Thursday, September 30, 2010
WELL HELL, MAN, AT LEAST TRY
One of the biggest sources of controversy following the Lions loss to the Vikings is Jim Schwartz's decision to play for the field goal instead of the touchdown at the end of the first half. I think he should have played for the touchdown. Others disagree.
It's been pointed out that the people who are complaining about Schwartz's lack of aggression at the end of the first half this week are the same ones who complained about him going for it on 4th and 1 last week instead of kicking the field goal. It has been pointed out that this is internally inconsistent logic and that it is evidence that some people just like to bitch. I disagree.
The two situations are completely different. One involved a live or die decision. Heads you're right, tails you're wrong and in the aftermath of that, I said that history decides what's right or wrong - fairly or unfairly. Going for it or not going for it had immediate consequences in that case. It was either a field goal or the first down. Schwartz's decision would directly translate into either a thumbs up or a thumbs down from The Fates.
But the other decision was not so much a decision as it was a philosophy, and it's a philosophy that I am uncomfortable with. In fact, it's a philosophy I have been rumbling quietly about since I first saw Schwartz in action as the Lions head coach. It's a philosophy of fear, of failure, and it will kill you every damn time.
That's not to say that I don't think Schwartz is a promising head coach - I do - it's just that this is something that always drives me nuts. It's a cliche to say you play to win the damn games. And yet, it's true. And in order to do that you have to maximize your opportunities. And that, at the end of the first half, down 7 on the road, was an opportunity that the Lions just didn't take.
People are acting like it was a decision between a field goal and a touchdown. Like you could only go for one. If you went for the touchdown, then that was it. This is ridiculous. The Lions could have taken a shot at the endzone and if they didn't get it, then they could have still kicked a field goal. They didn't even bother to do this. They just tightened up, freaked out and kicked the field goal before anything bad could happen.
And that's it. Right there. That's it. That's why people are pissed off. It's the attitude of fear and failure. It's not the losing (well, it is, but not totally.) It's that the attitude of fear and failure are so familiar. That's what people mean when they are breaking out the Same Old Lions talk. It has to do with that attitude and that attitude is still there.
You can talk all you want to about things being different, about Kyle Vanden Bosch changing the culture of the locker room and Jim Schwartz understanding percentages and game theory and about how this time it's different. You can say all that - and I have too - but then the moment is there and there is Jason Hanson because Jim Schwartz doesn't believe that his team can execute and all the talk just fades away because in the moment, when it mattered, the Lions gave into fear. And that's what people are so down about.
SO CAN WE BITCH OR WHAT?
The real issue that's been brewing underneath all of this - the 4th and 1 call, the decision to settle for the field goal, the lack of a downfield passing game - is that Lions fans are quickly retreating into familiar, well worn territory of their own. On the one side, you have people hollering and carrying on, gibbering like rabid baboons about how we need to fire everyone and oh shit, we're doomed and calling the whole Mayhew/Schwartz era a failure already. This is of course ridiculous and reactionary as all hell and is dominated by The Fear.
I understand that people are unhappy - hell, I'm unhappy - and are sick of the losing, but you still have to be smart. How does starting over again help us win? It doesn't. We have to see this through and we haven't given it nearly enough time to take shape.
On the other hand, you have the people who have retreated into the familiar ALL IS WELL camp even as chaos reigns around them and this is just as reactionary and just as dominated by The Fear. It is an emotion born of desperation, of the need to believe wholeheartedly in what is happening because you are simply too afraid to face the consequences of it failing.
Both are blind. Both owe their allegiance to The Fear. Both ignore reality in favor of a predetermined storyline. One side refuses to believe because they are afraid of getting hurt. The other side refuses to acknowledge the darkness because they remember the pain of the past all too well and are terrified to ever have to back there. I talked about this schism in a post I did before the season about Jeff Backus and I think my basic point holds true here.
With all that said, of course we can bitch. We just have to be smart and reasonable about it. The stratification of the Lions fan base, though, has unfortunately led to a stalemate of sorts, almost like a Democratic-Republican split. Nothing is reasonable. If the other side says something, then it's wrong. But if someone from your side says something, then hell, it must be right. This is what leads to people denouncing anyone who dares to criticize the Mighty Schwartz. They immediately are labeled a part of the enemy camp and they have their arguments dismissed as the idiot ranting of the reactionary and dumb.
Well, sometimes criticism isn't reactionary and sometimes it isn't dumb. Sometimes it's warranted. My own criticisms of Schwartz aren't reactionary. Believe it or not, I am not the type to just shoot and then ask questions later. Parts of me are wild, but other parts are governed by cool reason.
Like I said earlier, I've had certain concerns about Schwartz for a while. I've discussed them - rationally, I'd like to believe - almost going back to the start of his first season. I think that they're valid. You might disagree. That's fine. I just want to be able to say "Hey yo, that really wasn't a very good idea" without being labeled a reactionary twit or being called a fount of negativity or whatever.
As Lions fans, we have no idea how to deal with our emotions. We are idiot children, and I have talked about this many times too. So I understand how easy it is to slip into one camp or the other, but we have to try, you know? We have to try to be levelheaded and honest about the situation, for good or for bad. Once upon a time, I was piledriving Rod Marinelli while everyone else was singing his praises because the team just went 7-9. (And yeah, I know how hilarious that sentence seems to an outsider, but for us, 7-9 was a big damn deal.) I'm not comparing Schwartz and Marinelli here, so don't get it twisted. I still like Schwartz. I do. It's just that sometimes, you have to look at the situation for what it is and not for what you hope it to be or for what you're afraid it could be. Don't allow yourself to be governed by The Fear, for good or for bad. That's it. That's all I wanted to say and I really, really don't want to have to write a version of this every week, you know? So if I don't address this too much in the future, that will be why.
THE DETROIT LIONS ARE BULLSHIT
Okay, so enough with the serious business. Sometimes, I like to see how people are finding Armchair Linebacker. I like to see just which Google searches lead to this bizarre little kingdom. So, on I think Monday, I checked this out and I came across the above gem: "The Detroit Lions Are Bullshit." I mean, of course Google, in all its infinite wisdom directed the searcher here.
But then, a couple of days later, I found one that obliterated "The Detroit Lions Are Bullshit." Yes, I mentioned this on Twitter, but someone found Armchair Linebacker via a search for "my child has an IQ of 67 what does this mean?" As I said on Twitter, it means that you're home, friend. It means that you're home.
OH GOD I FEEL ANCIENT
When the telecast of the game against the Vikings started, I was immediately repulsed by the site of Kenny Albert. It's nothing against Marv's little bro, but man . . . that dude is an unfortunate looking man. I was busy wondering if he had Downs Syndrome or if he'd just been kicked in the head by an angry goat when who should appear by Darryl Johnston. And then I almost cried.
You see, "Moose" looked like he was about 60 years old, all wrinkles and silver hair and all I could think is that it didn't seem like that long ago that I was watching him play fullback for those Dallas Cowboys teams of the '90's. I remember those teams well. Those were my teenage years and it was a legit shock to see an athlete from that era looking so damn old. I mean, shit, this wasn't supposed to happen to me for at least another twenty years. Damn you, Darryl Johnston. What the fuck happened to you? Yeah, you're not young anymore, but shit, you shouldn't look like you're 1/2 a Summerall already, you know? Good Lord.
Okay, in retrospect, I kind of wish I would have just written about Willie Young but it's too late now. I really, really don't want to be drawn into whatever shitty Civil War is going on amongst Lions fans, but I just wanted to say some things, you know? I felt like they needed to be said and I'm glad that I did. I hope that they make sense to you. I have people who I really, really like on both sides of this divide so I'm kind of expecting to get yelled at a little bit. But to hell with all that, we are all gentledudes and lady gentledudes and we are all champions in our hearts and we are Lions fans and we are tough as hell. We'll get through this.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I've decided to go ahead and breakdown the accuracy of my predictions of the Lions game against the Vikings and then we'll see where I'm at tomorrow. I still want to do a random thoughts post because there is a lot of shit I want to talk about that doesn't really deserve its own post and that means that The Adventures of Willie Young might get pushed aside this week. But, who knows? We'll see what I feel like doing.
Anyway, like I said yesterday before the emo floodgates opened and I began wailing like Morrissey after his cat died, the predictions this week were a mixed bag of stupidity. Let's just get to them before I end up cutting myself.
PREDICTION THE FIRST: The Lions will try to lean on Best but he will struggle running the ball against the Williams Wall, gaining only 50 yards on 16 carries. However, Best will catch 7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Well, this one just turned out to be a big mess thanks to the Failure Demon's possession of the turf like he was Freddy Krueger or something. Indeed, Jahvid Best was taken from us by the dreaded Turf Toe and hey, why not, you know? Next week, Ndamukong Suh will probably come down with Hemorrhoids or Kyle Vanden Bosch will contract Terminal Syphilis or Louis Delmas will suffer from Explosive Diarrhea (That's right, we keep it classy here.)
But before Best's toe was eaten, his game was playing out fairly closely to what I predicted. He had 7 carries for 26 yards and struggled to run the ball against the Williams Wall and the Vikings defense. He only caught 2 passes for 13 yards. Now let's look at Maurice Morris' numbers and tack them on to Best's so we can get a rough picture of what the position produced relative to the prediction.
Morris ran the ball 6 times for 5 yards, which . . . uh . . . Jesus. He also caught 5 passes for 36 yards. So, for the game, the position (and by the position, I mean the starter, which means Best and then the dude who replaced him, Morris. Hell, you know what it is I'm trying to say here, right?) produced 31 yards on 13 carries - yikes! - and 7 receptions for 49 yards.
So. I was sorta right and sorta wrong here. I know that's a copout but the circumstances of the game muddied the picture. I feel like I was right about Best and the Lions struggling to run the ball even though they wanted to. I mean, they obviously struggled and I think they set out to run the ball early on, but their inability to run the ball on first down forced them into obvious passing downs after that, thus depressing the total number of carries. The best run on the day, incidentally, came on an end around to Stefan Logan, who ran for 21 yards. The Lions couldn't run the ball for shit and that's that.
That was somewhat expected though. More disappointing was that the Lions got zero big plays from the running backs in any facet of the game. After they were taken out of the game as rushers, they needed to assert themselves as playmakers in the passing game. That's the beauty of Jahvid Best. Even if you stop him one way, he can just squirt out into the flat and take a pass to the house. But this didn't happen against the Vikings and even though Best and Morris caught a combined 7 passes, which falls right in line with what I predicted, they combined for only 49 yards, which is only a little more than half of what I predicted. Total, for the game, Best and Morris combined for 80 yards and 0 touchdowns, and . . . well, that's going to lead to a Lions loss just about every time.
PREDICTION THE SECOND: Shaun Hill will throw for 280 yards and complete 25 of 40 passes. Many of these will be to Best and to Brandon Pettigrew as the Lions once again effectively use the short passing game. However, Hill will also get the Lions wide receivers, particularly Calvin Johnson, involved in the game more.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Hill completed 29 of 43 passes for 237 yards to go along with 1 touchdown. And, oh yeah, those 2 killer interceptions in the 4th quarter.
I feel like I was pretty accurate with this prediction. The numbers are close, anyway, and the Lions did go to Best (or at least Morris) and Pettigrew (along with Tony Scheffler) in the short passing game as they attempted to move the ball through the air in place of the run. All told, 21 of Hill's 29 completions went to tight ends or running backs.
However, this also means that I was wrong about the second part of the prediction. Hill failed to get the Lions wide receivers more involved in the game, completing just 8 passes for 79 yards to them. That's no good. Sure, sure, it hurt a bit that Nate Burleson was out with an injury but Burleson had been largely absent offensively for the Lions even before his injury.
The troubling and undeniable fact is that so far this season the Lions have done an atrocious job of getting the ball to their wide receivers. This both keeps the Lions from being able to strike with big plays (Jahvid Best aside) and allows defenders to slip closer to the line of scrimmage in order to take the Lions other weapons (like Best) away.
The real question is why is this happening? Why can't the Lions get the ball to their receivers? Is it because the Lions coaches are simply afraid of the potential mistakes that come from throwing the ball down the field? Or is it because Shaun Hill simply can't throw the ball down the field?
Honestly, I think it's a combination of those factors. Even before Matthew Stafford's shoulder was turned into raw hamburger against the Bears he wasn't throwing the ball down the field. Like, at all. It was checkdown, checkdown, checkdown, and while, hey, it's great that you don't want to make a mistake or throw a killer interception, it also means that you're not going to move the ball, which the Lions desperately need to be able to do because their defense, well . . . again, I refer you to the Armageddon scene in Terminator 2.
Still, one half of football isn't enough to damn the coaches with, so what we're left with there is just an uneasy feeling. The reality is that the game plan - which I believe is inherently a bit too conservative - has become even more conservative with Shaun Hill under center. Hill's chief talents are in the Scrappy-Doo Grit King arena. He's that cliched dude who "just knows how to win." (Although, honestly, that's kinda crumbling a bit, you know? Now, he's just looking like every other talent deficient grit merchant the team has trotted out in the last billion years.) He's not going to throw bombs down the field with laser like accuracy.
So, you can kinda understand why the Lions aren't getting the ball to their wide receivers. Kinda. But not really. And I'm going to talk about that in this next prediction . . .
PREDICTION THE THIRD: Calvin Johnson will catch 7 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He will catch a couple of jump balls, taking advantage of the size disparity between him and the Vikings cornerbacks. We will all breathe a sigh of relief and I will give Calvin back the name St. Calvin. If he struggles again, Lions fans will split apart in a horrible civil war surrounding his fate and there will be many tears shed and many dead bodies left behind when it is all over. Fucking Roy Williams. This is all his fault for filling us with The Fear.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Calvin caught 6 passes for 56 yards and failed to score a touchdown. St. Calvin? Uh . . . not yet.
And here is where we pick up the discussion about getting the ball to the wide receivers. Against the Vikings, Calvin had a great matchup. The cornerbacks he was playing against were all much shorter than him, meaning that all the Lions needed to do was throw the ball up and let Calvin go up and get it. You don't need a big arm for that. You can leave balls short and Calvin will adjust to them, go up and grab them over the top of a helpless defender or two, or he'll draw a pass interference penalty. Either way, it's a devastating weapon that is pretty much indefensible. And yet, the Lions rarely try it.
Why? I don't know. It doesn't make any goddamn sense at all. In fact, it would seem like it would make even more sense to try this with Hill at quarterback than Stafford. Stafford can hit Calvin over the top. Hill just needs to throw it up and let Calvin go get it.
To be fair, there were a couple of times when the Lions recognized that Calvin had favorable coverage and made it a point to get him the ball. This is fine, except it ignores one basic reality: Calvin always has favorable coverage. It doesn't matter who is on him. He's 6'5", he can jump through the roof and he has colossally giant hands (And you know what they say about giant hands, don't you? That's right, it means that he can catch a lot of passes. What? You heard something else? You pervert. Please, this is a family blog. Well, the Manson Family anyway.)
Anyway, the point is that the Lions need to stop looking for opportunities to get Calvin the ball and realize that those opportunities are always there.
Of course, there is the sneaking suspicion that Calvin has been infected with Lions Disease, but even so, his freakish ability is enough so that he should still be able to routinely dominate no matter his mood. We have seen flashes of this late in games when the Lions become desperate enough to start throwing him the ball with regularity.
It is intensely frustrating to watch the Lions keep Calvin in their back pocket. It's like they are afraid to use him unless they absolutely have to. I have said it before and I'll say it again: I think that Jim Schwartz really, really wants to win by running the ball and playing solid defense and to him, relying on Calvin Johnson would be a betrayal of his own coaching ideals. It would mean that his way isn't working.
Of course, it is presumptuous as all hell to try to guess what it is that Schwartz is thinking. I don't know. It's just a suspicion. But it's one that I've had since almost the moment he walked in the door and game after game I feel like that suspicion is backed up by what takes place on the field. I do think he'll throw the ball. I mean the Matthew Stafford "Let's Give All Lions Fans A Boner" game against the Browns last year kind of proved that. But even in that game, the Lions had to throw because the defense had vacated the field in the face of the mighty Brady Quinn (I just cast a glance at my neckties, and wondered which one would make the best noose) and I still think that if Schwartz had his way, the Lions would grind out every game and then he could snuggle in the sauna with Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. Then again, that describes 85% of coaches, so who knows?
Now, I know we're not allowed to criticize Schwartz or the coaches yet and they are all geniuses and Hope, blah blah blah, but here's something that you can't ignore:
Through three games this season, Calvin Johnson has 14 catches for 151 yards and 2 touchdowns (Yeah, two. Not one. Two.) Extrapolated over an entire season, that works out to 74 catches for 805 yards and 10 touchdowns. Not horrible numbers, but they are nowhere near what a top flight wide receiver should have.
Now, I know it's dangerous and stupid to make those sorts of projections after only three games, and normally I wouldn't even bother, but here's the thing: last year, Calvin caught 67 passes for 984 yards and 5 touchdowns. Sure, he missed two games, but for most of the season, Calvin looked like he just wasn't on track and that has continued this season. Meanwhile, in 2008, aka The Year of Unnumbered Tears aka 0-16, Calvin caught 78 passes for 1331 yards and 12 touchdowns. His average per catch that year? 17.1 yards. Last year that dropped to 14.7 yards. This year it's at 10.8 yards.
Now why is this happening? There is of course the distinct possibility that Calvin has contracted the dreaded Lions Disease, but the decline in Calvin's numbers and the increasing frequency of times that the average fan has watched the game and said "Yo, Calvin just don't look right," have both coincided with the tenure of Schwartz and Scott Linehan. Am I blaming them? No. But I'm nervous. And burying my head in the sand while Kevin Bacon screams ALL IS WELL (By the way, it's still kind of weird to me that Kevin Bacon was in Animal House. I don't know why. It just is. Maybe because he was damn near an extra.) isn't going to change anything. I can't make a wish upon a star and hope that it will just magically get better because it's supposed to. Calvin's been struggling for over a year now and yeah, I'm officially concerned.
PREDICTION THE FOURTH: Favre will throw for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns and we'll have to sit and listen to the announcers verbally blow him because, well, this is what happens to Lions fans. He'll also throw 3 interceptions and both Favre and the announcers will blame it all on his receivers, especially Hank Baskett, whose concentration will lapse during a pass to him when he is forced to picture his wife riding some asshole on camera. Baskett's spirit will be utterly broken when that asshole looks back and has the face of none other than Brett Favre! The asshole will then shrug and say "Favre?" and Baskett will fall down on the field in emotional torment while Louis Delmas picks off the pass and returns it for a touchdown.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: In the words of C-3PO, thank the maker! (As opposed to the other famous quote from C-3PO: "Come along now, R2, you just have to lie back and enjoy it. I know it hurts at first, but you'll soon loosen up. You'll see, R2."
"Bleep - bleep - BOOP!"
"Oh fine, R2, we'll see if Master Luke has any lubricants. I seem to recall seeing some next to his bed alongside some tissues. He keeps watching that playback of that Princess Leia hologram even though I'm sure it's been burned into his memory banks by now. I'm sure that won't be awkward as hell later. No, of course not. Hold still R2, I can't quite work it in. Oh yeeeeees, that's it, R2."
"Bleep - boop - bop - bleep" *mechanical whirring, followed by R2 exploding*
"R2! R2? Do you mind if I finish?"
And . . . scene.)
Okay, that was weird as hell and I really, really apologize. The truth is that I could have kept going for pages and pages with that. On the bright side, I think I set a record by having a parenthetical extend beyond paragraph breaks. Truly, I am erasing all boundaries here.
Ahem. Somehow, I managed to be both excessively nerdy and excessively perverse there and I wouldn't blame you if you were taking a shower right now and if you began weeping whenever you made toast. I'm sorry if I have ruined your toaster for you, but just remember, your toaster has needs too.
Jesus! I just can't stop. Okay, okay, okay - Favre. Anyway, the point that I was trying to make with the original ultra-nerdy "Thank the maker!" thing was that thankfully, Favre "only" threw for 201 yards and 1 touchdown, meaning that he failed to make history against us. At least this time. He also threw two interceptions and generally looked like old dog shit. The bad news is that our secondary is as useless as the sidewalk an old dog shits on and so it didn't matter. (By the way, I briefly contemplated writing a scene in which Han Solo steps in old dog shit to illustrate this point further. Just be glad I changed my mind. Although it would have contained a scene that would have forever made you look at Chewbacca differently.)
As for Hank Baskett, I can only assume he was beaten by his wife's pimp and then made to sleep in the doghouse again while a cameraman from E! and Hugh Hefner doubled teamed his wife in the baby's nursery.
PREDICTION THE FIFTH: Adrian Peterson will run the ball 24 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. He'll also be responsible for one crucial fumble. After the game, The Great Willie Young will skin him alive and hang his pelt on his wall as a trophy.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: *Guzzles a bottle of Clorox, waits for my Spirit Horse to show up*
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LIONS 28 VIKINGS 24
ACTUAL FINAL SCORE: Willie Young? What are you doing here? You're my spirit guide? Wait . . . does this mean that I'm destined to rewrite Dante's Divine Comedy with myself as Dante and you as Virgil? Oh, Willie.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
This week's predictions were a mixed bag of stupidity. If anything, I have found that my predictions are consistently too optimistic, which is a horrific thought when you consider all the moaning and wailing I do. Still, sometimes I am surprised in a good way and sometimes I am just about right on and these should be satisfying but when your team just lost for the 34th time in 36 games it's hard to find any solace or comfort in that. I thought I would be in a better mood today, but honestly, I cannot shake this horrible feeling. Maybe that's okay, though, you know? Maybe sometimes you have to let yourself feel the horror of it all so you can come to terms with it and try to move on. I am not going to put on a fake, plastic smile and pretend that everything's cool. It's not and that's that.
Different doesn't just mean wins and losses. Different doesn't just mean finally winning on the road. Different doesn't just mean making a surprise playoff run. Different means not playing it safe when you've got a chance to score a touchdown before the end of the first half. Different means first downs and moving the ball effectively down the field. Different means looking like you're in the fight. Different means . . . different. It's a feeling. It's an attitude. And right now, well . . . things don't feel so different. It doesn't feel like 2008. God no. But it does feel a lot like the years leading up to 2008. It doesn't feel like we're moving towards something this season so much as it just feels like we've found ourselves trapped in some sort of infernal loop. It feels like 2003 or 2004 and the team is still young and we're still growing and this thing is gonna take time and look at the young talent and you can't expect success so soon after bottoming out and take the wind and if Joey can just get it going and spark a 4th quarter comeback and pad level and playing the right way and the car just crashed into a tree and we regret to inform you that your son is no longer breathing and the fire it burns it burns.
Intellectually, I know that's not right. I know that this time is different, that there is a plan in place and that we aren't going to be hurt like that again. I know that intellectually. But, it's hard, you know? You spend your whole life getting abused, getting beaten and lied to and shit on and it leaves you scared and shaky and incapable of determining what is real and normal and healthy. You don't trust anyone. You don't trust your own feelings. It's a mess and the only way to go through it is slowly and carefully. You have to pick your way through each moment and try to deal with the internal war between head and heart the best you can. It's awful. You can tell yourself all you want what's real, what's right, what's different, and you can convince yourself that you are a rational being who can handle this and then it's happening again and you're in the middle of it and you try to breathe and think but all that's there is a sense of panic and fear and there is nothing rational about it because you are right back in hell. It is not 2010 anymore. It is 2008 or 2002 or a million points in between. Your heart overrides your head and hope is just a buzzword and then you learn to hate the people standing in front of you now because you see in them the faces of the people who ruined you before.
This is completely unfair, that we brutalize those in our lives now because of the misdeeds of the people of the past, but this is just the way it is. We can be the smartest people in the world. We can be rational, and we can yearn to be hopeful and we can tell ourselves that we trust but we tell ourselves this when everything is calm. When everything starts falling apart, our hearts tell our heads to shut the fuck up and then it's war time every time baby.
All we know is pain and terrible failure. It's our reference point, our fallback position and we are a haunted people. Our ghosts haunt even our most beautiful dreams. We talk about Calvin Johnson with great pride, with great joy, but then we start bitching about Roy Williams and talking about Lions Disease or Lionization or whatever the fuck you want to call it. We talk about how Jim Schwartz is the chess master, about how finally we have a real head coach, but then he kicks a field goal instead of going for the touchdown and we start darkly muttering about Marty Mornhinweg and taking the wind and Rod Marinelli and pad level and Wayne Fontes and a plate full of spaghetti. We talk about Matthew Stafford and we get excited and we think - we know - that he's the man, but then he takes a checkdown and we start gibbering about Joey Harrington. We are a terrified and ruined people. We have been wrecked and beaten and we know nothing but pain and horror and Hope sure is wonderful but we cannot trust Hope because we cannot trust anything.
I haven't meant to ramble on this long but this is more complicated a subject than many people want to admit. It's not just about Hope vs. Despair. It's not just about winning vs. losing. The past will not let us go until we are in the future. And the future never comes. It's always today and today will soon be yesterday and yesterday is just another terrible day in the past and the future does not exist. The future will be today and then it will be yesterday and on and on and on we go. We will always be haunted by this. Always. Our most beautiful dreams will always be tainted by the darkness and we just have to accept this. Maybe one day we can move far enough beyond all that so that the darkness is remote and fairly harmless. That would be great. But even then we'll still know it's there and we'll always remember it and that's our fate as Lions fans and so be it.
I don't have answers. None of us do. Not really, anyway. Some of us are brave and some of us are too raw to be brave. Some of us will smile and smile and smile and keep smiling until our face finally cracks and all that's there is misery and tears. You shouldn't listen to me, though. Like I said, I am in a bad mood still and therefore this whole thing has been maudlin and wrongheaded and is the portrait of a man wallowing in his own stupid misery, but I have spent a lifetime getting beaten and I don't know what is real and I don't know what feelings are right and which ones are just inspired by The Fear. All I know is that on Sunday, it felt like it used to feel and suddenly the past was now and the future seemed like it was just an absurd dream meant for other people, for better people, for smiling happy shiny people with smiling happy shiny pasts and then it seemed like maybe the future is just the past and the present reinterpreted and maybe it's all the same and maybe things never change. But there is a flicker inside of my heart that wants to believe that it does and my head, fool that he is, believes in a future that is real and so I crawl up to my knees, bleeding and slobbering with dumb emotion, and I sigh and I tell the pain to go fuck itself. Yes, I've been hurt and no, I don't know how to properly process these emotions as a fan or how to put them into their proper perspective because my frame of reference is broken and useless, but I will walk forward because forward is better than backwards and somewhere out there is a kingdom of peace. Even if it isn't real and even if it doesn't exist and even if right now it feels like the fanciful dream of a retarded child, it has to be real, it has to exist and I am a retarded child.
Okay, Jesus. That was meandering and weird and changed direction there a bit, but I suppose I needed to purge. I didn't sit down with the intention of writing all that. It's just what came out. I'm glad it did, but it also means that I don't really feel like digging into the predictions right now. Maybe I'll do that later, but probably not. Or, and I'm just thinking out loud here, I could break down the predictions tomorrow and do a random thoughts thing on Thursday (of which I have many this week) but that would mean dumping The Adventures of Willie Young for this week. I suppose I could try to fit in an extra post in there somewhere, but I am already stretching myself to the point of insanity. I don't know. Leave me a comment and let me know what you'd rather see in the next couple of days and then we can go from there. Cool? Cool.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
The Lions lost. Again. There are no lessons to be learned here, no moral victories, nothing to feel good about, just an endless stream of bullshit which culminated in a sort of cosmic rage that is impossible to let go of. Watching the game, I kinda felt like Sarah Connor during the Armageddon scene in Terminator 2. You know, the one where she's just hanging onto the fence and screaming in agony while her skin gets burned off by an atomic blast and then her skeleton keeps clanging away on that damn fence before the blast finally, mercifully, blows her to dust. That's how that shit felt.
I have used that comparison before and it pains me to have to use it again, but, well, here we are. I don't know why exactly, but something inside of me snapped while watching this game. I just became mad as hell, tired of the epic failure and my senses began to leave me one by one until pretty soon it was just a mess of Smilin' Favre Heads and interceptions and Shaun Hill trying to fight Jared Allen and black pain. At one point, a dog began to gibber at me and I became frightened and wondered what strange circle of hell I had wandered into. It dawned on me that it may have just been a promo for Family Guy but by then I was incapable of determining what was real and what was just a grotesque cartoon laughing at me, mocking my pain and threatening to devour my spirit.
Oh, God! Do not mine sacrifices pleaseth thee? Why dost thou continue to kicketh me in the asseth? Such senseless brutality, cruel and without mercy. Somewhere there is a heaven but here there is only hell and a longing for grim death.
I'm sorry. I just spent the last ten minutes slapping myself and dunking my head in the toilet. It's just hard, you know? It's hard to allow yourself to be tricked by that motherfucker Hope once again. Moose Johnston kept gibbering about how this Lions team looks different and how they're on their way and all I could think about was Joey Harrington and a million failed fourth quarter comeback attempts and then there was just a feral primitivism and I considered setting fire to the television and cooking the bones of Hope over its open flame.
Shaun Hill is not the future. I get that. I understand it. I do. And I get that the future is delayed - yet again - while Matthew Stafford rehabs his shoulder by balling truckloads of coeds and doing shots of 151 and Everclear out of the love canal of some coked up Georgia stripper. (Fine, this is just what I'd be doing. I'm sure Matthew is a good boy.) But, GOD DAMNIT I am sick of the losing, sick of watching the team fumble around like a retarded child who can't figure out how to keep his pants on. It's awful, just awful and we should all be disgusted and horrified, if for no other reason than the whole sordid affair caused me to bitch in all caps. That's just undignified and it makes me hate myself a little bit.
It's terrible because Jahvid Best's toe was eaten by an angry gopher and Calvin Johnson spent the first three and half quarters of the game debating existentialism with the Grim Reaper and because the defense watched Brett Favre dink and dunk his way to (our) oblivion. It was terrible because we had two turnovers taken away by penalties and it was awful because Stefan Logan fumbled a punt and Dominic Raiola was called for holding where there was no holding and it was terrible because somewhere in all that mess, my last tenuous grasp on Hope slipped away and all that was left was The Void and in The Void no one can hear you scream because you are already dead.
There is a sickening familiarity to all of this and I suppose I have no one to blame but myself for daring to dream. And perhaps this is all reactionary and hey, we knew this was going to happen. We knew that we were going to start slowly this season and we knew that without Matthew Stafford that things would not exactly be blowjobs and rainbows, but this is how I feel and I hate it. I am sick of telling myself to wait for a future that never comes and I am sick of eating a machete to the face every Sunday and a spiked baseball bat up the ass. I am sick of smiling afterward and saying "Well, at least this time the spikes were filed down." I'm sick of it. And this week the spikes weren't even filed down. They were sharpened and now I have a bloody ass and a machete sticking out of my face and Hope has become a cartoonish parody of itself.
I will pick myself up and I will believe once again in Hope, both because I really do believe that something different is over the horizon and because I have no other choice. Hope is all we have left. The future is just an idea, a hazy dream, but its promise beats the hell out of the present, where Terminators march over crushed skulls and the flesh sears and I kneel before a burning television set and beg a talking dog to spare me. There will be plenty of time for niceties, plenty of time to make sweet love to Hope, but right now I am just pissed off and sad and maybe tomorrow will be better and maybe I'll smile and count our blessings as Lions fans, but right now that is an idea that just seems like a cruel joke and I am sick of cruel jokes. This game made a beast of me and I have made a shameful spectacle of myself, but more than ever, these are strange and terrible times and I am afraid that these things do indeed happen.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre Favre. There.
Basically, when it comes to the Minnesota Vikings that's about all there is these days. Yes, the annual circus surrounding Brett Favre has once again pitched its tents in the dark and terrible parts of our brain where we stuff things like Faces of Death videos and that time we got drunk and vomited on that really hot chick in the basement of our off-campus house because someone bought a keg full of cheap ass beer and all you got was that awful heady foamy shit and it just didn't sit well and . . . where the fuck were we?
Oh yeah. Favre. The ol' Gunslinger, that smilin' son of a bitch, that Wrangler wearing just happy to be here havin' fun blah blah blah. Brett Favre has become such a ridiculous figure that whenever he or the Vikings come up, talking heads and sports writers and bloggers inevitably descend into a madness akin to that scene in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich goes inside of his own head and everyone he sees has his face and every word that comes out of their mouths is "Malkovich". It's terrible and well past the point of absurdity and has come back around to being a serious issue on par with things like world hunger and peace in the Middle East.
How do we stop this nonsense? Well, it would help if no one ever talked about him again. But that is not likely to happen, as even all the complaining - as seen here - has added to the maelstrom of stupidity that is this ridiculous bullshit. Look, I hate it, but in talking about the Vikings, I have to talk about Brett Favre. Just hold your nose and we'll try to get through this together.
Anyway, the Lions head into Minnesota at 1-1 (Goddamn it, don't you dare tell me differently), where they haven't won a game since 1997, or back when I was in high school. Christ, there are probably people reading this who were in, like, Kindergarten back then. (Then again, as always, I leave open the disturbing possibility that there are people who are in Kindergarten right now who are reading this. I'm positive that half of the people reading this have the maturity level of your average Kindergartener anyway. Not you, though. You're suave and sophisticated. I meant the other half. Also, I have never really noticed until now just how German the word Kindergarten is. It's kind of messing with me to be honest with you. I mean . . . wait, what? Where am I? What's going on?)
Ahem. Anyway, it's been a long time since the Lions rolled into Minneapolis and beat the shit out of Prince and the Revolution. So many drowned bodies in Lake Minnetonka, blouses floating everywhere, mascara washing up for weeks on the shore. Terrible, just terrible. But again, I digress. Even though it's been so long, it always feels like the Lions play the Vikings tough, whether it's at home or on the road. After all, one of the most famous games from the hellroad that was 0-16 was the game against the Vikings in Minnesota, which was the game in which Dan Orlovsky forgot that you're not allowed to just wander out of the back of your own end zone. That game was also the closest the Lions came to winning in that godforsaken year. What's my point? The hell if I know. Ranting about Favre and Lake Minnetonka and 0-16 has driven me temporarily insane and I apologize. If I had to say, though, I'd say that the point is that over the last few seasons, whenever the Lions and Vikings get together, it's a legitimate battle.
I'm not entirely sure why that is but it's probably best not to delve too deeply into matters such as this, lest we find some horrible gremlin or ogre faerie or something at the bottom engineering all this madness just to mess with us. The Lions tend to play the Vikings pretty closely and that's that.
Which brings us to now. (Yeah, I know, I know . . . finally.) The Vikings head into this game at 0-2, the focus of the national media straight up their asses and the terror of the realization that if they don't do something quick then this whole season will spiral out of control eating away at them. Is this is a good thing for us or a bad thing? Well, it would stupid to say that it's a bad thing. I mean, the Vikings are 0-2, which is a hell of a lot better than if they went into this game at 2-0, you know?
But - and you just had to know there was a but coming - it also means that the Vikings are desperate and will do whatever they have to do to win the damn game. And let's face it, when it comes to winning, the Vikings have a hell of a lot more experience than we do. Our only real hope here is that the situation that has led to 0-2 is not an aberration but a true representation of a new horrible reality which has sunk the Vikings. (Note: I almost wrote "sunk the Viking's ship" which was too cute and stupid and caused my brain to call me a dumb asshole. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, but what the hell, I believe in bringing you into the creative process because I respect you. Yeah, that's it.)
There are signs that this is indeed possible. First of all, there is a bunch of gibberish floating around about Brett Favre not having fun this season and that being the case for the Vikings piss poor start. That is utterly ridiculous, of course. I mean, I doubt Brett Favre is sitting around in the locker room telling his teammates "Sorry, guys, I'm just not havin' fun. Looks like it's a 4-12 season. Sorry, but what can you do?" I mean, if that's the case, then why doesn't the team just import a ton of hookers and blow and set up a pinata filled with strippers and pills in the locker room. Everybody having fun yet! Hell, yeah, coach! We're gonna go 12-4 now!
It's ridiculous. Then again, maybe Brett Favre isn't having fun because he is 168 years old, and his go to receiver is Bernard Berrian. Look, that will depress anybody. I know. For three straight years I took a chance on Bernard Berrian with my fantasy football teams and let me tell you, that son of a bitch just does not come through. But what other choice do the Vikings have? Sidney Rice is dead, Percy Harvin is in the midst of a record breaking "Not tonight, honey, I've got a headache" streak that has undoubtedly left Favre with an epic case of blue balls and that leaves Berrian, and, uh . . . well, let's see here. There's Greg Lewis, who, uh . . . is certainly a dude I suppose. There's Greg Camarillo, who's an okay possession receiver and there's Hank Baskett, who the team just signed in a fit of desperation because he's tall. No, seriously, that's the reason. Sidney Rice is 6'4" and so is Baskett and so the team figured that Favre would have good chemistry with him. Jesus!
Of course, Baskett is best known for being Mr. Kendra Wilkinson and for being a supporting player on a horrid, apocalypse presaging reality show on E!, and we are more likely to hear about him being cuckolded in the future by his almost literal whore of a wife than about him becoming a quality NFL receiver. (I'm sorry, that's not fair. His wife isn't a whore. She just accepted a bunch of money for a tape of her screwing some dude on camera. That just makes her a . . . wait, what's the difference again? Anyway, I think we can all agree that she's at least a Famewhore, right?)
So, why are the Vikings struggling on offense? Well, Jesus Christ! Just read those last two paragraphs again. To make matters worse, Berrian's knee has started to give him some trouble, which means that it's possible that the Vikings will have to suit up Favre's dog from that one awful Wrangler's commercial and a bottle of Vicodin at wide receiver. I mean, we know Favre is comfortable with that.
Okay, that's a little unfair, and I should probably apologize but I am in a bad mood and writing about Favre tends to make me feel overcome with self loathing and you're all just lucky that I haven't degenerated in angry grunts and wild hooting.
The point to all this nonsense is that the Vikings passing game is in tatters, which, well, hooray for us, you know? Helping matters there is the fact that Bryant McKinnie is now officially straight ass as an offensive tackle, which should be a problem for the Vikings considering Kyle Vanden Bosch looks like he prepared for this season by drinking the blood of 100 virgins in some sort of weird, youth-giving ritual sacrifice. He is powered by the spirits and the blood of a 100 young Aztec warriors and Bryant McKinnie and Brett Favre are about to feel his wrath.
Damn. It feels really, really good to be able to write that about someone whose on my team for a change instead of writing it about the other team.
That said, the Vikings have plenty of players like that of their own populating their defense. The Williams Wall is still there and Jared Allen is likely looking forward to resuming his grudge feud with Gosder Cherilus, which, uh, isn't so good for us. Basically, even if the Vikings struggle to score points, it's not like we'll be lighting up the scoreboard either, especially with Matthew Stafford out.
And that's going to be really key here, I think, since this is one game where Calvin Johnson has a really, really good matchup. He'll either be lining up against Lito Sheppard or Asher Allen, who are 5'10" and 5'9" respectively. Calvin is 6'5" meaning that at the very least, he's going to have a 7 inch height advantage. That shit's almost unfair. It's like if, back in the day, Hakeem Olajuwon was allowed to post up John Stockton on every play. Unfortunately, Calvin have Shaun Hill and his pop gun throwing to him instead of Stafford and his howitzer. Still, I would hope that the Lions recognize this matchup and try to get Calvin the damn ball. He could absolutely kill the Vikings on jump balls, which means that even if Hill needs to leave the ball short, Calvin should be able to go up and get it.
Of course, the stale fart in the room, the one that nobody wants to talk about but which will inevitably choke us all out is the fact that the Lions secondary is more than capable of making Baskett look like Sidney Rice. Shit, Baskett's slutty old lady could probably catch 7 or 8 passes against the Lions gang of fools who call themselves defensive backs. After all, let's not forget that she's a veteran of the Lingerie Bowl.
And then there's Adrian Peterson. That name should strike fear into the hearts of Lions fans everywhere, but for some reason it really doesn't. Maybe that's because, for the most part, Peterson has looked human against the Lions during his career. He never really seems to explode against the Lions and even though he inevitably gets his yardage, he never really dominates the game and is always good for a fumble or two. This should be even more the case this year with Ndamukong Suh ready to impale him should he make the mistake of trying to cross the line of scrimmage and with Vanden Bosch powered by his Aztec blood waiting to rip his head off, along with Sammie Hill and Corey Williams and God willing, The Great Willie Young waiting for him at the gates of hell. The Lions defensive line is the best it has been in years and hopefully, they can slow Peterson down. Of course, having said all that, now Peterson will run for 200 yards because the world hates me.
Speaking of numbers, Favre is only 275 yards away from becoming the first player in NFL history to pass for 70,000 yards for his career and he's only 2 touchdowns away from becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for 500 touchdowns. Again, because we are Lions fans and this is just the way things are in our wretched world, Favre will accomplish both of these against us. You know it and I know it.
This game is weird. It really, really feels like the Lions can win this one. But it also feels like the potential is there for a pissed off Vikings team to kill us dead. I have no idea which one of these scenarios will play out. Obviously, I'm hoping that the Lions can ride into Minnesota and wreck the Vikings season. But . . . well, how many times has Hope cruelly tricked us? It's tough to stand up again and believe in Hope. It's tough to put yourself out there yet again and say that you believe that this time will be different. It's tough, and only a great fool or a dedicated masochist would put himself in that position. Then again, that just about sums me up, doesn't it? A fool and a masochist. That's fine. I am not afraid and I will stand in front of the Failure Demon and I will smile and laugh in his ugly face and then I will punch Hope in the mouth and tell him that he belongs to me now and that the past is worthless and the future starts now.
FIVE NO DOUBT TERRIBLE PREDICTIONS
1. The Lions will try to lean on Best but he will struggle running the ball against the Williams Wall, gaining only 50 yards on 16 carries. However, Best will catch 7 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown.
2. Shaun Hill will throw for 280 yards and complete 25 of 40 passes. Many of these will be to Best and to Brandon Pettigrew as the Lions once again effectively use the short passing game. However, Hill will also get the Lions wide receivers, particularly Calvin Johnson, involved in the game more.
3. Calvin Johnson will catch 7 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. He will catch a couple of jump balls, taking advantage of the size disparity between him and the Vikings cornerbacks. We will all breathe a sigh of relief and I will give Calvin back the name St. Calvin. If he struggles again, Lions fans will split apart in a horrible civil war surrounding his fate and there will be many tears shed and many dead bodies left behind when it is all over. Fucking Roy Williams. This is all his fault for filling us with The Fear.
4. Favre will throw for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns and we'll have to sit and listen to the announcers verbally blow him because, well, this is what happens to Lions fans. He'll also throw 3 interceptions and both Favre and the announcers will blame it all on his receivers, especially Hank Baskett, whose concentration will lapse during a pass to him when he is forced to picture his wife riding some asshole on camera. Baskett's spirit will be utterly broken when that asshole looks back and has the face of none other than Brett Favre! The asshole will then shrug and say "Favre?" and Baskett will fall down on the field in emotional torment while Louis Delmas picks off the pass and returns it for a touchdown.
5. Adrian Peterson will run the ball 24 times for 98 yards and a touchdown. He'll also be responsible for one crucial fumble. After the game, The Great Willie Young will skin him alive and hang his pelt on his wall as a trophy.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: LIONS 28, VIKINGS 24
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today's tale is sketched together using police reports and eyewitness accounts taken over a six week period in 1967. It would seem that The Great Willie Young had migrated to San Francisco (possibly as penance for destroying a whole Vietnamese village all by himself) where he apparently took up with a 19 year old street performer named Starflower. It is unclear what "street performer" actually means as there are conflicting accounts. Some seem to indicate that she was a wannabe actress, while others claim that she was a simple prostitute. Still others reveal that she may have been the Bay Area's foremost Kazoo player. In any event, she was young and idealistic and struggled for money.
Starflower's circle of friends at the time contained a variety of counter culture zealots, young writers and musicians and artists and dreamers. Most would end up drifting off to become bankers or lawyers, but a few were dedicated, hardened by years of struggle against a society that had no use for them. Among these was a young Bolshevik who called himself Mikail, although police records indicate that he was actually named Michael Jones, and originally hailed from Topeka, Kansas.
At 17, Mikail dropped out of school and moved to New York, where he settled in Greenwich Village and became involved in the beatnik culture. An ardent pamphleteer, Mikail was notorious for writing controversial missives that often times led to him getting beaten by figures ranging from a 76 year old veteran of the Spanish-American War to federal officers acting on orders from Senator Joseph McCarthy. Branded a communist, Mikail was blackballed from anything respectable and so he turned to manufacturing poor quality hashish and importing opium.
Mikail never rose above a low level dealer and was often only one step in front of the law. Constantly on the move, he became hardened and bitter, and would often get drunk and then begin ranting about the evils of Capitalism. It was during one of these benders, many years later, that he was found by the young Starflower. By now, Mikail was in his early 30's and had wandered the country, finally ending up in California. He knew deep in his heart that life had passed him by and he was looking for something, anything, to rescue him. When Starflower introduced herself to him, all wide eyed, young and innocent, Mikail, even through his drunken haze, could see his future.
The two became inseparable. Some accounts claim that Mikail served as Starflower's pimp while others maintained that he merely supplied her with the finest grade kazoos thanks to the connections he had made while in the opium trade. Whatever the case, it would seem that the duo were living together in a small apartment in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco when Willie Young appeared on the scene.
Immediately, Starflower was said to have been entranced by Big Willie (Once again, it would seem as though Willie had acquired the nickname Big Willie, although this time it was bestowed by Starflower and apparently had nothing to do with his physical size. Although whenever she would tell people that his name was Big Willie, her eyes would grow wide and she would blush whenever she said the word "Big." The meaning remains uncertain.) This, of course, was a problem for Mikail. Despite the cultural climate, in which it was not unusual for a young woman such as Starflower to have multiple lovers (In fact, it would have been unusual had she been monogamous), Mikail was said to be unusually possessive.
One night, Mikail reportedly returned home and found Starflower naked, massaging Big Willie's, uh . . . let's say back or else this thing could get out of hand. Mikail was reportedly drunk and began shouting and cursing Big Willie. Big Willie just sat passively and let the poor fool rant but was forced to spring into action when Mikail grabbed a frying pan and began chasing Starflower around the apartment. With a meaty paw, Big Willie grabbed Mikail and told him simply "You don't wanna do that, partner."
Mikail became enraged and struggled to free himself from Big Willie's grasp. It would seem as if a young rattish fellow named Haywood, who also lived in the apartment, where he slept on a bean bag chair in the living room, leaped into the fray. Multiple accounts state that Haywood was in love with Mikail even though Mikail was a notorious homophobe. It was even suggested that on occasion Mikail would get piss drunk and allow Haywood to give him a handjob, but this cannot be confirmed.
Haywood had somehow produced a steak knife and attacked Big Willie. After suffering over 35 small cuts to his torso, Big Willie backhanded Haywood, who flew across the room and smashed his head against a table, reportedly killing him. It was at this point that Starflower emerged from a bedroom with an antique pistol that the gang used to smoke hash out of, and attempted to fire it at Mikail. The gun, of course, was not loaded and wouldn't have worked anyway, but she was out of her mind on a variety of drugs and couldn't process this. Mikail, adrenaline surging through him, just laughed and went after Starflower with the frying pan again. Big Willie once again intervened, although he was rapidly losing blood and he held Mikail while Starflower beat him to death with the butt of the antique pistol.
Big Willie then collapsed in a heap and Starflower began to cry. Big Willie reportedly told her not to worry, and that he would be alright, but it would seem that she was more concerned with the fate of her pimp/kazoo importer, Mikail. It had just dawned on her what she had done and she knelt over his corpse and began weeping. Big Willie just sighed and struggled to his knees. He then crawled over to Mikail, leaned over him and dripped a few drops of his immortal blood into Mikail's mouth. Starflower looked on, confused, until Mikail suddenly gasped and sprang back to life.
Big Willie sighed again and backed away while Starflower hugged Mikail's neck. Mikail just stared into space, though, a dreamy smile on his face. He remained in a state of bliss for hours and when he awoke the next morning, the only thing he wanted was to return to that state. He had done a lot of drugs but nothing had ever gotten him as high as Big Willie Young's blood.
It would also seem that at some point in the night, Haywood had been revived in the same manner. Big Willie's wounds, meanwhile, miraculously healed and the gang uneasily went back to living as a pseudo-family. However, Mikail and Haywood had both been to paradise thanks to Big Willie's blood and while Haywood was dim and content to just remember the experience, Mikail was desperate, both to get that feeling back and to find a way to capitalize on Big Willie's magical sera.
For several days, Mikail plotted, looking for a way to drain Big Willie dry. It would solve both of his problems. First, it would eliminate his competition for Starflower's affection and second, it would supply him with plenty of the magic blood. The only problem was that once Big Willie was dry, the stockpile of that holy liquid would then slowly dwindle. Mikail was a man who thought ahead, and he knew that while he could be sustained for a while, eventually he would need more. And if he wanted to strike it rich, then he needed a replenishable supply.
Mikail began researching day and night, digging through ancient texts he and Haywood had stolen from a local church, looking for answers. All the while, Big Willie and Starflower had locked themselves in the apartment where he taught her how to, uh, properly play the kazoo.
Finally, Mikail stumbled upon an answer. He found a text that indicated that Big Willie's blood, combined with that of an albino cheetah would create a new living being. Mikail's mind began to kick into overdrive as he imagined a whole farm of Willie Young like beings he could harvest. An avowed Communist, Mikail planned to use his fortune to buy an island and retire there with a gang of strung out whores, where he would establish a Socialist paradise. The exact details are a little muddy and seem to contradict the very principles of both Socialism and Communism, but let's face it, Mikail wasn't exactly one of the preeminent thinkers of his time.
Mikail then explained the details of his sordid plot to Haywood, who just nodded dumbly and then agreed to help. It was with this in mind that Mikail suggested the group take a day trip to the San Francisco Zoo. Big Willie was wary. Since when had Mikail ever shown an interest in animals? But Starflower was overjoyed and began rhapsodizing about riding goats and communing with llamas and petting orangutans and Big Willie just sighed and agreed to the trip.
What Big Willie didn't know was that Haywood was equipped with a working pistol bought off of a strung out Chinese junky in exchange for five dollars and some random kazoo parts. However, what Mikail and Haywood didn't know was that Big Willie had anticipated Mikail eventually making a move and had spiked his own blood with one drop of venom from a rare form of rattlesnake found only in the Congo. Big Willie had once killed one of the deadly beasts in an epic struggle memorialized in several African tribal legends that we won't get into here, and had drained it of its venom, which he kept in a small vial that he kept on his person at all times. Since Big Willie often found himself naked, this has created a bit of a mystery, one which some have claimed to solve by theorizing that Big Willie would store the vial in his own anus, but that is scandalous hearsay and we won't put much faith in such outrageous claims.
It is unknown how Big Willie knew what would happen if he laced his blood with that rattlesnake venom, but Big Willie has been around since before time and so we must assume that he had acquired the knowledge during one of his many adventures. Perhaps we will uncover it later, but for now, let's get back to today's story.
The group went to the zoo and spent a surprisingly relaxing day enjoying the various animals. Starflower even got to pet a goat, which then vomited on Mikail who had to be restrained by Haywood from punching the goat. Big Willie and Starflower just laughed and Mikail forced himself to calm down. As far as he was concerned, he would soon get his revenge.
Night began to fall and the zoo began to close its doors. Mikail, a mischievous smile on his face, suggested to the group that they hide in the lizard house and then have the run of the place after everyone else had left. By now Big Willie was sure that something was about to go down. Mikail seemed far too anxious to hang out at the zoo and Haywood suddenly seemed nervous and jumpy. But Starflower would have spent a whole month just wandering around the zoo if she could and besides, he had promised her that he would get her Zippy's autograph. Zippy was the zoo's star attraction, a gorilla who reportedly knew sign language and who was known to be friendly to visitors. Big Willie planned on forging the autograph himself - Starflower, for all her beauty, was an extremely dumb girl - but he felt like he had to at least make the effort of going through the motions of getting Zippy to sign the sheet of paper he had brought with him. He would make Starflower hang back after making up some bullshit story about safety and bananas and hidden gorilla rage and then walk up to Zippy's cage and pretend to slip the paper through. With some luck, by morning, Starflower would have her "autograph".
Finally, the lights in the lizard house went dark and the gang slowly rose to their feet. Mikail immediately suggested that the group go visit the cheetahs. It was then that Big Willie knew what Mikail had planned, but he agreed to go along with it. Starflower whined about seeing Zippy but everyone just ignored her. After all, shit was about to get out of hand.
As the gang approached the cheetahs, Haywood began to shiver and shake like a junky. Which wasn't unusual because, hell, Haywood was a junky. This made Mikail nervous, though, and he began to lightly jog towards the cheetahs, exhorting his so-called friends to keep up with him.
When they reached the cage, Mikail scanned the enclosure until he finally laid his eyes upon what he had come to find: the rare albino cheetah. Big Willie just smiled and telepathically greeted the cheetahs, who returned his greetings. Let's not forget that Big Willie's father was a cheetah god. He then told them telepathically what was up and they all began to whine and growl at Mikail who's face turned ashen and waxy with fear. It was then that Haywood pissed his pants.
Mikail turned to Haywood, who was utterly useless now, and began rummaging through the poor fool's pockets. Big Willie just stood and watched, well prepared for what was about to happen, while Starchild did a silly dance for the amusement of some monkeys who hooted and jacked off with pleasure. One threw a handful of poop at Starflower but it missed her and sailed over a fence into the lion cage. The lions began to roar indignantly but Starflower ignored it all and kept dancing.
It was then that Mikhail whirled around, the pistol in his hand and fired twice into Big Willie's abdomen. Big Willie just groaned theatrically and then rolled his eyes, annoyed, and forced himself to collapse to the ground. Mikail immediately swooped in and wiped his hand in Big Willie's spilled blood. He would have to find a way to get to the albino cheetah, but for now, he had accomplished the main part of his goal and he decided to celebrate. He began to lick the blood off of his fingers, trembling with excitement when he remembered how good it had felt the last time. Haywood also scrambled over and began to lick the blood off of Big Willie, who just lay there, annoyed and disgusted.
Starflower continued to dance and the lions continued to roar while the monkeys jacked off and hooted. The cheetahs just watched, amused by the whole charade and waited for chaos to reign.
Mikail finished licking his fingers and closed his eyes and waited. He began to feel a tingle and then . . . something strange. A madness took him, suddenly and with great fury and he began to gibber and scream in wild tongues. He clawed at his own skin and ran, faster than he had ever run before, until he was safely hidden away back in the lizard house.
Meanwhile, Haywood had also succumbed to Big Willie's spiked blood and began to scream. He stripped himself naked and began to climb the fence to the monkey house. He dropped over the other side and was promptly hit in the face by a handful of feces. The monkeys all began hooting and screaming while Haywood ignored the blast and charged ahead.
It was then that Starflower stopped dancing and stared, wide eyed, as Haywood began attempting to fornicate with one of the monkeys who grabbed Haywood by his exposed penis and began tugging and pulling. Suddenly there was a loud ripping noise and then a scream of great pain and Haywood bolted from the cage, ripping the door off of his hinges in his madness, and streaked through the zoo, dickless. The monkeys began chasing him in a horrible scene, and they were soon joined by the agitated lions who had managed to jump their fence after having been riled up by the errant monkey shit.
The last anyone saw of Haywood was him climbing a tree while a young monkey climbed up after him. It was reported that zookeeper's later recovered only a foot and the half eaten remains of Haywood's penis.
Meanwhile, Starflower had noticed Big Willie lying on the ground, bleeding out. With a gasp she went to check on him and finding him apparently dead she began to sob. It was then that Big Willie opened his eyes. He took Starflower gently by the hand and whispered to her "It ain't no thing, baby doll. It ain't no thing." He smiled and she wiped her tears away and smiled back. She had finally realized that she was in love with all of Big Willie and not just with his kazoo.
Meanwhile, back in the lizard house, Mikail had gone completely insane. He stumbled around in the dark, naked and muttering to himself about albino cheetahs and a whore named Candy he had left behind in New York. Suddenly the lights came on, and before him was standing a muscular young man.
Mikail didn't notice him at first since he was out of his head, but it slowly dawned on him that he was not alone. "Who . . . who are you?" he managed to ask and the man just smiled grimly and stepped forward.
"Some call me Ernie Sims. But most know me as . . . The Lizard King." The Lizard King then snapped his regal fingers and suddenly Mikail was set upon by a throng of angry lizards. It is believed that they devoured him whole, but zookeepers denied the story and claimed that the keeper of the lizard house was an old man named Ezekiel Wilson and he had been asleep during the whole ordeal. However, authorities did find a 2005 ACC Championship ring lying on the floor of the lizard house. Since it was 1967, this naturally caused quite a stir, but it was later buried when nameless government officials, all clad in black, marched into the station of the San Francisco Police Department and demanded that the ring be turned over to them. They took the ring and then left without a word. The ring was never seen again, but witnesses claim that it was indeed there and was inscribed with the words FLORIDA STATE 2005 ACC CHAMPIONS LB ERNIE SIMS.
As for Big Willie, he and Starflower returned to their apartment, where they spent the better part of two weeks making love until one day Big Willie rose with the morning sun, looked at Starflower, smiled and said "Baby, Big Willie's gotta be movin' on." Starflower began to cry, but she said that she understood. Big Willie pulled her to him and kissed her deeply, looked into her eyes and then vanished in a cloud of smoke. And with that, another tale of The Great Willie Young came to its conclusion.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
4th And Oblivion
Lions fans are all up in arms, beating each other senselessly and without mercy, warring over whether or not Jim Schwartz made the right decision to go for it on 4th and 1 down 11 in the 4th quarter from inside the Philadelphia 35. Watching it live, I remember kind of having a detached "Sure, why not?" reaction, largely because the Lions had just been blasted out of Ford Field for pretty much the entire second half. But then I gathered my wits, looked at the score and said "Hey, wait a minute . . ." just as so many of you did. But by then the play was over and our boys were whipped like helpless infants and I sighed with wearied resignation and then went outside and punched a homeless man in the face.
Honestly, though, it's a tough call. On the one hand I can understand and kind of agree with Jim Schwartz's contention that you have to be able to pick up a yard in that situation if you want to call yourself any kind of a team. Plus, it's not like it was a gimme field goal. It would have been almost a 50 yarder, and the odds you pick up a stinking yard are probably better than the odds that you bang home a 50 yard field goal. Add into that the fact that there have been many studies done by a lot of smart nerds that show that going for it in that situation is almost always the right thing to do (I am too lazy to find one right now, so you'll just have to trust me. After all, trust is the backbone of any healthy relationship and our relationship is healthy, right? RIGHT???) and yeah, I kinda agree with the decision.
On the other hand, the Lions ended up losing by three, which, uh, is kind of a big trump card in this whole debate, you know? While it's true that the kick wouldn't have been a gimme, we have Jason Hanson and even though he is old and once slept with Methuselah's wife and was mentioned in the Old Testament for cheating Noah in a dice game, he is still Jason Hanson and important 50 yard field goals are what he's there for. Schwartz said that even if they hit the field goal, they would have then had to score again and convert a two point conversion, which is a good point, except that THE LIONS DID SCORE AND CONVERT A TWO POINT CONVERSION.
In hindsight, the Lions should have probably kicked the field goal. But in the moment, 4th and 1 is always a tough call. If you make it, you are praised like Caesar. If you blow it, you are horsewhipped and castrated in a public arena and then sold to the Emperor of Persia in exchange for a baby elephant. If the Lions would have tried the field goal there and Hanson would have missed, everyone would be calling Jim Schwartz a pussy. This is just the way of things, I'm afraid.
Still, the Lions lost by three and hindsight always favors the conquerors and in this case, we the conquered can only lick our wounds and wonder what if. History always determines whether it was a good call or a bad call in cases like this, and unfortunately for Schwartz and the Lions and each and every one of us, history hates our fucking guts and there you have it.
SACKS! SACKS! SACKS!
Right now, the Lions are tied for the league lead in sacks, which . . . hooray! Of course, they are also near the bottom of the league in pass defense, which . . . (insert one of those funny sounds of a balloon deflating. You know the one. It kinda sounds like a long, nasty fart? Yeah, that one.) What does this mean?
Well, for starters it means that the Lions defensive line is vastly improved - which is something we all expected - and that the secondary is still straight ass. Again, something we all expected. No real surprises there, but a closer look at the actual games is a little more revelatory.
The Lions defensive line played well - very well - against the Bears, and against Michael Vick and the Eagles the team notched six sacks, which is a hell of a lot. But before you get too excited, you have to understand that everybody sacks Michael Vick. He gets his ass pounded (uh . . .) in just about every game in which he plays. This is because he holds on to the ball for a million years in the hopes that his athleticism will bail him out in the end. As we saw in the game on Sunday, this is what often happens. However, sometimes, even Vick's athleticism isn't enough and he gets murdered by angry fat men. And this is also what we saw on Sunday.
So really, the game against the Eagles almost needs to be thrown out when evaluating the defense. Michael Vick changes the way everything plays out enough so that it's virtually worthless to look at what the Lions did against him and come away with any solid conclusions. For instance, Lawrence Jackson seemed to do a good job of applying pressure on Vick in his first game with the Lions. This is a good thing because Cliff Avril is currently being repaired like Luke Skywalker after he was attacked by that Yeti looking motherfucker on Hoth.
But - and you had to know there was a but coming - was Jackson able to apply a lot of pressure simply because Vick was holding onto the ball too long? Who can say? The whole timing structure upon which the defense is built is thrown off by Vick. Everything from the line to the secondary is screwed up. Maybe the defensive line looked better than they were because they were allowed extra time to close on Vick, giving the illusion of pressure. That's not quite accurate because pressure is pressure and "the illusion of pressure" is a bullshit made up term that has no real meaning, but I hope you know what I'm trying to say there. But maybe the secondary looked even worse than they are because they were forced to hold their coverage thanks to that same extra time that made the defensive line look good. I don't know. It's just a thought.
The point is, is that we probably know less than we would have about the defense than if the defense had faced a more conventional quarterback. I love the defensive line. Nadmukong Suh looks like a true superbeast, Kyle Vanden Bosch looks like he killed Juan Ponce de Leon and all the Indians guarding the Fountain of Youth and Corey Williams, Avril and Lawrence Jackson have all looked pretty good as well. When my man The Great Willie Young gets involved, it's possible that the line will be so good that it will effect the space time continuum and the entire line will be thrown back in time to fight Genghis Khan or to stop the birth of Hitler or Justin Bieber. Who knows? All that may happen, and yet, I'm still wary and I doubt that when the season ends, the Lions will still be leading the league in sacks. Perhaps that is heresy, but if it is, I ask Willie Young to forgive me.
A BEAUTIFUL DREAM
Okay, this is weird, but I felt like I needed to talk about it and since I am my own editor here, this is the sort of shit that ends up happening from time to time. Anyway, last night I had a dream about a Gorilla playing tight end for the Lions. It's true! I promise! Anyway, I even remember the Gorilla's height and weight, which were listed as 6'3" and 270 lbs. That seems awfully small for a Gorilla but we'll let that slide.
The Gorilla had no name but slid back and forth between tight end and fullback for some reason and I have a vivid recollection of him running a pass route and settling down in the flat to catch a pass. Now, the big issue in my dream, and one that was unfortunately never resolved, was the question of how they got the gorilla to run a proper pass route. How did they teach him to play within the system instead of just going nuts and clubbing everyone to death? This bothered me, even within the dream, but as I said, the question was never answered and I am left frightened and confused and I have to know how that damn Gorilla was tamed. I feel as if this is an important piece of the puzzle for the Detroit Lions. That Gorilla may be the missing link we have been looking for. Somebody please help. If you have an answer for me, don't be afraid to share in the comments.
Anyway, that dream ended and then I moved into a weird dream in which I was a cast member on Jersey Shore. The only thing I really remember was Snooki was a good listener. And then I woke up to take a piss and when I came back, still half asleep, I scribbled some gibberish on a piece of scrap paper even though it was pitch black and I couldn't see. I then went back to bed. When I sat down to write this, I looked at the piece of scrap paper and saw the words GORILLA PLAYING TE SNOOKI, only the words were all jumbled together because it was dark and I couldn't see when I wrote them. I did however, have a vague recollection of writing them and so I knew what they were. I felt like part archaeologist, part psychologist and part madman trying to decipher the gibberish and well, this is the end result. I'm not sure why I felt like it was important enough to write about, but apparently in my delirium, I decided that I must discuss this dream with you because I always write down ideas for articles and blog posts and such on scrap paper on my desk as soon as the ideas occur to me and then I go over them later when I'm trying to figure out what to write about.
On this scrap paper are written things like ACTUAL FIRST TRANSCRIPT OF FIRST BOSTON TEA PARTY VAL KILMER and LOST RECAP OTIS REDDING ANDRE WARE. It doesn't make any goddamn sense, and most of the time I am left puzzled and am forced to try to figure out whatever the hell I was thinking, which I am sure you can guess is no easy task. Anyway, that's why something like GORILLA PLAYING TE SNOOKI was not that strange when I saw it, and I'm just glad I was able to decipher such a strange code. I'm not sure why I felt the need to share all that with you, but well, there's a glimpse into the mysterious creative process. I understand that this little tiptoe into the outer reaches of my brain has probably been frightening and you probably need some time to gather your thoughts at a retreat for post traumatic stress syndrome victims or something, but what the hell, you know? These are strange and terrible times and these things happen. After all, we live in an age where I can conceive of a Gorilla playing tight end for the Lions, so I think you can handle this. I believe in you.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
This week's predictions were a mixed bag. I missed on a couple - including one so horrifically that my license to predict anything should be revoked (Don't even ask me about the licensing process. It involves a pair of Komodo Dragons, the illegitimate great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandnephew of Nostradamus, a pair of rubber gloves and a bathtub filled with acid. I will say no more.) But I did hit a couple of my predictions so thoroughly that I feel as if this feature has been at least momentarily redeemed. Of course, one of these correct predictions was depressing and terrible and made me question the fabric of the universe. It would seem that I am only allowed to be right when it also crushes my soul. Anyway, before I get morose and possibly violent, let's just get on with it, shall we?
PREDICTION THE FIRST: Hill will complete 14 of 26 passes for 168 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. He'll hardly ever take a shot down field and the ghost of Joey Harrington will slime us all. I'll be forced to call Harold Ramis because Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd are both too expensive and we'll be left with the indignity of watching Joey's ghost abuse Egon. No one wants to watch Harold Ramis' corpse getting dragged naked and beaten out of Ford Field, but I fear this is the savagery wrought by our friend Fate.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Hill complete 25-45 passes for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with 2 interceptions. Well, I would have been right if I would have doubled the stupid numbers.
Still, I don't feel entirely wrong here. Please! Please! There is no need to boo me and pelt me with garbage. Sigh. Okay, so I was very wrong, but I feel like those numbers are still very misleading. For starters, a lot of Hill's yardage came towards the end of the game when the Lions had to chuck the ball around in order to close the gap on the scoreboard. And second, 154 of those yards went to Jahvid Best on screens, including one 75 yard play. Those were little more than extended handoffs, short, safe passes that didn't exactly tax Hill. Meanwhile, Brandon Pettigrew caught another 7 passes for 108 yards, with many of those catches being little checkdowns that Pettigrew took and then rumbled for more yardage. The point is that Best and Pettigrew combined for 16 catches for 262 yards. Which means that most of Hill's yardage came thanks to the play of those two dudes rather than because of anything he really did.
In fact, Hill only completed 6 passes for a grand total of 58 yards to his wide receivers. That's shockingly bad, especially when one of those receivers is Calvin Johnson. I'm not sure whether that was because Hill lacks the ability to throw the ball downfield or if the playcalling was simply that conservative. Perhaps it's a little of both. The Lions seemed content to use Best and Pettigrew, particularly Best, and hope they could make something happen after the catch. I'm not sure if I can really knock Scott Linehan here for a couple of reasons, though. First of all, whenever Hill did throw the ball down the field, his passes appeared slow and/or wobbly, and they were often inaccurate. Clearly, playing in a vertical passing game is not Hill's strength. Second, when you've got a playmaker like Best, it makes sense to use him, especially when he's finding room like he was against the Eagles. This becomes doubly sensible when you're playing with your backup quarterback. And third, Calvin Johnson looked like he came down with a bad case of Lions Disease for much of the game. I will talk more about this a little later on.
So, really, what was Scott Linehan supposed to do? He had a limited quarterback, a running back who was making big play after big play and a star wide receiver who looked like he was getting ready to go on tour with Morrissey. He tailored the game plan accordingly and I can't really knock him for it.
As for Hill, well . . . it's obvious that he's limited but that doesn't mean he's bad either. I mean, there's a reason why he's the backup and not a starter in the NFL, you know? He made plays the best that he could, using the weapons that made the most sense for his talents and he displayed a grit that is commendable. I think you can win with Hill if you have a good defense and a back like Best who can make plays. Unfortunately, the Lions are still missing the "good defense" part of that equation, but shit, you can't really put that on Hill, can you?
The good thing is that, for the most part, the ghost of Joey Harrington stayed away from Ford Field. Hill generally made the right reads - and not just the safe reads, which was Joey's specialty - and I wasn't necessarily left frustrated when he would go to Best or Pettigrew. This is probably because I would always cringe whenever Hill had to throw the ball more than ten yards down the field - witness the final 4 and out for evidence of that horrid bullshit. Hill did what he had to do and therefore, Harold Ramis' life was spared and Egon can go back to jacking off to supernatural slime or whatever the fuck it was he did in the movies.
PREDICTION THE SECOND: The Eagles will key on Jahvid Best and he'll end up with 85 yards on 17 carries. 40 of those yards will come on one long run, meaning that for the rest of the game he'll only pick up 45 yards on 16 carries. He'll also catch 5 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown, and we'll be left both excited by his gamebreaking potential and worried by his inability to consistently gain quality yardage.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Best ran the ball 17 times for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a long run of 33 yards, which meant that for the rest of the game he picked up 45 yards on 16 carries. In other words, I nailed this one almost exactly. Or at least the rushing part of the prediction. I should have just quit while I was ahead. But Best also caught 9 passes for 154 yards and 1 touchdown.
This is how impressive Best's performance was: his 154 yards receiving was the most by a rookie running back in the NFL in the entire Super Bowl era. (Pause for wide eyed freakouts and the requisite "Whoa's") I know!
It's tough to say that I was frustrated in any way by that performance, which was kind of the key point in that prediction. I guess I could say that it was frustrating that the Eagles bottled him up on the ground for much of the second half, but the dude ended up with 232 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Those are crazy numbers, number one fantasy football running back numbers, numbers that we haven't seen around here in a very, very long time. And they came in Jahvid Best's second professional game. If I say that I am frustrated by that in any way, then I am a complete idiot and should be stripped naked by all of you, tied to a post and horsewhipped.
Even though I was eerily accurate on the rushing numbers, I can't really celebrate this one because the tone of the prediction was all wrong. Maybe that makes sense and maybe it doesn't but to hell with all that, it makes sense in my own head and even though my head is a strange playground not fit for mortal man, it is still my head and I have learned to coexist with it and so should you.
PREDICTION THE THIRD: Calvin Johnson will be frustratingly absent for much of the game, catching only 4 passes for 48 yards and 0 touchdowns. We'll all watch in horror as his body language deteriorates and after the game I will rant and rave about Lions Disease and will curse Scott Linehan. And thus, my first whipping boy of the Schwartz era will be born. Joy!
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Calvin caught 4 passes for 50 yards and 1 touchdown. I feel absolutely horrible that I got this one right. Just devastated. I am so annoyed in fact, that I am stripping Calvin of his sainthood until he earns it back. That's right, it has come to that. Shit.
From the moment I first started writing about the Lions here, I openly worried about Calvin Johnson coming down with the dreaded Lions Disease. I noticed that he dropped too many passes, loafed a bit too much at times and generally looked like he would rather be anywhere else than on the football field. I had seen it happen to Roy Williams and I was terrified that it would happen to Calvin, especially because Calvin was a once in a decade kind of talent. Roy Williams could be replaced. Calvin can't. We need him to be St. Calvin.
By the way, in case you're wondering, I won't even acknowledge that Transformers shit. When it first happened and all that Optimus Prime and Megatron gibberish came out, I said that it was a bad sign. In fact, this is what I wrote way back in 2008:
" But what I really want to talk about is something that no one wants to acknowledge and why the Lions will never win with these two goofs as their receivers. You see, last season Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson dubbed each other Optimus Prime and Megatron in a stunning bit of nerdery usually only seen between pale fifteen year old, pudgy white kids. I mean, come on, really guys? Look, Detroit is a city that likes its athletes hard and raw as fuck. Think the Bad Boys teams of the Pistons. Those dudes would stab you if you weren't careful enough. And the fans themselves aren't afraid to wander out of the stands and throw hands if they feel compelled. It's mayor is facing multiple criminal charges, including assaulting an officer. This is not a city that has time for Transformers nonsense. The only way to transcend this is to be great with machine like consistency, like Stevie Yzerman or Barry Sanders. There is no room for fucking around like a little kid if you aren't fucking everyone else up on the field at the same time. I mean, can you imagine Jerry Rice and John Taylor pulling this shit? How about Art Monk and Gary Clark? Or better yet, try to imagine Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper calling each other Voltron or some such shit. You can't, and the reason is because in order to be a great you need to be competitive to the point of insanity or a coked out raging beast. You don't talk about your love for cartoons while playing grab ass with your fellow receivers. This is a real problem here my friends."
I meant every damn word of that and I still do. That is why you will never see me refer to Calvin Johnson as Megatron.
There, mini-rant over. Or is it? No. You see, that whole little diatribe actually digs to the heart of the matter, which is that Calvin Johnson appears to not have "it". And by "it", I mean that insane competitive fire that causes a man to thrive even though he's being constantly double teamed. I mean that desire to be the best to the point of mania. That's what all the great ones have. That's what separates Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant from Vince Carter. It's not ability. It's not talent. It's that near sociopathic desire to destroy everyone else. And it just seems to me like Calvin Johnson doesn't have it. And I knew that the moment he started calling himself Megatron.
That doesn't mean he isn't a good dude. It just means that he's an incredibly talented and gifted man who is content to be very, very good. That might be okay if it wasn't for three reasons. Number one, the Lions need him to be exceptional. They can't settle for very, very good. They are simply too far in the hole and the only way to climb out is with exceptional effort, not a very, very good effort. Number two, other teams know that if they take away Calvin, they take away the Lions big play passing game. Maybe this will change with the emergence of Best, but for now, Calvin is still the man, and as the man, he needs to be exceptional in order to overcome this. Teams can stop a very, very good receiver with constant double teams. An exceptional receiver can overcome that kind of harassment. And third, and probably most importantly, the Lions are a terrible team and a terrible franchise. You have to have an iron will to survive in the midst of all that. You have to have that manic desire to be great no matter the cost. You have to hate losing so much that you force yourself to win simply because it's the only alternative. If you don't have that mindset, the losing will get to you, it will destroy you and you will become a listless shell, just robotically going through the motions. In other words, you will have contracted Lions Disease. And this is where I fear we are with Calvin Johnson right now.
Last week, I bitched about Scott Linehan. This is because I have been making excuses for Calvin. I have known all along that this could happen, but I continually ignored all the warning signs because I so desperately needed Calvin to be different. And that continued in the first game. I thought that Calvin wasn't getting the ball because the team wasn't making it a point to get him the ball. And perhaps there is some truth to that, but the reality is that Calvin isn't putting himself in a position to get the ball. He's just coasting along, double teamed into oblivion and he isn't doing anything about it. And he can. Don't tell me he can't. The dude has more ability than any wide receiver who's ever played the game. That is an incredible statement, hyperbolic and bold, and yet it's also completely true. No one has - or has ever had - the combination of size, speed and hands that Calvin has. He should be able to transcend the conventional means that teams use to shut down a number one receiver. That is his destiny. Instead, he's content to allow himself to be shut down and then for all of us to make excuses about why he can't get open.
Perhaps that is a little unfair. So be it. But as Tila Tequila so famously said to Spiderman before giving him herpes, "With great power comes great responsibility." Calvin Johnson has the opportunity to be great (I have to break in here to note that when I wrote the word "opportunity", I became temporarily dyslexic and wrote the word as "pooprtunity". I just felt this needed to be shared.) and seeing his career through that lens, very, very good suddenly becomes tragic.
PREDICTION THE FOURTH: Vick will struggle to throw the ball, completing only 15 of 33 passes, but those 15 completions will go for 235 yards thanks to at least one long touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson. Vick will run for 65 yards on 15 attempts, and the Lions will alternate between bottling him up and letting him frustratingly run free after losing contain. After the game, Vick will eat a box full of puppies on live television. The Eagles fans will embrace him wholeheartedly, their respect for utter degeneracy outweighing their latent racism.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Vick completed 21 of 34 passes for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran the ball 7 times for 37 yards.
Okay. Vick actually ran the ball with less frequency than I expected and generally looked better throwing the ball. These are both due to the same factor: the contemptible horror show that is the Lions secondary. Vick was not particularly sharp - Lions DB's dropped two sure interceptions, and he should have been sacked with far more frequency then even the 6 times Lions defenders managed to drop him. But he was able to complete pass after pass to wide open receivers thanks to the stunning ineptitude of the Lions gang of Special Olympians and C.C. Brown. (Really, C.C. deserves his own category here. Those noble Special Olympians don't deserve the indignity of being compared to him.)
Vick did complete one long touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson in the first quarter. Jackson was frustratingly open and then Louis Delmas of all people took a hilariously bad angle on the tackle and Jackson sprinted into the endzone.
I can't say for sure that Vick ate a box of live puppies but he probably did because he was in a good mood, a celebratory mood, and well, that is just the way he gets down.
PREDICTION THE FIFTH: LeSean McCoy won't do a damn thing. He'll only rush for 10 yards on 12 carries and we will all cling to Ndamukong Suh as a source of hope in these dark and trying times.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Uh . . . well . . . McCoy ran for 120 yards on 16 carries and 3 touchdowns. This was quite possibly the most wrong I have ever been with one of these predictions.
The truth is that McCoy was probably the difference in the game. The Lions couldn't stop him when it mattered the most and his three touchdowns all felt like backbreakers. Still, it didn't necessarily feel like the Eagles were methodically wearing down the Lions with the run game. There were no sequences of run after run of 5-7 yards, those kinds of runs that just erode your soul and leave you longing for grim death. No, instead the Lions managed to alternate closing off all running lanes with making mistakes and letting McCoy break a long one. It was frustrating as hell, but it wasn't quite as awful as the alternative.
Again, that might not make sense, but to me, the worst thing in the world is to watch your defense get slowly picked apart. That is the sign of a truly wretched defense. A defense that gets beaten by big plays can be fixed. A defense that consistently gets gashed on the other hand is doomed. By the way, the 0-16 defense somehow managed to be both. They gave up big plays and were gashed for 5-7 yards. Somehow they had their heads blown off and slowly bled to death. I'm not sure why I just felt the need to mention that, but well, these are strange and terrible times and these things happen.
PREDICTION THE, UH, BONUSETH: Willie Young will rise from the earth surrounded by a cloud of great smoke and trip up Michael Vick just as it appears Vick is about to break a long run. The announcers will make jokes about the turf monster but we'll know the real story.
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: This happened and you cannot tell me otherwise. Well, you could, but you would be a heretic. Know Willie Young and know peace. No Willie Young and no peace. And that's that.