is completely unfocused and strange, and I would apologize, but fuck it, I apologize to no man – well, except for that one dude who I paralyzed with a sledgehammer in the midst of a syphilis induced bout of madness, bolstered by just a smidgen of PCP and the sadness of yet another Lions loss. Sorry, Bob. What the fuck am I even talking about? I don’t even know anymore. I am just rambling like a lunatic and, well, as you can see, this is why I sometimes need constructs. Without a set frame work, my fucked up brain creates its own walls, its own pathways - or, rather, fails to create them - and I float off into space, where I spend eternity shredding and freestyling on a guitar built from pieces and parts collected from the far corners of my mind. The only sound it makes is in my own head, my own imagination, and the only thing any of you can do is watch with slackjawed awe as I drift further and further into the void, with only the giant yellow sun as my backdrop. I’ll just keep shredding and shredding and making my own imaginary beautiful music until I either run out of oxygen and my head explodes or I soar smiling into the hell fingers of the sun.
Jesus! Anyway, this is what happens when I don’t have boundaries. But I suppose this is also my mind’s way of protecting me from the harsh truth, which is that I am a Lions fan who writes about the Lions. It’s much easier to disappear into the fucked up wonderland that is my brain than to have to face the awful reality that so often is Lions fandom. People say that they understand this, that they feel my pain Slick Willie Clinton style, but . . . no. No they don’t.
I have a book (and don’t worry, although this will seem like another ridiculous digression for a while, this one actually has a point). This book is called The People’s Almanac. I have had it forever. It was written in 1975 and it is a collection of endless facts and weird anecdotes. It is mostly useless, but it is interesting as hell. Like I said, I have had this book forever. I am not sure when it came into my possession – I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy it – and it’s entirely possible that I either “borrowed” it from the library many, many years ago, or it somehow drifted into my hands from my cool aunt’s book collection (she’s only six years older than me thanks to weird mating habits on the part of my grandparents and growing up she was the closest thing I had to a mentor, so blame her in part for whatever the fuck this alleged human being/possible cybernetic organism/being of pure light/child of heaven/possible antichrist called Neil is), or I fished it out of a dumpster or something. Who knows? All I do know is that I can remember reading it on family vacations as a kid, reading it when I worked at a single screen movie theater as a teenager (because of the one screen, there was a lot of downtime when the movie was playing), reading it in college instead of my textbooks because it was more interesting, and reading it on the toilet during several different phases of my life. It has seemingly always been there and I suspect it will always be there. It is the Alpha and the Omega of books.
Recently, it has found itself in my bathroom once again. Therefore, I have spent a lot of time recently reading about what a bunch of degenerate fuck ups most of our glorious nation’s presidents were and about the various mating habits of dozens of different animals and about the various mating habits of our degenerate fuck-up presidents, and lots of other weird bullshit. Seriously, just about everything in the universe is covered in this book in weird detail. I can’t recommend it enough. Even the cover of the book is great. It is filled with various facts and phrases, which all blend together to give the impression that the book is filled with knowledge, and if you get all fucked up or are just really, really immature, it can be fun to put those phrases together and create weird sentences. Therefore, THE MOST HATED, TARZAN, and BIBLE STATISTICS becomes The Most Hated Tarzan Bible Statistics, and then if you are like me (may God help you), you spend several minutes trying to imagine just what the most hated Tarzan Bible statistics would be and then you laugh to yourself like some sort of lunatic for a few more minutes and then you emerge from the bathroom while everyone looks at you in horror and wonders what in the hell you were doing in there. (By the way, I’m having to really, really restrain myself from just devoting the rest of this post to coming up with the most hated Tarzan Bible statistics.)
Anyway, I love this book. That much should be obvious by now. But maybe my favorite part is the section devoted to psychics and various scientists and visionaries and their predictions for the future. Since it was written in 1975, it’s hilarious to read a bunch of predictions about how we’d all be living on the moon by 1987 or about how by 1990 we’d all be living in some sort of Soylent Green like society, eating the stupid and the weak, or about how we’d all attain universal consciousness by the year 2000 and would be able to travel through space with our minds or about how we’d be conquered by the mole people in 1982. It’s all very fucked up and awesome and very, very 1970’s if that makes any sense. I mean, they say that predictions about the future are just a reflection of the fears and dreams of the present, and this is really, really obvious here.
But while I was reading some of these predictions, it struck me that when they were made it felt like the year 2010 was absurdly far off. It might as well have been a million years in the future given some of the predictions that were being made. It was not a real year. It would be like if we started talking about the year 2045. I mean, yeah, we know it will come, but we have no concept of it other than as some ambiguous marker of a future that has nothing to do with today. In 1975, people expected everything about the year 2010 to be completely different than their world and their society. Hell, 90% of them were predicting that the United States wouldn’t even exist by 2010. It wasn’t real to them, wasn’t anything other than some science fiction number that they could let their imaginations run wild with.
Here’s the point (finally!) In 1975, the Lions had already been terrible for almost 20 years. The last time they were worth anything was in 1957. To the people who were making those predictions, the Detroit Lions were roughly akin to what we think of when we think of the Buffalo Bills today. Kind of sad, kind of depressing, with a past that people vaguely remember as being worth something. People feel sorry for the Buffalo Bills. They feel sorry for their fans. They wonder if they will ever turn it around, if they will ever get their shit straight again. Those poor bastards. That’s how people thought of the Lions and their fans in 1975 – 35 years ago.
That’s right. Imagine the pain and the depression felt by Bills fans right now. Now imagine adding 35 more years of misery to that. You can’t do it. It seems absurd, unfathomably cruel and impossible. No one would be able to take that. And yet, here we are, Lions fans, living proof that not only is it possible, it is very, very real and very, very horrible.
In 1975, people looked at the year 2010 and saw flying cars and colonies on the moon and a world that was entirely different than the one that they lived in. In their time, their world, the Detroit Lions were a sad-sack franchise. They had become “The Detroit Lions” and all that that meant. There were probably people shaking their heads back then and saying “Same Ol’ Lions.” Again, that was 35 years ago. 35 YEARS AGO.
I’m not even sure what else to say after that, you know? Imagine the world 35 years from now. Imagine all the ways that it will be different. Now imagine the Buffalo Bills still struggling along in that world, perpetually stuck in the misery in which they find themselves right now, and imagine their fans, imagine their pain, imagine the suffering, the bombed out husks of their souls, and you can start to imagine what it’s like to be a fan of the Detroit Lions.
Bills fans can’t take one more year of the shit they’ve had to go through since they were last any good. They can’t. If you listen to them, they are on the verge of revolt. And yet, they haven’t even begun to feel a fraction of what we feel as Lions fans. They have been terrible for a little more than a decade. Our Lions have been terrible for more than 50 years.
Sure, there have been some oases in the middle of that misery, the Barry Sanders years most notably, but even while he was here, the Lions were still thought of as “The Lions”, complete with the snickers and endless eye rolling that go along with that. And that was our best era! We were basically little more than what the Jacksonville Jaguars are today. That’s our high point! The Lions win totals during that “glorious” decade: 7,6,12,5,10,9,10,5,9,5. Yeah, there were a couple of good years in there, but the total record for those years is 78-82. OUR FONDEST MEMORIES ARE OF A SUB-.500 TEAM.
Process that shit. Try. You can’t do it. But that’s all we have. That’s it. The last time the Lions were worth anything was in 1957, the last year Bobby Layne was the triggerman of the offense. For perspective’s sake, that was the year my mom was born. Not only have I never seen the Detroit Lions never be anything other than “The Lions”, neither have my parents. This is multi-generational, and not multi-generational in the way that Red Sox fans used to bray about. There are no World Series (well Super Bowls, but you get the point) here, no hopes and dreams, no moments when it felt like it could have ended. There’s just an endless string of misery and horror.
My grandfather – my fucking grandfather – was younger than I am today the last time the Lions weren’t “The Lions.” My grandfather is dead today. If he were alive, he would be 81. Again, if there any Bills fans reading this who were in their late 20’s when the Bills last went to a Super Bowl, imagine if the Bills would never, ever again be any good during your lifetime and imagine if your grandchildren – not your children but your grandchildren – would grow up and hit 30 years old without ever seeing their team be anything other than the rancid shitpile that is the Bills of 2010. It’s overwhelming and absurd, isn’t it? But that’s my life as a Lions fan! That’s what I – and all Lions fans - have to deal with. That is our reality. It is horrible and cruel and unfathomable, but that’s it.
There is nobody out there who understands what we are going through. Nobody. The Arizona Cardinals? Maybe if they hadn’t called three different cities home over that same time span. But they keep moving, and so their fanbase keeps changing and doesn’t have to deal with the same weight of time that we have to deal with. Besides, they did go to a Super Bowl a couple of years ago, so fuck them and their false pain. The Chicago Cubs? Maybe, but even they have had various moments where they have felt close – the Bartman game, 1984, etc. – and while that is its own special kind of torture, it isn’t quite the same as the misery that we have been forced to endure. They always feel like next year is another year, another chance. Lions fans, deep in their hearts, year after year, look at next year and get excited about the possibility of going 7-9. There is a crucial and terrible difference there that is impossible to appreciate unless you are a Lions fan.
Understanding what Lions fans have to go through is impossible. And it’s impossible because it literally does not feel possible. It is unreasonable, absurd and insane. Your mind will not let you do it because it just doesn’t make any damn sense. It looks at the Buffalo Bills and immediately discards the possibility that they could still be gutter trash 35 years from now because it’s such an absurd improbability. And yet, once again, not only do we Lions fans know that it is possible, that’s all we know. Our concept of reality is so warped, so fucked up by our own unique and terrible history, that we don’t even think in the same way that you, a fan of another team, does. What is absurdly improbable to you, what is impossible, is simply our reality. Our sky is not blue. It is green. To us, water is not wet. It is gritty and makes us vomit. Our basic perceptions, our foundations, the things upon which everything else – our knowledge, our thoughts, our simplest presumptions – are built, are completely different.
I could go on and on and on here, but for now, I think this is enough. You think you know, but you don’t. You don’t.