I’ve been burned so many times before as a Lions fan that it’s hard for me to allow myself to truly let go and let the rhythm get me, but there was a moment early in the first half when I clapped my hands together so hard that I worried I broke one of them. From then on, I was swallowed up in the sea of exuberant fan idiocy, and found myself incoherent and goofy, tongue lolling out of my head like a mental patient, waving like a simpleton at anyone who happened by. As that notable wordsmith and gentleman raconteur Ice Cube once said before becoming a mini-van spokesman, it was a good day. Indeed.
The Lions didn’t just beat the Bears, they kicked the shit out of them. And they kicked the shit out of them in a way that the Bears usually do to them. You know what I’m talking about. The quarterback throws an interception, somebody fumbles, a safety pretends he’s riding a horsey and pretty soon it’s an every man for himself free for all, with dudes hiding underneath dead bodies and fans throwing themselves from the rafters. We’ve all seen it, but for a change, we got to see it and taste it from the side of the blood-drunk victors, and goddamn, that’s some delicious blood.
There are people who will grumble and fret like church ladies because the Lions let the Bears score a couple of cheap touchdowns at the end of the game, but fuck all that. That’s just paranoid fear-mongering, the sort of concern trolling which has become an art form for most Lions fans, myself included. We are like fucking Michelangelos of braying fear. This was a straight up ass kicking, and just because the Bears played out the zombie string like professional football players and Jay Cutler didn’t gnaw on the brains of his offensive linemen, it doesn’t take away from what the Lions did. They won that game. Emphatically. Everything once the score reached 37-16 was basically just noise, the sort of thing that happens when teams, a league and a television network have to fulfill their contractual obligations. If this were Pee-Wee football, they would have gone to a running clock.
The truly scary thing is that Matthew Stafford really didn’t play all that well – he wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t as sharp as we all know he can be – and the Lions kinda sorta sucked on third down, which was immensely frustrating because most of them were of the easily makeable third and a few variety. They also turned the ball over themselves three times. This meant that they left a ton of points on the field. They still scored 40 points. They should have scored 50. Easily. When that is your only quibble, you’re ensconced safely in a penthouse located on the corner of Candy Street and Blowjob Avenue.
This was the team we all saw at the beginning of 2011, the team that terrorized everybody, murdered quarterbacks like Mexican drug gangs disposing of used up mules (the people kind, not the poor, innocent animal kind) and seemed like a gang of pirates bent on pillage and dark acts that would horrify the townspeople but make our boys deliriously rich with doubloons and drunk on honey wine and conquest. In fact, the last time we really saw this team – a team that could run over and around you and kick the shit out of your offensive line and your quarterback – was in the Lions Monday Night Football game against the Bears in 2011. Sure, they whipped up on the Broncos later that year, but that Monday Night game was the last time it felt like the Lions made a real statement, when they seemed like a team without fear, and a team that could face down a rival and pistol whip them into humility. While I was watching this game, it struck me that you could almost take an eraser to everything that has happened since, and just say okay, let’s just pick it up where we left off.
Of course, you can’t do that, and like I said, I have been burned so many times by this team and this franchise that I have no body hair left and I am made of nothing but ash and regret. But, still, the sentiment was there, and that means something. This is a team of assholes and reprobates, but when they can channel that into sheer physical strength, like prison bull dogs, I don’t really care. I don’t care if they are assholes as long as they don’t let it fuck with their game. When they can take it, and harness it just enough to enhance their game, to intimidate and bully an opponent, well… as we’ve all seen, that’s a tough trick to pull off, but when they can, goddamn, these dudes are nasty badasses.
Of course, I am mostly talking about Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who abused the Bears offensive line. Just abused them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears linemen have to ask Suh and Fairley permission to stand up when they pee. Suh can probably sell Jay Cutler to Arab slavers if he wants because he owns him. This is what has been so frustrating about the Lions over the last year and a half or so of wandering the wilderness. We know this is what these dudes can do if they just harness their natural brutishness.
It was so dominating that they demolished the Bears interior offensive line even though the Bears were holding like desperate men hanging on to the grim tatters of their shredded dreams on every goddamn play. Suh and Fairly just ran right through them. It was insane.
The crowd was insane too, marauding and vicious, throwing things onto the field like hooligans, and while the tsk tskers will surely decry this villainy, fuck it, I love this stuff. But again, it has to be earned, and it’s all part of riding that fine line between intimidating Bad Boyish assholery and the embarrassing hubris of the punk who lives in a land of self-denial. Just win, baby.
That will always be the struggle for this team and this fanbase, I think, but for today, it felt earned and perfect, and I salute them all with the finest meats, the best beer and the wildest women.
This was the game I wanted to see, the game I needed to see to make me believe – maybe not in the promise of the future or in the dreams of my heart – but in the potential of the Now. The Lions are 3-1 right now and they should probably be 4-0. They have absolutely kicked the shit out of 2 of their 3 divisional opponents already – albeit at home – and who knows? Who knows what they can do if they get on a roll and feed off of their own momentum? I think that’s the thing we all need to realize about this team. They are an emotional team. They are not cerebral chess players who can turn deftly following adversity and change their tactics. They are team of emotional brutes, and that means that they are highly susceptible to those intangible things that the Football Outsider types hate to acknowledge as a factor so much. If they start to lose, then things unravel quickly. I think that probably speaks to sketchy coaching, but that’s a topic for another day. But when they win, they can become berserkers. They become like video game characters that get some sort of bonus that makes them impenetrable to any and all attacks while they just careen through the slaughter, glowing and attacking at ludicrous speed. It’s just the nature of this beast of a team, and we’ve seen that too. Remember that 9-0 stretch at the end of 2010/the beginning of 2011?
If this actually were a video game, Suh, Fairley and Reggie Bush would have been literally on fire while the announcers hollered outrageous made-up words as the players turned ten feet tall and threw the goalpost like a pitchfork into a quivering Jay Cutler. If they allow that momentum to carry them, then who knows what they can do? That’s enough for me, for now.
Speaking of Reggie Bush, I’ve been gibbering since week one about how important he is to the offense, and how his presence on the field changes everything from the spacing to the defensive game plan, and, well… allow me to gesture dramatically like a lawyer dropping his hottest piece of evidence on a jury. Bush was ridiculous in all the best ways, rushing for over 100 yards by halftime – when was the last time *that* happened in a Lions game? For us, I mean. – and looking a lot like the dude who once conquered Los Angeles like the half-human/half-god spawn of some unholy tryst between Zeus and a gazelle.
There was so much right with this game, so much unqualified beauty. There are no “Yeah, buts…” here. There are no lingering doubts. This was a team that wandered in the desert and somehow came out the other side alive, psychically damaged sure, but still more than capable of slaughtering whatever poor saps they found camping on the shore, coming down from those desert hills like demon warriors from hell. I am getting carried away here, as is my wont, but in some ways, the last year and a half or so of “Oh God, why is this happening? No… why? WHYYYYYYYYY???” made this game even more impressive because it showed that there’s something there, something intact that couldn’t quite be broken, and if that gives this team a quiet confidence to lie just beneath the emotional, beastly surface, then they could be truly dangerous indeed.
I’m just happy right now, happy in a way that I haven’t been as a Lions fan in a while. Am I going to start gibbering about Super Bowls and Promised Lands? No, because like I said, I’ve been burned way too many times. But like the Lions themselves, maybe this will give me some quiet confidence, something I’ve never really had as a Lions fan, and maybe I can smile and stop worrying about the future and what it all means (okay, I won’t because, well, come on…) and accept that today is enough, because today was - and is - a good day.