Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Most people will tell you that the result of preseason games are essentially meaningless. They're not wrong. And most people would therefore say that the Lions beating the Cleveland Browns was not so much an occasion worthy of joy, but a pointless result existing only because according to the rules, one team must win these stupid games. And on one level they are of course correct. On another level, though, they need to shut the fuck up and pay attention. Because I'm gonna tell you right now that the Lions win over the Browns is meaningful in a way that is rare in this world.
Indeed. This game is known throughout Michigan and Ohio as The Great Lakes Classic. It is about establishing state supremacy. The winner gets the rights to all Great Lakes shipping for an entire year and the winner's residents are allowed to descend upon the loser's state with whips and chains and enslave the whole damn bunch of them. It's in both the Constitution and the Bible.
Look, I am not a violent man, but the laws of my great state compel me to travel to Cleveland with my brethren and pistol whip the mongrel hordes that crawl desperately through the streets with fear in their eyes and wild panic in their hearts. Some would say that a mere game shouldn't decide such things, but we have existed as a state for 173 years now and it has worked for us so far.
Sure, it will be tough watching some poor wretch pulled from the streets of Cleveland snarling at me from within a specially reinforced cage while I menace him with a cattle prod but if it wasn't for those bars that son of a bitch would try to eat me. And while I don't condone the institution of slavery, I believe that I can teach these lowly sinners something about life. I can mold and shape them into something worthy of the word human. They are Ohioans by birth and therefore they are without grace or dignity and are irrevocably doomed. But I am a man of such decency and such kindness that I will try to mold them into something resembling a Michigander, beings of such pure and radiant light that to look upon them is to look upon heaven itself. No, those poor fools will never approach such heights, but they can at least look up to them, see us standing on those lofty peaks and try to imitate us. They will be little more than pets, I'm afraid, but as I love my cat and dog, I shall love my Ohioan slaves.
And I understand that the nation will be shocked at the footage of a street gang from Flint pillaging the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, pissing on displays of Jimi Hendrix and Chubby Checker, lynching a life size cutout of Elvis Presley and burning Little Richard in effigy. These are horrible things, things that the average man from the outside just doesn't understand. Nor should he. But these are the stakes of this awful game. We all understand this, on both sides, and we accept it.
Look, I don't necessarily take any joy in it. It simply has to be done. It does not fill me with happiness to flog Drew Carey with a steel cable while he staggers naked through the streets, crying and begging for mercy, but both he and I understand that this is just the way it must be.
In a little under two weeks, on the morning of September 12, before the first game of the season, we will all gather together at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, near Ford Field. There we will all draw lots to see which of the captured Ohioan slaves will be given to each one of us. It's not a pretty sight. They are all herded together into giant industrial sized cages, naked and hungry and are assigned via a lottery system to their new owners. I myself am hoping for an old lady who can cook vegan food and a young athlete who I can pit against my neighbor's stable of gladiators. Then again, I know very well that we are dealing with Ohioans here and there is a very good chance that I will end up with a semi-retarded cripple who will just shit on my floor and cause me nothing but misery.
Of course, not every Ohioan will end up in the care of a beneficent man such as myself. Some of my compatriots are angry and vengeful people and they will take their slaves and cast them face down into the Detroit River. The mass of bodies will become so terrible that we will be able to use them as a human bridge to Canada. I don't want this to happen, but I understand that it does. I know this because last year, after the Browns beat the Lions in the preseason and my noble state fell under the dominion of savage Ohio, I had a cousin who was drowned in the Cuyahoga River by his new owner just for laughs. It was horrible. I myself was beaten severely by a drunk from Akron but he would often pass out early and I would be free to spend my nights corrupting his wife and teaching his children how to read, which is a crime in Ohio. Thankfully, we were all later rescued by Matthew Stafford, who sacrificed himself so that we could all once again be free.
Which brings me to my next point, that we are but ordinary citizens reaping the benefits of the hard work of a few, good, strong noble men. We owe them our very freedom. Already, they have taken control of their own slaves and have gathered in their just rewards. Ndamukong Suh has full ownership of Jake Delhomme's family after he slew Delhomme in the heat of battle. I feel sorry for Delhomme's family, who have to wake up every day to see Jake's head mounted on Suh's wall, but again, this is just the way it is. Kill or be killed, you know?
And of course, The Great Willie Young has hundreds of slaves, lucky men and women who will soon worship him like a god. When they return to Ohio, they will return with the Good Word, the gospel of Willie Young and his message will spread even further. Of course, Colt McCoy already knows the word, for he was burned by its truth, and today he just staggers aimlessly around the Great Willie Young's compound, blind and naked, muttering gibberish to himself. Not all are meant to stare directly into the Burning Bush.
But The Great Willie Young is a compassionate man and he will allow McCoy to serve as his footstool whenever he receives foreign dignitaries at court and for that I commend him. Such a noble and glorious man.
And of course, we cannot forget about the trophy. Yes, that's right, the winner of the Great Lakes Classic receives a trophy. This year, the trophy is the hollowed out skull of Eric Mangini, which is currently in the possession of Jim Schwartz. The skull has been shaped into a cup, from which Schwartz drinks the blood of his fallen enemies. It is a ritual as old as time itself (or at least dating back to 2002. Same thing really.) and after a week, Schwartz will pass the cup on to Gunther Cunningham who will then pass it on to Scott Linehan who will then pass it on to Matthew Stafford and so on and so on until finally, at a ceremony at The Great Willie Young's compound, the cup will be broken and ground into dust and then snorted by Willie Young who will then depart on a two week long "spirit quest". He will take with him several dozen of his willing slaves, and when he returns he will be all alone, covered in blood and more powerful then ever and we won't ask any questions.
But those are the consequences of such a momentous game and I'm just glad we won. Could it have been better? Definitely. The back seven of the defense appears to actually be footage taken from Hiroshima on the night of August 6, 1945. They are horrible and they will keep me from descending into that orgy of ridiculous optimism which keeps threatening to take me.
There was a point in the game where I allowed myself to dream big. The offense will score a ton of points this season. Matthew Stafford has looked ridiculously good so far, Jahvid Best looks like the heir to a certain martyred Saint we all know and love (God, that's a quote that is going to come back and make me look utterly ridiculous. I just know it. Wait, you mean it already does? Well, shit.), and St. Calvin is, of course, St. Calvin. And I told myself that if the front four of the defense, who have looked like world beaters at times this preseason, can get enough pressure up front to help out the secondary, then . . . maybe. Of course, then I remembered that we will be starting Stephen Boyd (the actor from Ben Hur who's been dead for 33 years, not the retired Lion) at middle linebacker and a collection of Lem Barney's anal fissures in the secondary. Optimism = crushed.
Well, that's not entirely true. I'm still optimistic. It should be a fun season. I'm just not wildly optimistic and I harbor no delusions that this is a playoff team or anything like that. But for now, they are the winners of the Great Lakes Classic and because of that, the residents of Michigan are all winners. Like Joseph Paquette, the herald of Sisu, who will get himself a slave who can carry him on his back on his return trip to Munising. Or like Ted Nugent, who will have a whole new species to hunt on his vast property. It's a good day, a Michigan day, and we will take comfort in that even if the future remains hazy and a little frightening.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
As Lions fans, we eat a lot of shit. We are constantly driven to the brink of madness and despair, and, hell, let's face it, sometimes we are pushed over. It isn't fun. Sometimes, it can be entertaining in a perverse sort of way, and I'm sure that's what some people think when they look at my absurd brand of bullshit, but fuck all that. I'm a Lions fan, and I will gnaw on your wicked bones.
Joseph Paquette is another Lions fan, and like me he has probably been driven over the brink and now rests in a sort of weird limbo between wholesome pride and depraved insanity. After all, the dude just walked - yeah, walked - over 400 miles from his home in the Upper Peninsula to the Lions practice facility in Allen Park. Hey, why not?
I mean, Goddamn, that's a fan, you know? Look, in case you haven't noticed, I can be an asshole from time to time. It's just in my nature. But I am also an optimist at heart, and so when I read a story about some old man saying to hell with it and marching on Detroit so that he can tell those fuckers to get their shit together, it moves me a little bit.
The Upper Peninsula is an awesome place. My grandfather was born there and my family used to camp up there every summer. I still have a lot of relatives up there and those people are pretty hardcore. They are still like pioneers, all hardy and raw and vaguely Canadian. I even have relatives who live in a fucking log cabin up there. It's different, but it's also weirdly relaxed and intense at the same time. People don't move so quickly, but they do move and when they move it means something. It's exactly the sort of place that spurs an old man to get up and start marching towards a city over 400 miles away.
I've been to Joseph Paquette's hometown, Munising, many times. It's not a big town - none of them are up there - but it's a charming little town with good people who will smile at you and act all Yooperish and make you feel comfortable and good with the world. That's not an easy thing to find, but for a Lions fan it can be a necessary thing to find. I imagine that old Joe Paquette has spent many years going to breakfast at some tiny mom and pop restaurant, the kind where everyone knows everyone else, and talking about the Lions. I imagine that, like with most things, he and the people up there approach it with a sort of healthy optimism. I imagine that talk starts to drift to Bobby Layne and old stories about when the Lions were actually worth something.
Then again, it's the Lions, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that on occasion, some old geezer loses his shit, tosses his coffee cup against the wall, strips naked and begins howling and running feral through the streets, mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. These are good people, but there is only so much that even a good man can take, you know?
Something snapped in Joseph Paquette. It had to. No matter how basically good or optimistic you are, you don't just get up and start marching on a city that's over 400 miles away just so you can holler at some football players unless you have flipped your lid. It's okay, though. It's cool. I understand. Believe me, I get it. This team can make you say and think and do some pretty weird shit. Witness the last two years of this blog. At some point, Joseph Paquette got tired of the losing, got tired of the waiting, got tired of wandering in between hell and purgatory. The old man lost his shit, stood up and decided to do something about it.
But what the hell could an old man do about the Lions being, well, the Lions? I mean, there is a certain sort of powerlessness in being a fan. We've all felt it, sitting on our couches or hollering ourselves stupid in the stands. We just have to watch and take what fate gives us. We have absolutely no power over any of it. Now imagine feeling like that for half a fucking century. Imagine watching these shitbirds for 50 years and constantly being beaten and mocked by the Failure Demon. That will drive a man utterly out of his mind. You can be an asshole and start calling into talk radio shows and ranting and raving. You can lose your shit and start composing weird and rambling screeds about hope and pain and Failure Demons and vampire apes. Or, you can do what Joseph Paquette did, with his native Yooper optimism, and undertake a massive journey just to impart a message of hope and strength and determination to a bunch of young millionaires who inexplicably mean something to him.
Sisu - the simple message Joseph Paquette felt it necessary to impart in person - is a Finnish term that, according to my vast research into the matter (aka a quick google search) vaguely translates into "strength of will, determination, perseverance and acting rationally in the face of adversity." Or, as my compatriot Raven Mack, who hipped me to this story in the first place, said, it's a Finnish word "for fighting spirit or some shit."
Right on. Fighting spirit or some shit. That's what we need. And this old dude knows it and he was going to do something about it, by God. No matter that he is an old man with arthritis in his knees and no matter that assholes like me would probably make fun of him, and no matter that the chances that this would mean anything to anyone other than as some freakshow oddity to laugh at, he got up and started walking anyway. Sisu, motherfuckers. Learn it, love it, and never forget it.
It may seem weird to some people that the word that we would all end up embracing before the season started would be some random, obscure Finnish phrase, but really, it makes an odd sort of sense. There are a lot of Finns in the Upper Peninsula. Like I said, my grandfather was born up there and his mother was 100% Finnish and when I was little, she used to get all worked up and started gibbering in Finnish. It's a weird as fuck language. There are a lot of vowels and every word sounds like a damn tongue twister. Vaanakaalakaana. I just made that up. It's not a word, but that's the sort of thing you see in Finnish. It's a language that is basically unlike any other in the world. It is officially considered a Finno-Ugric language, which means that on some level it's related to Hungarian, and there are also links that can be found in the Karelian and Siberian languages in Russia, but really these links are tenuous at best and there are those who believe that those links are so tenuous - occurring many thousands of years ago, when people were all living in caves and hunting wooly mammoths and shit - that they are almost meaningless.
The point of that weird little linguistic digression is that Finns are a unique people, and culturally, they are a very significant part of the Upper Peninsula, which is, as I explained, kind of a unique place on its own. You combine those two things and then you throw in Lions fandom and you have a recipe for some extremely weird and hard to understand shit. This is the sort of thing that produced Joseph Paquette.
In truth, I am vaguely surprised by this. But not because I wouldn't expect some crazy old man from the Upper Peninsula to do this - I would - but because a lot of the people who live up there are filthy Packers fans. It's true. It's shameful as all hell, but it's true. My relative who lives in a log cabin up there has a damn Packer flag flying outside his place. If you look at a map it makes sense. Green Bay is almost right there. It's in Northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula rests right up against that. Meanwhile, Detroit is in the southeastern Lower Peninsula, so far away, both culturally and in terms of distance, that it might as well be in another universe. There is little that ties Detroit and the Upper Peninsula together with the exception of the name Michigan. The fact that there exists Lions fans up there at all is a testament to the weird power of fandom. Somewhere in his family tree, Joseph Paquette has someone who became a Lions fan and passed that shit down. It's very old, dating back to a time when the Lions were actually good and when it was acceptable to pick them instead of the Packers as your team of choice.
The fact that it has survived so long in Joseph Paquette is a testament to the very word Sisu. His own existence as a fan proves his own dedication to the meaning of Sisu. This is a dude who knows what he's talking about.
Of course, in the end, most people will just sort of shake their heads at Joseph Paquette and laugh and think that he is just some crazy old man, and on one level they are right. I laughed too. I thought the dude sounded fucking insane, but so what? He wanted to march to Detroit, look the Detroit Lions in their eyes and explain to them the meaning of Sisu in the hopes that somehow, someway, they could use it to turn around whatever rotten fortune they had been stuck with for so long. And I commend him for it.
Joseph Paquette may have gone completely overboard with this whole thing, and his family probably should have tackled him and put him in a home or something, but Jim Schwartz knows who he is. Matthew Stafford knows who he is, and at some point in the last day or so, they have at least contemplated the meaning of Sisu. It has rattled around their brains and meant something, you know? Maybe not a lot, but something. Joseph Paquette made that happen. He channeled a lifetime of pain and misery as a Lions fan into that something. He's just an old man who can't change whether his favorite team wins or loses, but he took everything inside of himself and he made such an uproar that his voice was at least heard. He walked over 400 miles because it was the only way for him to be able to look Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford and all the rest in the eyes and tell them one word: Sisu.
Will it make any difference at all? Probably not. But to hell with all that. Joseph Paquette tried, man. He really, really tried. If he would have tried any more, he probably would have dropped dead or been stuck in a mental hospital. That is a man who cares. That is a man, who despite it all, who despite 50 years of suffering still believes that much. That is a man who is a champion in his heart and a proud Lions fan. I salute him and so should you. He is very likely completely crazy, but so what? These are strange and terrible times and we're all a little nuts. Who am I to judge? Sisu, motherfuckers. Sisu.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Too long Denver has stood as an outpost of villainy and fiendish scum high in the Rockies, a hate filled pustule on America's backbone, and while everyone else has been too busy burying their heads in the sand, ignoring the hideous and immutable truth about Denver, one city has valiantly warred with the evil hellbeasts that call Denver home. Yes, I am speaking of that proud and noble city known as Detroit.
Indeed, our most famous battles have taken place on sheets of ice, men on skates bludgeoning one another, Frenchmen bleeding out and turtling in the streets, hoping against hope that our Warriors of Light wouldn't slay them for their sins. But slay them they did, and for a time, there was peace. But Denver's inherent rottenness never went away and thus, it was time for another cleansing.
On a Saturday evening in Denver, in the shadows of the Rockies, our Warriors made their approach and then pounced, savage lions running through the streets, mauling the wicked and the obscene, hunting down and eating old degenerates in their sick beds and babies fouled by their Denver birth. Women screamed and staggered naked through the streets, and cried out to false idols who offered no deliverance in their hours of need. And our Warriors of Light shone throughout that dark land, burning the slaves of that darkness with their brilliance and their basic goodness.
At first, the charlatans and harlots of Denver had no idea how to react. They just stood there in slackjawed silence and watched their homes being razed, their lives ravaged by our boys. They tried to rally behind their captain, Kyle Orton, but he was hungover again, and as he staggered out of his barracks, he was blinded by the light of our warriors and then wretched and vomited all over the sidewalk. He raised a feeble hand to strike, but he had the shakes and was easily subdued. One of our warriors, Dre Bly, who had been exiled from the kingdom for treason but had returned after repenting of his evil ways, pistol whipped Orton in the middle of the streets, bloodying him in front of the people of Denver, who could only watch in stunned horror.
Orton's body was dragged away by the half-human/half-wolf slaves bred in dark and savage passes in the mountains. They were too dumb to fight back and our warriors cried great tears of pity as they watched them serve their evil taskmasters. We missed Ernie Sims, for his gentle hand with the animal kingdom would have surely won those abominations over to our side. They have been abandoned by God, but our pity moves us and we would protect and keep them as pets. But noble Ernie has moved on, and this is just the way of things.
Victory seemed assured. The city lay in ruins. Babies wailed for their lost mothers, whores who had slinked through the streets during the battle like junkies, naked and painted, shivering and shaking without their drug of choice - the barbarian dick that had been destroyed and mutilated by our Warriors of Light. And so those vapid whores did the only thing they knew how to do and they dropped to their knees in front of our warriors and they offered themselves up, but our Warriors vomited at the thought of their pristine temples of humanity being sullied by the whorish filth of Denver. They swept the harlots away, rounded them up in cages and sent them off to a clinic in suburban Detroit for cleansing and deprogramming. And still, their babies howled.
And where were the men? Those who had not perished in the initial onslaught cowered in caves in the mountains, shivering and shaking with fear, piss running down their legs, their pants browned with shit, their hearts withered and dead. Wide eyed and stupid they pressed themselves against the cold, dank walls of the cave and ignored the howling of their babies. Dominated by fear, they turned to madness, stripped themselves of their human facade and began to root through the mountains like savage beasts, eviscerating live antelopes and fornicating with cougars and even the occasional bear.
And yet, our Warriors sensed that it was not over. It had been too quick and too easy, and although victory was surely at hand, we still knew that desperation would spur one last terrible push, one last ferocious fight. The wild men would come back, cornered and bruised as they were, and they would bare their teeth and the inevitable slaughter would be dreadful and would echo throughout eternity. No songs would be sung of this last horrible battle, no tales spun. No. This would be ugly and filled with merciless bloodletting. The cries of the dead, their dying wails, would be the only song any of our brave Warriors would ever remember.
And so it happened. The Denver Captain, the drunkard Kyle Orton, rousted himself with the help of his half-man/half-wolf slaves and fueled by an injection of King Cobra he rallied the wild beasts of the mountains to his side and ferociously counter-attacked. Our reserves tried to hold the line, tried to maintain their dignity in the face of this savage and hellish assault, but they found themselves giving ground. Madness reigned. Fell beasts tore and mauled the flesh of the innocent and the virtuous. The Captain, Kyle Orton, laughed and chugged from a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. He breathed fire and blinded our warriors with toxic piss.
And so the battle raged on, a cacophony of terrible violence, which echoed around the mountains and then screamed down into the valleys and washed over the nation. Even here, hundreds if not thousands of miles away, we could hear and feel those savage screams, could understand the dying wails of both the virtuous and the wicked, and we shook with a primal fury, knowing that once again, the evil of Denver had risen.
But just as things seemed their darkest, Drew Stanton, a young dirt farmer who had gained renown as a pluck merchant in East Lansing, broke through the Denver lines and slay an evil and terrible beast. Our hopes rose and our hearts shone with the fire and the light of the divine while the Denver hordes wept and gnashed their teeth and cursed the very darkness which they worshipped.
But the battle was not won. Not yet. Their captain, the drunkard Orton, had retired to his home, passed out drunk, dragged away by his hideous and pitiful slaves. He had been replaced by a heathen Irishman named Brady Quinn. Quinn, a notable failure in life, had been chased from his home in Cleveland after being hailed as that city's savior. A false messiah, a prophet of chaos and general wickedness, he had left that city ruined and in shock. Naturally, Denver was the only refuge for such a man.
He rallied his remaining forces, wicked men all, and began to drive against our virtuous reserves, good men who had much to prove. The battle seemed to swing yet again towards the forces of evil and our brave captains, the noble Matthew Stafford, the heavenly St. Calvin, the young and virtuous Jahvid Best, the powerful lord of the House of Spears, Ndamukong Suh, the aging yet valiant Kyle Vanden Bosch, along with many other fine captains, watched anxiously from their positions on the sidelines. They had done their part, had bathed in the enemy's evil blood and had gnawed on the bones of the wicked. Now was the time for the young and the innocent to prove themselves worthy of being called Lions.
But still the Denver forces drove deeper into our defenses, marauding like savage and evil pirates, doing unspeakable deeds to the bodies of the fallen innocent, fornicating with each other as they went, slashing the eyeballs out of decent men and using them as ugly and grotesque replacements for their own missing testicles. It was despicable and even The Lord wept at such a scene. Things seemed dark and it appeared that once again Denver would escape their punishment, but then a heavenly trumpet sounded and the ground shook. Men on both sides paused and stared in wide eyed wonder, their mouths agape and some even dropped to their knees in prayer while other fell to their faces in worship, uncomprehending the brilliance and the majesty of what was now before them. For the Great Willie Young had arrived.
Indeed. In our darkest hour, that immortal warrior roused himself from his slumber and decided to make war with the heathens of Denver. He thundered through the Denver lines and slew the false prophet Quinn, beheaded him and stood victorious and proud while our warriors cheered and the Denver savages all fell to their knees, begging for mercy from the Great Willie Young. The battle was over. Denver had fallen, and the Great Willie Young climbed the highest peak and bestrode it like King Kong, bellowed to the heavens and let the whole world know that Detroit had once again sacked Denver and that the Great Willie Young was on our side.
Could the battle have gone better? Certainly. While our captains are great and valiant, our reserves failed to prove themselves. They were delivered from a shameful defeat by the Great Willie Young, who rose up like a storm and utterly destroyed the hopes and dreams of that black land known as Denver. He is truly the great deliverer, an immortal with a heart made of justice, light and titanium. I only thank God that he is on our side. But why wouldn't he be? We are both of the light, both champions of all that is good and noble in the world, and after years of oppression by the darkness, he has come to aid us in our eternal fight. Denver is fallen, beaten and wrecked, but it is only a beginning. It is not the beginning, for both time and our struggle are circular and without beginning or end. It is merely a beginning, but it is a beginning of a story that promises to thrill our children and their children's children for thousands of years. There are many valiant stories left to tell and there will be many dark days and many villains to destroy, but such is life.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Preseason games are almost always mostly worthless. I say that from the perspective of the fan. For the coaches and the players themselves, of course the games are valuable. They give the team a chance to see how certain guys perform in a game situation and allow the starters to knock off some rust. Still, guys get hurt - guys always get hurt - and you would think that the coaches and players would be overjoyed if they could shrink the preseason by a couple of games. I mean, really, the coaches get a pretty good sense of who they want on the team and who they want to have escorted out of the building by security just by watching them practice and scrimmage day after day. That's their job, you know? By the time the dudes who are truly fighting for roster spots get into the game, the other team usually has their third stringers out too and the whole thing becomes pretty pointless. I mean, who gives a fuck how your undrafted free agent safety does against the other team's third string quarterback and a receiver who won a contest to play for his favorite team for a day?
To the average fan, this shit is damn near intolerable. By the time the game ends, it's some sub-UFL bullshit, just a bunch of random dudes wandering around the field trying desperately to do anything to impress the middle aged man roaming the sidelines screaming at people, like street walkers auditioning for some savage pimp. And while there may be some train wreck entertainment potential to all that, for the most part it's boring as hell. No one gives a shit about the score (Remember, the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason once, which got everyone all excited for a surely glorious season, a season that turned out to be . . . 0-16. NEVER AGAIN.) Everyone just keeps looking at the clock wondering when the fucking thing will be over.
But, of course, we are not the average fan. We are superfans, idiots and nerds and obsessive compulsives who nitpick every little thing, tearing our hair and beating our breasts, gnashing our teeth and speaking in tongues when we argue about who the 53rd man on the roster should be or whether or not the retarded farmboy discovered by the coaches baling hay and wrestling cows deserves to be on the Practice Squad or not. We scream and we fight and we bitch and we moan about every tiny stupid thing and therefore we convince ourselves that the image of said retarded farmboy laying a monster hit on the ditch digger playing 5th string quarterback for a week before he gets cut and goes back to his real life is somehow meaningful. It's absurd.
Look, I don't mean to utterly demean the preseason. It is exciting - for the first few minutes anyway. Yes. The first quarter is worthwhile. The first quarter is that time when the starters mostly go up against the other starters. It's the only time during the preseason that actually seems like real, genuine football. We don't have to trick ourselves into caring. We don't have to tell ourselves things like "Well, I'm kinda interested in seeing how that retarded farm boy handles himself if he gets chop blocked by that homeless guy the other team signed to practice at right tackle." For a few minutes at least, it's our stars against your stars, and for the first time in months, we have football.
And that's where we were on Saturday night against the Steelers. Well, sorta anyway. You see, I actually missed the first few minutes of the game. Oh, I was there, watching, but instead of the game, I got five minutes of a MASH episode instead. Indeed. It would seem that the local nickel and dime station responsible for airing the Lions preseason games had some technical difficulties. Now, I was expecting some problems. After all, preseason game coverage is notoriously substandard, a ridiculous affair with production values that even the members of a junior high AV Club would scoff at and announcers who seem like they were pulled out of the line at a local soup kitchen before the game and told that if they just yammered on for a few hours they would get an extra bag of crackers and a bottle of Thunderbird and maybe even a cot for the night. But I wasn't expecting for them to be so shitty that they would be unable to even broadcast the start of the game.
I mean, shit, what was the problem? Were they really so inept that they didn't even know how a broadcast works? I mean, what the fuck was going on? Who was in the production truck? Ernie Sims' monkey? Was that scandalous little dude in the truck just mashing buttons and throwing his poop at people? Is that what happened? If it is, you can tell us. We'd understand. Hell, I'll be delighted if it turns out that the little fella is still around, part of the family. After all, everyone knows that Old Man Ford believes in loyalty. I could see him ordering Tom Lewand to give Monkey Sims a job with the organization.
Okay, okay, this is starting to spin out of control and I apologize. Anyway, the production was so bad that there wasn't even a delay when it came time to start the game. There was no black screen or anything. An episode of MASH just started up, almost like it was scheduled to, like they knew they were going to fuck up. They are so lousy and beaten that they are more prepared to fail properly than they are to succeed. They can't broadcast a game, but damn it all, they can get a fucking episode of MASH out with the best of them.
There is a joke to be made here about that being the appropriate production team for a franchise like the Lions, but I am above such nonsense and so I won't make that joke. Well, I suppose I sort of just did, so fuck that I guess. (Also, Goddamn, how was MASH ever a hit show? It was like watching a shitty sitcom without the laugh track. Just bizarre. I mean, you'd have guys making jokes and then pausing where the laugh track should go, only there was nothing. Just awkward silence. To be honest, I thought I remembered MASH having a laugh track, but . . . oh fuck this.)
Okay, I'm just starting to ramble now. (Starting!?) Anyway, the idiots in production finally managed to get the game moving across the airwaves and the first thing I saw was the Lions starting with the ball inside of their own five yard line. Well, that's just great. Apparently, there was a fumble or something or a Steeler shit his pants or a fan ran onto the field naked and began accosting the refs or Ben Roethlisberger managed to wriggle out of his Roger Goodell approved chastity belt and ran amok in the stands, wiggling his dick at anything with breasts, which unfortunately culminated with him in the upper deck, pantsless, masturbating in front of a fat longhaul trucker named Sal who was at least a B-Cup. Look, I didn't see what happened and so I am forced to use my imagination, which as you all know is a very, very dangerous thing. If you don't want me to make up wild scenarios that end with Big Ben attempting to fuck an old fat man then just show me the damn game, alright?
As for the game itself, once I was actually able to watch, I came away with an odd feeling for a Lions fan: hope. It's strange. Even in that season when the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason I didn't feel any hope at all. You can go back to my first posts on this blog and you will see that I was predicting utter disaster before the first game of that miserable season. And yet, coming off of two seasons where my favorite team's combined record is 2-30, I watch them play and I feel hope.
Perhaps I have been beaten and wrecked so badly, tortured by the Failure Demon so heinously, that I no longer have any grip on reality. This is a distinct possibility. I'm man enough to admit that. And yet, I don't know, in that first quarter against the Steelers I felt like I was watching something unfamiliar, something different than I've seen in the last decade of pain. I was watching a real live football team, my football team, and they actually looked . . . good?
Yes. Good. I said it. And I don't mean that in a relative way either. I don't mean that they looked good when compared to how shitty they normally look. Hell, the bronze medal winning football team from the Special Olympics would look good compared to the shitbirds who have called themselves the Detroit Lions over the last ten years. (Do they play football in the Special Olympics? Because if they do, then I would watch that shit. So would you. Don't lie. I know, it's horrible, but you know it's true. Look deep within yourselves and tell me that it's not.)
No, I mean they actually looked good when compared to other NFL teams. They did. Stop laughing and just listen to me, okay? It was amazing. It was a revelation to be honest with you. So this is what a good team looks like? That thought ran through my head during that first quarter.
And why not? After all, Matthew Stafford looked cool, calm and confident as he shredded the Steelers defense. Sure, he had one interception but that was one of those freak ones that should have been caught but was tipped by Jahvid Best right into the arms of a waiting defender. Other than that, he just dropped back and hit his receivers at will. It was a glimpse of true talent, a window into the dreams of our future.
Meanwhile, Jahvid Best looked like the real deal at running back. He showed the ability to get it to the outside and impressed me with his ability to bang in between the tackles. His most impressive run was almost, dare I say it? Yes, I will. Barry Sandersesque. Oh shit, I think the ground just rumbled below my feet. I apologize, but even though that may be an extraordinarily hyperbolic and possibly heretical thing to say, it's not far off from the truth. The dude was caught by two defenders five yards in the backfield and he made them look like dumb assholes, making a sweet little move, spinning out of it and then managing to turn a five yard loss into a five yard gain. By that point, I was becoming irrationally excited.
You see, it wasn't just that the offense was kicking the Steelers' defense's ass. It wasn't just that Matthew Stafford looked like the man, or that St. Calvin looked like, well, like St. Calvin, or that Jahvid Best was trying to resurrect the ghost of Barry or that the offensive line was absolutely handling the Steelers defense, giving Stafford a nice pocket to throw from on virtually every play. That was all great. That was what we hoped it would be. Our dreams looked like they had finally started to coalesce and come together, to stop being just dreams, amorphous and hazy in the back of our minds. They were becoming real. We were awake and this was all happening.
But it was something else that had me feeling giddy. It was the defense. The godforsaken defense. If we dreamed about the offense and smiled, we had nightmares about the defense and shivered. There was no pretense there, no outlandish hopes, just a realistic expectation of death. When we looked at the offense, at Matthew Stafford, at St. Calvin, at Best, we saw the sun start to rise, pale and distant on the horizon. It wasn't here yet, and it wasn't warm, but we could see it and we knew that soon enough it would be overhead and a new day would be here, a day filled with warmth and happiness and that sweet, sweet sunshine. But then we would look at the defense and there was no sun rising on the horizon. There was just cold darkness, vicious and unrelenting, and we would remember that this was our world, that this cruel and terrible wasteland was our reality.
No matter how much we looked to the offense and dreamed of the sun, the defense and its cold, bleak reality kept us tethered to our pain, to our many horrible failures, and hope was twisted into something cruel that almost mocked us. We could see it, but we knew that we could never touch it, could never have it. Hope was unattainable. It was just a dream and nothing more.
But then I watched the defense - particularly the defensive line - utterly destroy the Steelers first team offense and suddenly it wasn't just a dream anymore. Suddenly, I could see the first rays of the sun's light peak above the horizon when I looked at the defense and there it was. There was hope, attainable and real.
It was amazing - almost disorienting really - to watch the defensive line just crush the Steelers. The middle of the line, led by Ndamukong Suh, continually pushed back the middle of the Steelers offensive line. There was nowhere for the Steelers running backs to go. Meanwhile, Kyle Vandenbosch was absolutely destroying the Steelers offensive line, wrecking plays almost by himself. And then you had Cliff Avril flying across the line on the other side and sacking the quarterback. It was awesome. I was almost giddy watching it. This wasn't just one player having a good game. This was a single unit, working together and dominating. Yes, that's right. Dominating. Vandenbosch and Avril were so dominant on the outside that it funneled everything inside, where Suh and company, aided by the linebackers, cleaned up. Meanwhile, the defensive tackles were getting such good push that the Steelers were forced to double team Suh, which opened Vandenbosch and Avril up to make plays and get to the quarterback. It was symbiotic and beautiful, the way they all worked together.
Of course, you can say that they were only facing Byron Leftwich because Ben Roethlisberger was day to day (rape) and that it was only one quarter of football - and preseason football at that. But we are optimists in our hearts and so we won't travel down that awful road known as pessimism. We have lingered on that horrible road for far too long and we have seen many good men die alongside of it.
Look, I know that I want to believe so badly that it is probably causing me to go all crazy here, and I don't mean to, but, well, I am like a retarded boy with a strange and exciting new toy when it comes to this happiness stuff. I get it and I just start freaking out and making weird noises, hoots and grunts of happiness, and we can only hope that I don't get too excited and smash it against the wall or pet it until it don't breath no more, George. Yes, I just compared myself to Lennie Small. It is so unfamiliar that it is almost overwhelming. I do not know how to properly calibrate my dreams when it comes to the Lions. I do not know how to put it all into perspective. Joy - pure, real joy - is so unfamiliar to me as a fan that I will embrace it whenever I can, no matter how small. This is what we must do as Lions fans. When we can find joy and meaning and happiness and fulfillment in something - anything - no matter how small, we must embrace that shit to the fullest. It was one quarter of one preseason game. Meaningless and at the same time incredibly meaningful. You can laugh at me all you want, but I don't give a shit. I saw something that made me smile, that made me believe. It was something that made me feel like the future that only lived in my wildest hopes and dreams was real, and I'm not going to apologize for embracing that.
Of course, then the starters all left and things went to shit and the future receded into the far off distance once again and the reality of the present was laughing in our faces yet again. We have no depth. That much is obvious. But I'll take our problem of a lack of quality depth over our old problem of lacking quality anything. We can compete with other teams now - so long as everything goes right anyway and no one is ever injured and none of the starters ever get tired, and . . . you can see that the dream is not yet sustainable. There is life here, but it is fragile and it is young and it can all collapse in a hurry and then it's DEATH INC.
I will admit something here - I didn't watch much of the second half of the game. In fact, I barely saw any of the second half at all. I got what I came for. I saw hope and I saw that my dreams were going to come true one day and that was enough for me. I even had some pleasant surprises. I saw the defense look dominant - if only for a quarter - and I saw players like Ryan Phillips step up and give me hope that maybe the secondary wouldn't be a complete waste.
I didn't want to wallow in misery like we are so often forced to as Lions fans. I didn't want to stick around and have those good feelings, that hope, disappear underneath an avalanche of misery. I didn't want to watch CC Brown make me depressed and cynical about the defense again. It was bad enough to watch Dennis Dixon start to tear up the backups like he was still at Oregon playing against Michigan in '07 again. (Oh, the horror! The horror . . .) I didn't need to see anymore. And apparently God agreed, as he did his best to cancel the damn thing. The skies opened and the thunder and lightning came and I can only assume that God had also had enough. After all, his boy St. Calvin was done for the night and so He didn't need to watch anymore.
The first preseason game is over and I didn't mean to write quite this much about it, but it felt like a microcosm of everything we're going through as Lions fans - hope and beauty coexisting with fear and failure. There is still much misery ahead, terrible and painful, but the light isn't just on the horizon anymore. No, it's around us, fighting with the darkness for our souls and that's what this season is all about. The light is finally here and the glorious war with the darkness has finally arrived. The light might lose this season, but fuck it, in the end I believe that it will win. Is that unrealistic? A fool's hope? Maybe. Hell, probably. But so what? Hope is a good thing and we are all warriors of light in our hearts. Football is here. Let's do this thing.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
We are now into year two of the Great Rebuild following the Great Fire of '08, a vicious dumpster fire that spread out of control and consumed us all, its smoke rising above us, curling into the numbers 0 and 16, the last ugly and vicious sights our eyes held before we were all taken by the flames of failure and hell. Terrible, just terrible.
But all that is in the past and perhaps it is time to stop trudging along and time to look at how much progress we made. Sure, every time we close our eyes we see those flames licking at us while demons danced and fiddled in the middle of the chaos, laughing at us and our pain, and honestly, that's always gonna be there. But we spent a long time just wandering in the ashes afterwards, and we all bellowed and screamed to the heavens, wondering why it had to happen to us and then some of us wallowed in the ash, becoming filthy and unkempt, lawless and stupid, hope shattered, hearts broken, minds bent. That was the price of 0-16. But some took a deep breath, cried their last tears, shuddered and wearily set about trying to rebuild. Why? Because we have nowhere else to go. We are Lions fans and we might as well own that shit.
And so here we are, in 2010 and although some crumbling shacks still stand, and although the earth is still scorched and ugly and the bones of the fallen are still piled on the outskirts of town, there are a couple of shiny new buildings and we can at least begin to finally see the framework of a new home, a home where we can walk proudly and confidently, a home that many of us thought we would never see. Sure, it's absurd to talk about that when the reminders of chaos and death are still all around us, but fuck all that. We walked through the fire and although we were all badly burned, those of us who survived know that it did not own us. We survived and we have earned the right to try to move on.
Much of the debris has been cleared away, and although most of the . . . you know what? I am tired of this metaphor. Let's just talk plainly, shall we?
Okay. The Lions have made a lot of changes since 0-16. The roster has been worked over like a cheap whore, beaten and stretched and . . . wait, this is about to turn into another metaphor, and a really fucked up and, well, just plain wrong one at that, so let's get away from that before shit gets out of hand.
The point is, is that now is a good time to look around and see just how much things have changed and what better way to do that than to look at the roster? These will just be quick little capsules - the in depth previews of each position group will be up just before the season finally starts - but for now they should give us a good look at just how far we have come, or haven't in the case of certain position groups. Let's just get on with it before I accidentally stumble into another godforsaken metaphor involving mutant sea otters or something.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008 - DREW STANTON
The quarterback position may be the one position on this team that is most representative of the new and that's because the Lions made it a point to start here. This is where, in the middle of all the rubble and chaos, the Lions cleared a spot and started building. This is where Matthew Stafford lives, where the future lives, where hope lives. Gone are Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper. In their place are The Franchise and a backup who a lot of people believe could be our own personal Frank Reich. If something (God forbid) should happen to The Franchise, then Shaun Hill can step in and we'll still feel okay here. That's a mammoth change from 2008. Hell, that's a mammoth change from even last season. And if we're being honest here, that's a mammoth change from the decades of pain we have had to endure as Lions fans.
Sure, sure, Drew Stanton is still here. But Ol' Plucky isn't likely long for this world. Fewer and fewer fans are screaming JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE, and more and more fans are realizing that the grit merchant will probably be selling his wares in some random UFL town rather than the NFL before long. This is a good thing. I know that a lot of Lions fans wanted Stanton to succeed, but it's good that we no longer need to hope for miracles here. We don't need to pull for the underdog, to root for True Grit, because we have something better: we have talent. Shit, give Stanton a job as Roary, our idiot mascot. I don't care. But he won't be a quarterback and he's not even close to the discussion anymore and that shows just how far things have come in just over a year.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: KEVIN SMITH, JEROME FELTON
Running back was actually a tiny, tiny source of hope following the horrors of 0-16. If you'll recall, Kevin Smith emerged as the season went on, replacing Rudi Johnson and the disgraced Underwear Thief as the Lions primary backfield weapon. By the time it was all over, I was delusional, half mad and beaten silly by 0-16 and somewhere in the midst of my damn near syphiliticesque raving I dared to compare Kevin Smith to Emmitt Smith. This, of course, was utterly ridiculous, but those are the things that happened in the wake of 0-16. That season skewed everything so ridiculously that none of us knew what we were even saying. We were like survivors stranded on a deserted island for twenty years, emerging feral and stupid, naked and baked by the hot sun of failure, gibbering unintelligibly while doctors and scientists poked and prodded us.
But now we have assimilated back into society. We wear clothes now and even though we may occasionally howl at the moon and attack our neighbors with clubs made from chicken bones and be found wandering naked in the streets, on most days we can pass for normal and no one can see how damaged we truly are and how horrifically scarred we were by those strange and terrible days. And so I can sit here now and at least semi-rationally look at Kevin Smith and say that he still can be a useful part but he'll never be a star. He just doesn't have the game breaking ability the Lions need. Too many times last year, before he was hurt - and don't think that won't affect him a little, no matter how much Jim Schwartz and reporters want to rave that he looks 100% - Smith would break through the defense and be on the verge of breaking one big before being hauled down after a six yard gain. It was frustrating as all hell and made me realize that we can't ever really get to where we want to go if Smith is the undisputed man at running back.
Thankfully, the Lions apparently agree and with Jahvid Best ready to burst onto the scene, Smith can hopefully settle into a nice complementary role. He'll never be Emmitt Smith and that's fine. And really, the fact that I can say that now and feel okay with it is a testament to how far we've already come. We don't need to invest in ridiculous fantasies and absurd hopes in order to believe that our offense can be productive. We have more pieces now, more options, options that are rooted in reality. If, somehow, that wild dream comes true, then hey, that's great. If it doesn't? Well, then we'll still be okay.
Jerome Felton is also still around, but like Smith he was only a rookie in the Season of Unnumbered Tears and, as the fullback, he really didn't come in for a lot of blame following the horrific fiasco of 0-16. Still, he is tainted by that number forever, just like everyone else who was on that team. Hopefully, he can be a viable starter for us at fullback, but if I had my way I think I'd rather have somebody else at the position, someone who wasn't a living, breathing reminder of those dark and terrible days.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: CALVIN JOHNSON
Yup, that's it. The only receiver left from that disgraceful season is Calvin Johnson, St. Calvin, that magnificent avatar of all things good that got me through those dark days. Everything and everybody involved with 0-16 was touched by it, tainted by it, stained by a stain that can never be washed away. And yet, St. Calvin managed to rise above all that. Maybe it was because he was the one little bit of pale light in a world of utter darkness but many Lions fans clung to him, believed in him, and refused to allow that darkness to touch him. He was our hope, our one chance to escape from it all, and we believed in him.
I'm about to get hella ridiculous here, so just bear with me, okay? (I know, I know, you just went "Oh God" and groaned, but fuck it, you have come this far with me, you know there's always a chance that at some point on the trail, I might drop my pants and frighten and utterly humiliate you. I apologize.) Anyway, there is a scene at the end of The Last Samurai, that ridiculous movie starring Tom Cruise as a midget soldier who becomes seduced by the ways of the heathen Samurai, where the titular character, played by Ken Watanabe (And yeah, his character is the last samurai, not Cruise's drunken genocidal Indian killer.) is lying on the field of battle (oh shit, I probably should have said spoiler alert, so . . . yeah, SPOILER ALERT) dying and he looks at a cherry blossom. He's been looking for the perfect specimen all his life but it's always eluded him, and now that he's dying he sees the cherry blossoms and he realizes that in their own way, they're all perfect. That is some ridiculous hokum, obviously. I mean, if he was dying I think he'd be more like OH SHIT I'M DYING THIS FUCKING SUCKS then ruminating over the beauty of a cherry blossom tree, but I am threatening to go spinning in a whole new direction here that I wasn't intending so we'll just chalk that up as some straight up American Beauty floating bag horseshit and just move on, okay?
Anyway, that's how Calvin Johnson made me feel during the horrors of 0-16. I was laying there, dying, and then I would see St. Calvin loping down the field and all I could think was "Perfect." The contrast was spectacular and stark - Calvin's utter beauty and otherworldly talent sticking out, fiercely proud and, well, perfect, against a backdrop of ugly death and immense pain. Somehow, it just made him seem all the greater, all the more noble and amazing, and . . . and I swear I don't have an erection right now.
2008 was awful, and yet, Calvin Johnson's light never faded. If anything it just burned even brighter, a much needed beacon for the lost to flock to, something to follow back home, a reminder that tomorrow would be better. He can stay for as long as he wants.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: JEFF BACKUS, DOMINIC RAIOLA, STEPHEN PETERMAN, GOSDER CHERILUS, MANNY RAMIREZ
The bad news? 4/5 of our starting offensive line was there in 2008. The good news? Uh . . . well . . . let me get back to you.
Everyone hates Backus. That much is undeniable. Still, somehow I have turned around a bit on him and actually believe that he is an acceptable starting left tackle in the NFL. Now, before you throw rocks at me, just hear me out, okay? I fully accept that it is possible - hell, likely even - that Hope, that cruel trickster, is just fucking with me, forcing me to believe something just because I need to. That said, I think that Backus has taken a ton of unfair criticism over the years - I have dished out my fair share - but the reality is that, while he's not great by any means, he's never had any help either. He's always been left alone out there on an island, with no functional left guard next to him to speak of. He is a limited player who just can't do it all alone and he's gotten his ass whipped because of it during his decade with the Lions. I wanna see how he performs this season, with Rob Sims next to him. For the first time, Backus will have someone reasonably competent playing next to him, and this should allow him to play within himself and not get overextended. I think he can be adequate, and hell, maybe even decent. I know that is heresy in the Lions blogosphere but fuck it, we cannot live in the dark ages forever. Sometimes you must speak out or risk being stuck in the tarpits of dogma forever.
Raiola is Backus' partner in both longevity and fan enmity. He's not that great but he's not that bad either. In my mind, though, he's best known as the dude who flipped off Lions fans and ranted and raved about challenging us all to a fight and then got all shook because he was afraid that people would show up to his house with guns and put his ass on blast. I would really, really like to get someone else to play center for us. Raiola is one of my least favorite players - he always comes across as sort of a hotheaded dick to me, see the above gibberish - and he is one of the players that is tainted the most by 0-16 in my eyes. Much of that is just because he was so vocal during that season, and all that shit about fighting the fans was maybe the low point of the whole fucking thing. Dominic Raiola is 0-16. He is the human embodiment of that turd of a season. I know that's probably not fair and I know that a lot of fans disagree with me (Hell, for some reason, a lot of fans seem to love his outspokenness) but fuck all that, he is of the darkness and I am of the light and we cannot coexist.
Peterman and Cherilus were also starters during that season. Peterman is emblematic of the substandard talent that drove the engine of that terrible 0-16 train. He just shouldn't be an NFL starter. He's a total Marinelli type player - big, tough, a good soldier, but not talented enough - and the sooner we replace him, the better. Cherilus, on the other hand, is emblematic of one man - Matt Millen. He is the final disappointment, the last first round blunder of that terrible era, and it's unlikely that he'll ever get his shit together. I will always remember him for two things: number one, he was the man who killed off the burgeoning Lennie Small era in Detroit. Yeah, Lennie was too dumb for this world, but fuck it, he was also a source of endless material for me, and so selfishly I was sad to see him go. Second, was him diving at the knees of Jared Allen during a game against the Vikings and then backpedaling furiously while Allen charged him like an escaped vampire ape. It was shameful as all hell, and even though it was kind of hilarious, that's not really what you want to be thinking of whenever you think of your first round pick starting tackle, you know?
Manny Ramirez is also still around although no one can quite figure out why.
The offensive line is the one area of the team tainted the most by 0-16. Still, I have talked myself into believing that they will be okay - largely because of that trickster, Hope - but this little trip down memory lane has made me come back to Earth. There is simply too much failure here to believe in, too much pain, too much baggage. I eagerly await the day when none of these guys wear Honolulu blue. Harsh? Certainly, but these are strange and terrible times, ugly and cruel, and none of us can afford to be soft.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: CLIFF AVRIL, JARED DEVRIES, ANDRE FLUELLEN, LANDON COHEN
The good news is that, with the exception of possibly Avril, none of these guys are starters. And really, like Kevin Smith and St. Calvin, Avril was one of the few bright spots in that horrid 0-16 season. Ideally, he would serve as the third defensive end on this team, a situational pass rusher who could notch a half dozen sacks in limited minutes. The Lions are realistically only one player away from this dream being reality. Unfortunately, that one player is not on the roster.
DeVries has been here for a million years and therefore is loved and respected. He is just a dude and the sooner he is replaced on the roster, the better it will be for all of us. Again, that is very harsh, but it's also the cold hard truth. The Lions can't afford to make love to that slut known as sentiment. She trips up even the noblest of warriors and makes them overlook the only goal that really means anything: winning. Is it nice that DeVries has been a loyal warrior for the Lions? Yes. Will he help us win? Probably not. There you go. It's black and white and some of you won't like it but I am sick of losing.
Fluellen and Cohen are depth players. Last year, Cohen was a rotation guy, but this year, with the additions of The House of Spears and Corey Williams in the middle, he won't be seeing a lot of time. Fluellen has never made any sort of noise but he still has some intriguing talent. The window has probably closed on it ever coming out in Detroit, though. I'm fine with both of these guys being here for depth purposes. That's their role, their destiny in the NFL. As long as they fill that role and not the role of contributor or starter then hey, that's great, you know? That's a key thing in the Lions resurrection. It's not just the stars. It's not just the starters. The Lions need to make sure that each player on the roster fits the role that he's best suited for. Last year's role players are now this year's deep reserves and the Lions will be much better for it, both during games and during practice. Remember, these dudes help get the team ready, and you'd rather have the starters fighting against them in practice than the fat guy the team found sleeping on a bench outside of the practice facility.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: JORDON DIZON
Dizon is it. And this is his last chance to prove to everyone that he isn't the bust everyone thinks he is. He barely saw the field in 2008, which spoke to how egregiously bad his selection in the second round really was, and also spoke to the utter intransigence of Rod Marinelli. If he couldn't see the field on that team, well . . . you get the point. But oddly, his failure to make the field that season also insulated him a bit from the horrors of 0-16. Out of sight, out of mind and all that. There is still hope, somewhere deep inside, that he can put it all together and give everyone one more piece of evidence that Rod Marinelli is a damn fool. The likelihood that he does this is small, but there's still a possibility and therefore, his spot in the roster is justified - very, very tenuously, but still, I'm not quite ready to give up on him yet.
But don't be fooled. Just because the Lions have made almost wholesale changes at linebacker doesn't mean that position is rebuilt. After tearing down the wreckage of 2008's deadly fire, the Lions imported some temporary buildings, little pre-fab models like Julian Peterson and Larry Foote, to serve their needs until something more permanent could be built. Before we get lost in that stupid fire/rebuilding metaphor again, let's just get right to it: the Lions are still in that transition stage. The players who were so responsible for 0-16 are gone here but the guys who will replace them permanently haven't really arrived yet. Sure, DeAndre Levy looks like he'll be a permanent solution and guys like Zack Follett and hell, hopefully even Jordon Dizon, look like they might rise to the occasion down the line too. But, for now, there is still work to be done. It's just that the worst of it is probably behind us now.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: NONE
Hallelujah! Ahem, sorry. Every single stinking wretch from that 2008 mega-disaster is gone. The secondary was one of the chief culprits behind 0-16 and it has been utterly torn down and its rubble has been swept away. I piss on its corpse. Whoa! What was that? I apologize. I'm getting unruly.
Anyway, this is obviously a good thing. However, see everything I just wrote about the transitory nature of our current linebackers and apply it tenfold to the secondary. Aside from Louis Delmas, the future still hasn't arrived here. Almost everything about the secondary screams TEMPORARY in big, scary neon letters. There is no one to love here, no one to rally behind and hope for glory. No, there is just a collection of castoffs and retreads who we hope won't die in a hellfire like we have seen every other collection of stiffs here do over the last decade.
Still, there is Delmas. He is the future. He is permanent. And hell, that's the first building block right there. So we start with Delmas and we don't look back. We rebuild this thing and we do what we have to in order to survive before it's finished. That's where we're at right now. We're just doing what we have to do to survive. Chris Houston, Dre Bly, the cast of thousands at safety, they're all just a rickety old bridge we're hoping doesn't collapse as we slowly crawl across the river to the other side. Hold together, baby. That's about all you can say here.
PLAYERS REMAINING FROM 2008: JASON HANSON, NICK HARRIS
I've already written a couple of pieces about Jason Hanson so I won't get into him too much here. But I think it's safe to say that, for most fans, Hanson transcends 0-16, transcends all the failure of the last decade. He has always been the one consistently great thing and if there is any player we owe our allegiance to, any player who deserves to play here for as long as he wants, it's Hanson.
Harris, on the other hand, is just a dude. No one really takes much notice of him, and for a punter, that's not really a bad thing. 0-16 didn't taint him. Not really. Then again, 16-0 wouldn't exactly cover him in glory either, you know?
Okay, so there you have it. 16 players. That's all that's left. That's less than 1/3 of the entire team. That means that, in a two year span, the Lions have replaced over 2/3 of their roster. That is a very, very good thing. It's also a scary thing. I mean, that's expansion team level turnover, you know? It means that the Lions are still firmly in the rebuilding phase of this whole thing. But at least most of the rubble has already been cleared away. That is the first step. You can't rebuild until all that is gone. There are still some pieces left over, some salvageable parts that can go into the rebuilding process and there is still one shiny building, standing tall that the fire never destroyed, named Calvin Johnson who we can still rally around. The past is the past and the future is the future. But today, we build and we hope.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
This whole Ndamukong Suh thing has gotten so out of hand (I originally wrote "Suh out of hand" which made me contemplate killing myself) that I'm pretty sure that when he finally lands at the airport he will be met by a gang of assholes carrying pitchforks and torches. It's been unbelievable to watch fans just relentlessly bitch the dude out on twitter, leading to a hailstorm of stupidity that has pelted and scarred us all. Indeed, this will always linger like a stale fart over the career of Ndamukong Suh.
There are those who blame Suh and his agents, who are being painted as reptilian Nazis with lies for tongues and malice for souls, and yeah, they need to get that son of a bitch in camp. But, man . . . this whole thing has been magnified to such a ridiculous extent thanks to that bastard twitter, which has erased all the lines that used to exist between fans and players. And I'm now just realizing that those lines existed for a reason. People are fucking crazy. They'll say anything. They just don't give a shit. A guy holds out for two days and pretty soon people are sending him messages telling him he is a lying piece of shit. It's amazing. I mean, would you just walk up to the dude on the street and be all HEY FUCK YOU LIAR YOU'RE A PIECE OF SHIT. Probably not. And if you did, I'm guessing you'd probably have to have some good shoes and have to stretch really well beforehand.
Of course, because Suh and his family are not robots but real, live human beings (Yeah, I know . . . shocking!), they have not just stood there like the guards outside of Buckingham Palace and taken the abuse. No, both Suh and his sister have taken to beating off (uh . . .) the marauding twitter hordes, treating Lions fans like the crazed rampaging zombies they've been acting like throughout this whole goddamn fiasco.
I mean, really, can we get at least some sense of rationality in here? I know that we are Lions fans and we have been turned into crazed beasts by the years of unfathomable pain, but come on, we are still gentlemen and lady gentlemen and we don't need to resort to this kind of shit. The issue has gone so far beyond who's wrong and who's right and become a matter of acting like fucking human beings. Are you pissed because Suh isn't signed and in camp? Cool. That's fine. A big part of me agrees with you. But shit, let's just try and keep that in perspective, you know? It's not like the dude is breaking into our homes and eating our first born, and then shitting on our living room carpets. There's no need to be rounding up the posse and loading the guns.
It's distressing as all hell that it has come to this. I mean, Goddamn, people are angry! Sometimes, it's stunning when you realize what a bunch of angry jackoffs human beings really are. We all walk around like some psychotic powder keg, just searching for any sort of perceived slight that can allow us to channel our fury in a storm of righteousness. Most people hide this shit in their day to day lives. But not on the Internet. Oh no. Here, everyone is Dirty fucking Harry. It's unreal. But we all have known that for a long time. Message boards have long been full of dudes constantly screaming UNACCEPTABLE and threatening to castrate anyone with a differing opinion. But now, they can actually directly communicate with the objects of their great scorn and derision, which just leads to a cacophony of dumb rage that just swirls and swirls and swirls, building until you reach a point where the whole thing becomes utterly absurd. I mean, come on, there are scores of dudes viciously fighting with Suh's sister. Has it come to this? Really?
Look, you know things have gotten out of hand when I am the one trying to be the voice of reason and preaching civility. Think about that shit for a moment. Just think about it and then bow your head in shame. Christ.
Be pissed off all you want. Be angry at Suh, be angry at his agents, be angry with the Lions, but shit, try to act like a human being, you know? After all, these are strange and terrible times, full of vile ugliness and tortured pain and we cannot afford to become wretched cannibals, gnawing on one another's bones and whipping each other with chains made of fear and hatred. We will just destroy ourselves to satisfy our base instincts, like dumb animals in heat. We are better than that. For fuck's sake, let's get our shit together before this gets utterly out of hand.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Everyone is freaking out right now because Ndamukong Suh is holding out. Apparently, the House of Spears is ruled by none other than King Midas and naturally that has caused the riff-raff to get out of hand, bitching and moaning, tearing their hair and beating their breasts because some dude they don't know wants an extra million dollars or two.
Predictably - and sadly - this has already resulted in pissed off yokels screaming shit about how Suh is disrespecting the good hard working people of Michigan, what with the economy in the tank and all. Somehow, it would seem, Suh's attempt to get paid is adversely affecting the ability of blue collar workers in Michigan to find jobs. Who knew? I suppose it's possible that Suh is some sort of magical demon, a black hole of prosperity whose own success and desire for more sucks up all the opportunities and hopes and dreams of the proletariat. Maybe he's been rampaging through the homes of auto workers, pissing on them while they eat dinner, defiling their pets, masturbating into their laundry baskets and rummaging through their refrigerators, eating all their dearly bought food. Good heavens! What a monster. I suppose all that is possible.
Then again, the most likely explanation is that Ndamukong Suh is a dude in his early twenties who is going to spend the next decade of his life (if he's lucky) getting the utter shit kicked out of him, being beaten and broken, his body ripped apart and ravaged so that by the time he's 40 he'll barely be able to walk and won't be able to read any of the street signs thanks to all of the concussions. He'll then spend the next thirty or so years of his life (again, if he's lucky) dealing with the hellacious trauma of his chosen career, with mounting medical bills and aches and pains that most of us can't even fathom. Be honest, if someone told you that you were going to be finished at 35 and then were going to spend the rest of your life taking a half hour getting out of bed in the morning because the pain was just too damn much and trying to remember your kids' names and wondering if you would need a wheelchair before your fiftieth birthday, you'd probably press for as much money as you could too. And that's all assuming you'd even be good enough to play for a decade and not for three or four years. These dudes need to get paid and need to get paid quickly.
NFL players get their asses completely destroyed. I'm not going to turn this into some stupid morality play, gibbering about the evils of football and all that horseshit. These are grown men and they know what they're getting themselves into. But I'm not going to begrudge them their attempts to get paid either. Especially when you consider that the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry and out of the all of the major pro sports leagues in this country, the NFL is the one whose economic realities are slanted the most towards the owners and the league itself. It doesn't make any damn sense. If my kid told me he wanted to play in the NFL, I'd tell him "Fuck that, son," and then would guide him towards a lucrative career as a sports agent. There are some incredibly ugly realities that lie at the heart of the owner/player relationship in the NFL and when you factor in the agents and the managers and all that pomp and circumstance it just gets uglier and uglier until finally, you end up seeing some poor, broken down ex-player, 55 years old, screaming in the street about slavery. It's a terrible, terrible thing and no one wants to deal with it or look at it.
This is all turning into a populist screed and I apologize. The simple point is this: Ndamukong Suh's attempts to get paid are not something that we should spit at or find contemptible. They are the realities of his world, which as wonderful as it seems right now, is fraught with perils and crazy shit that none of us will ever have to deal with. This is his life. For the next ten years. That's it. He has to compress what we have a lifetime to do into a decade. He has to make it all work or find himself a beat up wreck of a man, broke and selling used cars thanks to the favor of some booster who remembered him back when he used to be something great. People will wander in, shake his hand and hear his dazed spiel, look into his glassy, far away eyes and then leave, whispering to each other shit like "Hey, didn't that used to be . . ." and shaking their heads and wondering what the fuck happened. Then he'll go eat a sandwich in the break room, probably vomit on himself and then head to the neurologist he can't afford, who will ask him to recall the details of his day. He won't be able to and then he'll drive home, end up taking the wrong route and be found out of gas, stranded near some corn field by some redneck farmer who will call the cops on the suspicious looking "colored fella" and then he'll get dragged before some asshole sheriff who will lock him up for two days for the crime of being black in America until his friends and loved ones find him and hustle him back home and feed him applesauce while they weep and wonder where their larger than life superhero of a brother/son/husband/father went. If he wants an extra million dollars or two now, then shit, good for him.
I know, I know - HE SHOULD SAVE HIS MONEY THEN BLAH BLAH BLAH. Thank you, smug and self righteous fan. It's not so easy to save all of your money though when half of it goes to the government, another ten percent goes to your agent, another chunk of change goes to your business manager/accountant and then all of your childhood friends and family start hitting you up for money too. Or when you're surrounded by a bunch of other young millionaires who aren't afraid to drop cash all over the damn place. Add into that the fact that a lot of these dudes grew up with nothing and just the simple fact that they now have money is probably overwhelming as hell. So, yeah, you can get all indignant and bitch that they should be investing their money wisely and then piss on them when they don't miraculously turn out to be Warren Buffett, or you can, you know, understand the realities of the situation and have a fucking heart.
Look, I'm not saying that all of these dudes are broke and busted by the time they hit fifty, but too many of them are to simply dismiss it. Should they be more responsible and look to the future. OF COURSE. And, you know, that's pretty much what Ndamukong Suh is trying to do. But all most fans see is a greedy young dude who's trying to take them somehow. It's ridiculous as all hell. The man is doing what he needs to do in order to secure a comfortable and happy future. If you want to shit on him for it because it might mean that he'll miss four days of practice or whatever, then by all means, keep fighting the good fight you champion of the human spirit you.
Of course, you could leave aside the fact that he's a human being. He's a player, a commodity, a useful tool, and that fucking tool isn't coming as cheaply as we want him to. I saw one dude on twitter freak the fuck out and say that the Lions should just let him sit out for the season and then let some other team sign him next year when a rookie salary cap is (presumably) in place. Leaving aside the issue of a rookie cap (Is one needed? Almost certainly. But right now, there isn't one and that's not Suh's fault, you know?) this would be utterly retarded. Yeah, once in a decade kid of player, see you later, don't let the door hit you on your priceless ass on the way out! What kind of idiot bullshit gibberish is that? We need Ndamukong Suh and we need him badly. We should all be hanging out en masse outside of his compound or wherever the fuck he's holed up saying shit like "Mr. Suh, I'll suck yo dick!" Fuck it. We have no dignity. We are Lions fans. Let's not forget this crucial point.
If Ndamukong Suh wants to start each game off by defiling a random fan at the fifty yard line, then I say we should all cheer his valuable ass on. YEAH GO GET 'EM NDAMUKONG SHOW THEM WHY YOU'RE NAMED THE HOUSE OF SPEARS. If he wants to be carried to the field by a horde of midget eunuchs, I say we all start building him the litter. If he wants to be carried off the field after every game by a gang of shameless whores to a safe house where he'll spend two days living like Xerxes then shit, make it happen. I don't give a fuck what Ndamukong Suh makes or what we have to do to get him on the field. Just do it. Shit. This is what happens when you draft a guy in the top five. There's no use bitching about it. It is just the way it is.
I mean, in the end, who cares? As long as he makes it on the field ( And he will. I mean, Jesus, it's only been, what? Two days? ) then we should all be happy. I mean, really, chill the fuck out people. A month from now, we'll all be watching and cheering for Suh and everyone will be chanting his last name just like they do whenever anyone's name rhymes with boo, like Blue or Lou, and everyone will love it and no one will give a shit that he's being paid out of Ford the Junior's trust fund. Fuck. Settle down.