There are still lots of dark clouds hanging overhead, and the sad reality is that sooner or later, Reggie is probably going to fall off the wagon too. After all, there’s really no such thing as a former junkie, is there? - from I Don't Know
It’s pretty clear that the Lions are a different team with Reggie Bush in the lineup. That’s my main takeaway from today’s game, other than ARRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH FUCK. With him, they can sort of overcome their junkie nature and do just enough to make us overlook all that dumb asshole bullshit and just concentrate on shiny, happy things like puppies made of gold and wins over the Vikings. Without him . . . well, without him, the Lions are basically the same goddamn team they’ve been for a while now and there’s no use going down that dark road into the nether regions of the soul. It’s a thin line between love and fuck this, yo.
I was kind of torn after the game, because on the one hand there were still signs that the Lions had come out of their existential malaise, and so I didn’t want to do the whole SAME OL’ LIONS HEE-HAW HEE-HAW jackassery that is so tempting to engage in, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was almost entirely due to Reggie’s presence. He just gives them one more playmaker, one more presence, and that’s enough. Really, it’s a testament to that thin line that separates everyone in the Dumb Asshole League.
Right, about the Dumb Assholes, nothing overly ridiculous happened, and by that I mean Ndamukong Suh didn’t cannibalize anybody and Jim Schwartz didn’t wander onto the field in his underwear and start blowing whiskey fireballs at the refs or anything, but there’s no way I can honestly sit here and say that it was a clean game. It was a cumulative Dumb Asshole effort. The Lions lost largely because they fucked up at the worst times, which isn’t that much different than any team that loses in the Dumb Asshole League, I guess, but it’s something that we’re nauseatingly familiar with as Lions fans. I guess this means maybe we’re looking for it, but really, does it matter? They still happened and the Lions still lost. Bill Bentley’s “fuck it, I’ll just shove him” pass interference near the end of the game was the difference between the Cardinals scoring the go ahead touchdown to go up by 4 and having to attempt a 50+ yard field goal to go up one. It made a difference.
Before that, you had the cavalcade of drops which have come to define the Lions receiving corps, a thousand penalties, both deserved and undeserved, and horrific field goal play. It all made a difference. Change just one of those things and the Lions win the game. But they didn’t, and, well, here we are.
Of course, there was also the assorted incidental bullshit that is always just there, so much so that it is basically white noise by this point and I barely even notice – the ridiculous conservatism at the end of the first half with a minute left to go and three timeouts, the throwing short of the sticks on third (and one rage inducing fourth) down, which we used to call the Joey Harrington special around these parts, and just the general all-around boobery that happens when you employ dudes like Brandon Pettigrew.
In the end, it came down to poor special teams, terrible penalties – again, both deserved and undeserved (Ride or die, Willie, ride or die) – dropped passes and blah, blah blah. Look, I could write the above about dozens of games over the last few years and it would fit. Hell, for all you know I’m just copying and pasting what I wrote after a different game. And that’s the point – this is all too familiar, and no matter whether you’re riding the Hope Train or jamming with the Failure Demons on “The Song Remains the Same”, you can’t really do much but shrug your shoulders and say “Oh well, on to the next one.”
And that’s because there’s no real point in getting angry, in dragging out the brass knuckles and going to town on the Lions or on the culture of this goddamned football team, the coaches or anybody else. Because this is just what we’re stuck with. We know it. It’s not going to change, and even in my optimistic salvo just before the game, in which I renounced Satan and started flirting with the angels again, I basically said that we are forever flawed and doomed and that our hearts would get broken because this is just who this team is, and eventually we’d find ourselves locked in a prison cell of our own despair, behind walls made of broken dreams and idiot hope no matter how often we furiously tried to dig our way out with a spoon. And this game is just another brick in that goddamn wall. I don’t like it, but there it is.
This is not about the war between Hope and Fear, this is just about accepting who and what this team is – it’s a team of junkie assholes, and even when they’re trying to maintain, sometimes they’re gonna break our hearts. I have no grand delusions about this team. I want them to win and do well because they’re my team and I’ve made peace with the fact that there are simply things I’m going to have to live with. Basically, I’m the parent that wanted their kid to go the med school and make the whole family proud, but now I’m just thankful that he hasn’t OD’d and I gave him a big hug and told him I’m proud of him because he got that job at 7-11.
That is depressing as hell, but only if you let it be. If you just accept it for what it is and try to move on, I think you’ll find that you really appreciate the moments of genuine joy that still pop up. I was cheering like a fiend for the Lions in this game. I wasn’t sneering or saying “See! See! Look, they’re a bunch of no good fuckers!” every time they did something wrong, which is where my head and my heart had been for a while. Watching the Lions had ceased to be fun for me. Even though they lost this game, I wanted them to win, to do well, more than I had in a while. It was weird. But the important thing, I think, is that I finally rooted for them to do well on their terms, not mine, which might not make any sense, but fuck it, the Lions just lost in obnoxious fashion – again – so I’m allowed to not make sense. It’s in the handbook.
This was fun for me to watch because I finally let my grand dreams of the future go. I finally stopped worrying about what it all meant in the big picture and just rooted for them to win a goddamn game because they were my team. Of course, then they lost and I had a brief moment where I stormed around and made sounds like a donkey getting reamed by an elephant, but what the hell, at least it was an honest reaction rooted in the immediacy of the moment and not tied up in the “This is what I want to see because THE FUTURE OF THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE HANGS IN THE BALANCE” kind of gibbering I had begun to do, which I think was born out of my own grandiose mythologizing I have done here, in which I have gibbered about Fate so much that you’d think I was Kyle Reese proselytizing to Sarah Connor.
Look, the Lions are a mediocre team filled with mediocre players and a few superstars. Sometimes, those players – both the lousy ones and the stars – act like Dumb Assholes, but that doesn’t really make us special. It just makes us the Arizona Cardinals. And sometimes, you beat teams like the Cardinals or like the Vikings because you have just one more weapon. And sometimes you lose because that weapon falls off the wagon and stands around on the sideline looking sad because that’s just the sort of thing that happens in the Dumb Asshole League. There are no grand lessons to be learned from this game, no desperate horse rides in the middle of the night to warn the townspeople like some degenerate Paul Revere to be made. There is just a dull shrug and a twinge in the heart, a sort of quiet, sad longing about what might have been that gets ground up and mashed by the weight of reality and the notion that, in the end, none of it really matters other than as a curio, a diversion to keep us dogpaddling so we don’t recognize that we’ve already drowned.
The Lions are not the worst team in the Dumb Asshole League. And they’re not the best. They are a coin flip of a team, a team that sometimes beats the Arizona Cardinals and sometimes loses to them. They are a team that I will root for to win because I like hoping for the best, even if that best gets lost somewhere in the clouds of uncertainty once you start playing real teams and start having real goals. They are a team that I root for because I am a fan and this is what we do.
Reggie Bush ran and he made me happy, he smiled and kept us from getting fired from the 7-11, and then he got hurt and that made me sad, and the manager came in and found us shooting up in the bathroom and chased us out of the store with a broom and we passed out in the bushes before our mom came and picked us up, smiled sadly, sighed and laid us in our bed, kissed us goodnight, told us she loved us and then went and laid on the couch and watched Castle until she fell asleep.