It’s late on a Saturday night and I’m nodding off while I write this so if things get fuzzy you know why – well, fuzzier than normal anyway. Thankfully, my word processor has its own version of autocorrect to help me out in case I start speaking – well, writing – in tongues. So why am I sitting here probably looking like Keith Richards after a week-long heroin binge, writing about the goddamn Lions? I don’t fucking know. I don’t even know why I do any of this, or why I watch this fucking team and yet here I am and here we are and on and on and on it goes.
Right. This is already spinning out of control. Anyway, it was the very first preseason game and honestly who fucking cares? It’s the preseason. For most people, normal people anyway, it’s just an excuse to drink in front of the TV and swear at millionaires, which is the true national pastime and don’t let anybody ever tell you differently. But if you’re reading this you’re probably not a normal person but that’s okay because neither am I. The difference is that you are probably okay with who you are as a fan whereas I am a self-loathing wretch. Here’s how you should feel about that game: *insert image of a man shrugging* The only thing that matters is the first few series on either side of the ball and even those are just sort of curios, little crumbs of bread to get you hungry for what’s to come when the games actually mean anything. In that respect, I was watching as intently as I am obligated by fandom to do. My reactions? Eh…
I’ll be honest here. I am not feeling all that good about the Lions this year. I’m not entirely sure why but I still feel hungover from last year’s vicious bout of failure poisoning. I just can’t get up for this. I think it’s because I spent 3 years building myself up for something else, something better – something almost comically better – and then the Lions went out and finished 4-12 and Jesus Christ, I am only human. There was a moment last season – I’m not entirely sure when it was but honestly it might have been as early as the Tennessee game – where something inside me broke and I turned on this team. I tried not to, I really did. I slammed myself against the walls of my despair over and over and over again in a vain attempt to stay the course. I tried talking myself out of it and I wavered back and forth like a bipolar maniac. Most of the shit I wrote last season is a testament to that. Just go back and read it. It isn’t pretty, nor is it particularly good because it lacked resolve, it lacked the true fire and heart of a man who believes in anything. They were the words of a man warring with his own heart, fighting his own instincts in the name of the better angels of his nature. Well fuck that. The Lions were a fucking awful team last year and I don’t give a shit how much you massage the stats or play some rah rah crap game, they fucking stunk in all the ways they have stunk for half a goddamn century. If you don’t like me saying this, feel free to get the fuck out. I am not interested in catering to your delusions. They finished 4-12. They were awful. Goodnight.
Despite all that, I have been telling myself that when the time came again I could flip the switch and start feeling good about things again but, well, I can’t and here we are. The reality is that I haven’t felt this down about the Lions since August of 2008, which… Jesus, we all know how that turned out. I’m not saying something like that is coming again – it’s not, okay? – but I just want you to understand my frame of mind.
Prior to that 2008 season, everyone was all optimistic and pounding their chests and talking playoffs and I felt like the only dude in the world sitting there saying “Uh… what the fuck?” I hated that team, I hated Rod Marinelli and all his bullshit and of course I hated Matt Millen. They were full of shit and I knew it. I am treading on some dangerous ground here but, uh, well… here it is: I have lost faith, completely, in both Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew. No, Neil, no! What are you saying? I’m saying what I feel. And that’s that. I’m really not interested in arguing about this the way that people like to do on this here internet. In fact, I am not all that interested in talking football in that peppy rah rah way that everyone on Twitter likes to do. I am the dark heart of fandom, I am the snake hissing in your ear. I kind of feel badly about this but not really because to be honest I’m tired of feeling like I have to cater to delusions. I am a vicious fuck. Go back and read my stuff from 2008 when nobody was reading any of this shit yet. I was miserable but goddammit there is a purity to the tone, a brutal honesty that I think maybe I lost a bit along the way when I started worrying about what other people would think and found myself swayed by the honeyed words of the rest of the Lions blogosphere/twitter brigade. Y’all have seemed so deliriously hopeful that it broke my heart to have to say anything to throw shade on that.
It’s not that I’ve been lying to any of you, it’s more that I’ve been lying to myself. Ask me how I feel about the Lions and I’ll probably tell you something vaguely happy. I’ll tell you about how Reggie Bush will add a missing element to the offense and blah blah blah and goddammit, I mean it when I’m saying it. I really do. I want to believe. I want to feel happy and optimistic but at the same time I can’t ignore the darkness in my heart and when I try to I just end up hating myself as a fan and then I sublimate that into hating all the other fans, especially the hopeful ones and pretty soon I am unfollowing people on Twitter and bitching and moaning about how much I hate football and vowing to not tweet about the Lions all year long and goddammit that shit is shameful as hell.
Here’s the truth – I am going to be a miserable son of a bitch because my faith has been destroyed, betrayed one too many times by the Failure Demons. It just has, okay? This is year 5 of the Schwartz/Mayhew era and they’re coming off of a 4-12 season. I mean . . . come on. I really, really don’t want to argue about this so please – pretty please, for me? – don’t argue with me about this shit. It is just the way I feel. I have tried – I really have – but the only way for me to move forward as a fan is to embrace the darkness in my heart and talk to you from that place of pure honesty, no matter how miserable it is. It’s the only real thing I have here, the one thing that truly separates me from the rest, and if I don’t do that I will just get shittier and shittier, both as a writer, my words processed down to the point of meaningless pap, and as a person, insulting my fellow fans because you represent something I can’t find in my own wounded heart.
That’s not to say that I still don’t have hope in that same heart. I do. I would be absolutely delighted to be proven wrong. I don’t care. My ego’s not THAT big. I just want something to be happy about again as a fan, but I want something honest and real to be happy about. I don’t want to be the housewife with the cheating husband and the life careening towards destruction pretending that everything is all good and smiling while I drink my wine and try to fool both myself and the neighbors into believing that everything is all sunshine and candy and rainbows and all that happy horseshit. I don’t want to be Carmela Soprano, okay? I want it when it’s good, when it’s right and I will not debase my own sense of happiness just for the sake of my own fragility and neediness.
Right now, I just don’t feel it. I don’t. Don’t condemn me for this. Or go ahead and condemn me. Shit, go for it. At least there’s honesty in that and that’s a better place for all of us.
Okay, anyway, that was all a hilariously overwrought lead-in to contextualize my thoughts on the Lions first preseason game. Now obviously, given all of the above gibberish, I had a hard time getting up for this one. And yet, because I am an addict, I found myself sitting in front of the TV, dissecting those first few series, looking for reasons to believe or reasons not to believe or . . . to be honest – and this is what really scares me – I’m not sure which of those is more true. I’m not sure whether I was looking for something to kickstart my heart or something to reach in and squeeze whatever hope was left in there out of it. I don’t know. I don’t fucking know.
With that said, here are a few quick observations – defensively everyone is going nuts about Ziggy Ansash because he had the big flashy touchdown and made a couple of plays and hey, I’m glad but I had a hard time not being the turd in the punchbowl last night on Twitter. After all, Ziggy’s INT happened because Mark Sanchez hilariously threw the ball right to him and because he got no push on D’Brickashaw Ferguson. You see the sort of place my head and heart are in right now? While everyone is celebrating and getting hyped I feel like the fuckin’ Grinch.
On the plus side, what I will say is that that play was made possible because The Great Willie Young was about to Murder Death Kill Sanchez (look, no matter what happens, my heart will always be with The Great Willie Young and you will never hear me speak ill of his Lordship) and in general the Lions defensive line looked like badasses.
On the other hand, the secondary is still an embarrassing piece of shit and ob-lad-di, ob-la-da life goes on. The lowlight came right after the Lions doofus local color commentator made the hilarious comment that the secondary was, in his opinion, “the strength of this defense” when Sanchez immediately hit two dudes wide open down the middle of the field, leading to an easy Jets touchdown. Good call, bro!
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Lions offensive line still can’t get any push in the running game and Matthew Stafford looked like he’s still trapped in the Australian Outback with a sad-sack look on his face while Crocodile Dundee tries to keep him from getting killed by some weird ass kangaroo snake or something during his walkabout. He completed only 3 of 8 passes – all to St. Calvin – and missed all those intermediate throws that an NFL quarterback has to make. We’ve all seen this story before and, well, it’s only preseason so . . . yeah.
After that, nothing mattered at all except to obsessive nerds who care way too much about who gets one of the last five roster spots. Hey, I’m not knocking you. Like I said, I’m a goddamn addict. I suppose that Norwegian dude took a couple more steps towards folk herodom and Shaun Hill went all Shaun Hill but other than that, it was glorified practice and hey, nobody died although honestly that probably would have made things more interesting.
But what the hell, the Lions won, which is always better than the alternative and I’ll resist the urge to point out that they went 4-0 in the 2008 preseason although I guess I just did anyway so . . . fuck it, I guess. This season is probably going to be hard for me and if you don’t want to come along for the ride because you don’t want my negative vibes fucking your shit up then I understand. I get it. But this is where I am at and, well, this is me and that’s that.