Fanaticism, Failure and Those Damned Detroit Lions
Have you ever desperately loved something with all of your heart and every fiber of your miserable being; only to discover it not only didn’t love you back, but it was thinking of turning you out at the next rest stop for a pack of Twizzlers and a black cherry Faygo? Look, just shut up and bear with me for a moment here kids. You know, I’ve never told this to anyone before; but I am haunted by this strange, reoccurring dream that plagues my slumber once each year, as the Indigenous American summer gives way to autumn proper – and then sometimes again, just after Christmas. In it, I am surrounded by friends and family on the kind of wide, wooden porch you don’t find in fancy new high rise neighborhoods – because transplant hipster douchebags don’t understand the importance of getting shitfaced on your own property as it pertains to state law. The dulcet tones of “What’s Going On” echo softly across the front lawn while everyone I’ve ever cared about talks, laughs and gets absolutely fucking faded together, as the last rays of mid-evening twilight descend into the west. Everything is perfect and despite my idyllic surroundings, I do not doubt that the dream is real for even a single goddamn second. Then suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I notice Matt Millen walking up to the porch with one of those insipid “ultra-thin” 90’s flip phones pressed against his ear. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know precisely what he’s about to say, and yet I can do absolutely nothing to prevent him from saying it. Millen stops on my front stoop, hangs up the phone and with tears in his eyes, says very gravely “congratulations Nina, the Detroit Lions have won the Superbowl.”
The words bring me no joy however; something is very wrong. My mind cannot accept the news and the rejection of this unreality starts to tear the entire dream apart. Instantly, the world around me begins to swirl out of orbit – Marvin Gaye transforms into Kid Rock, the sour apple lean in my hand turns to Zima and my loved ones are replaced by evil, midget carnies wearing my dead father’s skin in a macabre spectacle designed solely to mock the living. Millen’s face becomes a writhing mask of maggots and a million voices cry out in unison from the gaping hole where the ex-GM’s mouth was moments ago. “The Lions will never win the Superbowl so long as they are owned by the Ford family” they hiss, before adding “you will also die penniless and broken, strung out on Lysol in the mental ward of a public hospital.” I wake up sweating and clutching my chest, only able to discern dream from reality because there is simply no way on god’s green mutherfucking earth, that the Detroit fucking Lions will ever win a Superbowl.
I tell you these things not to frighten you gentle reader, but because therapy is really fucking expensive and also because I need you to understand the horrifying mental landscape into which each new Detroit Lions season is born. The Detroit Lions will never win the Superbowl – you know it, I know it and believe it or not, every single wretched, pitiable Slappy in the mitten still brave enough to call themselves a Lions fan, knows it. In our hearts, we realize that each new season brings only fear, confusion and the excruciating pain of waiting for the precise moment when the Lions will inevitably collapse under the sheer mass of their own incompetent bullshit. Some years this moment will come early, some years it will come late, but sure as the goddamn sun rises above the mid-morning smog – it will come. The curtains go up, fall marches towards winter and all hope is soon lost; wash, rinse and repeat until the curse of Bobby Layne has finally claimed its toll in the last seconds before Armageddon.
Even during those rare moments, when the stars align, the fish boil in the sea and the Lions manage to overcome mind-fucking levels of self-inflicted dumbshitfuckery through the power of blind, emotionless luck – the team still finds some new and spectacular way to piss all over itself, typically on live national television. Try and imagine for a moment, the swirling, inescapable vortex of failure an organization must create to rip the still beating heart out of the greatest running back in the history of this stinking mudhole, and toss it into a towering inferno of indifference and greed. Picture the gobsmacking ineptitude required to make the most cherished hero the team has ever known, walk away from the game in his prime rather than spend one more, solitary moment propping up the festering corpse of the dumbest goddamn franchise in the annals of football. What does it take to make Superman say “screw you guys, I’m going home?” That really isn’t the sad part though folks, the really fucking sad part is that Barry Sanders retired in abject disgust with his own team and Lions fans really couldn’t fucking blame him! Only one franchise in league history has managed to complete an entire goddamn season without winning a single fucking game. Only one franchise in league history has forced its fans into a multi-year open revolt to remove a thundering ignoramus of a general manager who’d become an open mockery throughout the rest of the league. Only one franchise has hired a head coach who lied about being a US Marine or employed an assistant who got so shitfaced he decided to hit the Wendy’s drive through stark fucking naked. Even now, the Lions are in the process of wasting the last quality years of a WR so physically gifted they call the son of a bitch Megatron ; the feckless wonders in the front office appear to be actively hell bent on replacing him with an angry midget who is only in town because he fucked his last QB’s wife in the middle of a Superbowl season! In your wildest dreams, you simply could not concoct the Kafkaesque bullshit that passes for business as usual for this dumpster fire of a franchise. It’s a Motown meltdown waiting to happen and to the shock of precisely nobody who follows the team; it happens every year.
You would think that after a while, the staggering monotony of it all would finally deaden the soul of even the most passionate Lions fan. Alas however, like a scorching case of herpes, there is always… hope. Hope that this time, we have finally found the right coach, the right quarterback, the right answer to the age old question – “the sun shines on even a mangy dog’s ass someday, right?” Like a virus, hope claws past your defenses; shredding logic, reason and historical precedent alike on its way to your sloppy, Honolulu blue heart. No matter how hard you try, hope cannot be resisted, defeated or completely extinguished so long as you’re alive enough inside to still hate everything about the band Vampire Weekend. Your mind reminds you that this trip always ends in suffering and pain, but your heart so desperately wants to believe that this one, single, glorious time, Lucy will not snatch the ball away just before shoe strikes leather. Hope is the deceiver, the soul killer, the little set of chains that indicate you’ve come up short on fourth down in your own goddamn redzone. Hope is a mutherfucker my friends; and I can tell you right now that both you and I would most assuredly be better off without it. There is no purpose for hope but to cause pain down here in Lion Town and yet every fall, hope drives us all mad just the same.
Tomorrow, another Detroit Lions game shall rise into being amidst this staggering gestalt of craven longing and quiet, pigskin desperation. Fans will gather together in the holy places of this tortured convocation and partake of chicken wings, alcohol and that old familiar Jonestown – I mean Motown – Kool-aid. Passions will be raised and hearts will be broken; but through it all, the band will march on – playing the same sad song of what might have been if only Grandma Ford had practiced effective forms of birth control. Tick, tock, like the chimes of a clock, here come the Lions again and boy do they suck cock.
- Nina Illingworth