So I have something on my mind and when it’s 1 o’clock in the morning and you are a chronic insomniac, you do what all good insomniacs do… you put pen to paper - or fingers to keyboards, to be more literal. In my opinion, insomniacs are the best at coming up with ridiculously delicious theories that only one with empty time and a peculiar imagination can dream up at odd hours. I’m guessing this is why vampires seem so brooding and thoughtful. Anyway, if you are not in the mood to listen to someone wax (or maybe ramble) poetic about hypothetical circumstances and do a little therapeutic grumbling as well, maybe you should skip this rant. Or at the very least, drink 8-10 beers and wait until 2 a.m. and then read it. It’s like watching the "Wizard of Oz" while listening to "The Wall" stoned (foreshadowing….), it might only make sense that way. As I begin to type, I am starting to feel that guttural awareness that this could get rather lengthy. No sense fighting the urge, so…..
I’ll start by posing what should be a rhetorical question, but it ends up being much deeper than it appears. Will Lions’ fans actually change their historically cynical mindset if we win a Super Bowl? Seems simple enough, right? I mean most of us on instinct would go, "Uh, duh… yes, of course they will. I mean, it’s only what we’ve been waiting our whole lives for, right? My life will be complete." Sure. In theory, that seems like a cure-all for a plight that’s plagued us all since, well…. forever, I guess. I’m not sure that many of us on here were alive to see the championships of the 50’s, so no one here knows what that was like. You know, to be the King of the Hill in the NFL. That’s the plight of which I speak. Knowing nothing but losing as a fan. Never tasting victory. Never reaching the apex of our beloved sport. Year-by-year, growing deeper and deeper into our cynical selves. This, of course, is why we are all cynics at the core. There are different levels of cynicism amongst our ranks to be sure, but let’s face it… we have all grown skeptical, sarcastic and distrustful that the Lions will ever be known for anything other than perennial failure.
The latter part of the previous paragraph is what I want to delve into first. The slow mental decay of the optimistic side of our "fan-brains". It has happened to us all whether we want to admit it or not. Even the most positive person on this site thinks the same thing whenever the Lions play and things start going sour…. "Oh no… here we go again. Down the rabbit hole. Same. Old. Lions." Ugh. That simple three word phrase is nails on a chalkboard for me to read, but I’ll admit, there are moments each and every season when I say that in my head. We all do it. Why? Because it is now firmly ingrained in us. Beaten into our collective subconscious by years of abuse at the hands of mediocre teams, inept coaches and worse, General Managers not fit to manage a monkey shit fight at the zoo. This history for Lions’ fans is akin to Pink Floyd’s classic album "The Wall". Each game, each play is a brick that, over time, creates a wall that segregates us from the successful franchises and fanbases of the league and locks us up within our own cells of callousness and cynicism. The only fleeting comfort is the realization that the cells we are locked in are part of a larger sanitarium for the clinically football-insane. In other words, we are not alone.
And to illustrate, I think the Lions’ fan asylum looks something like this:
While it’s comforting to know that there are others that feel the same as you, it’s not a cure. It’s just a simple distraction from the fact that you are mentally fucked like everyone else in the loony bin. The bigger question is, "Is there hope of a cure?" Ah, now we are getting to the meat and potatoes of the discussion. The cure in this case is a Super Bowl win. Or is it? See, this just isn’t so simple. This is more than evident when you look at the overarching reactions to winning seasons… what few of them we have. Throughout the 90’s, the Lions had quite a few winning seasons and several playoff appearances (yeah, I know… no playoff wins. Just more bricks). Two seasons ago, we had a ten-win season and made the playoffs. While there might be slightly more optimism the following year, there is never an overarching theme of redemption or progress (and I speak generally; it’s more about an en masse viewpoint). What do we find instead of hope and progress? There is hesitancy. There is mistrust of possible success. There is cynicism. Warranted? Ah, again, we come to the crux of our disease. History has tethered us to the pain of losing. (See that nice tie-in to my title?) It’s a crutch to our thinking. It clouds our outlook and beats down our optimism. The question of whether or not we should be distrusting or hesitant of success becomes irrelevant, because ultimately, we don’t have a choice. We just ARE.
So now here we are. The Lions’ miserable history fully intact and it sits there like a piece of shrapnel buried in your side, causing you pain regardless of what you do and no surgery exists as an option to remove it. Years have gone by and the bricks are stacked so high there is no hope of tearing it down. Me… I’m 38. Not too old yet, but seasoned enough to have a lot of bricks in my cell. I might not be locked deep down in the dungeon like some of you, because I think I left more holes for windows than the average fan (I think maybe DLions4Eva has the most windows), but nevertheless, I am in the sanitarium. I look around at the fans of other sites and while negativity is everywhere, no fanbase out there is as mentally defeated as the Lions’. We are a joke nationally and we are a joke amongst ourselves. The punchline is simply us, which is sickening to me. Even a good young quarterback and possibly the best wide receiver in the history of the game isn’t enough to garner much credibility. It’s become a twisted culture. Shit, our own beat writers even seem to be in on the running gag of futility, which further suppresses the hope that each new season should bring. Fans are SO hesitant to be optimistic or dare I say, hopeful. I know, I know…. I am starting to generalize way too much here. Of course there are fans that predict 12 wins for us, etc., but you know what… they become the butt of the joke after the first loss and that, my friends, is the disease in its full manifestation. They become the butt of the joke OF OTHER LIONS’ FANS! We bring up that prediction over and over and shove it in their face like it’s a BAD thing to have hope or to have hoped for a good season. How dare we? Again, we are tethered to the pain of losing.
To take this even further, a case can be made that Lions’ fans actually ENJOY losing. For all you sitting back there with a "bah" type of response, hear me out. This masochistic tendency is present in almost every thread on this site and is the inspiration for this post. The last few days, a lot of discussion on POD has been around optimism versus negativism versus realism, but in all those discussions there is an underlying theme of finding satisfaction from simply loving to hate the Lions. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it hits you in the face, but it is always there in some form. I am quite vexed by this. The only thought that I can assemble here is that this is HOW we have learned to watch and love the Lions. We don’t watch to enjoy, we watch to critique. We don’t always care if they win, because there is more to criticize if they lose… or have to draft high… or have to fire a coach. Even if it’s subconscious. It’s drama. It’s why this country loves reality television. Chaos is interesting. I feel like at an instinctive level, our DNA has been altered. The football gene for Lions’ fans has devolved into needing a certain amount of inconsistency or negative events to feel satisfied. It’s ingrained now.
At this point, in what is likely becoming an incoherent barrage of word vomit, we can go back to the idea of the Lions winning a Super Bowl. Ah hell, for shits and giggles, let’s say it is this year. Let’s say that the planets align and Christ Himself ascends from Heaven and the Apocalypse is upon us and the Lions do the unthinkable and have a great season that ends in a Super Bowl victory. See! 90% of you are either rolling your eyes, snickering or full-on belly-laughing right now. Theory proven. But I digress…. So the Lions actually win the Super Bowl. Does our culture of loving to hate the Lions automatically get cured? Does one Super Bowl win wipe out the corrosive filth that fills most of our now rotted fan-brains? Do we go into next season filled with hope and feel the dawning of a new day? Hm. I’m not so sure we do. Honestly, I think we would miss being able to bitch about the faux pas. We would miss the court jester when he comes in all respectable in a suit and tie. We’ve all grown accustomed to seeing him be the clown of the court, the butt of our jokes. We want to throw tomatoes at him and see him make an ass of himself. It amuses us. It entertains us. It fuels our conversations and unites the members of the sanitarium. It’s hard to throw tomatoes at a nice shiny respectable suit. History has taught us that the Lions are the court jester of the league. A cute little team that sometimes tries hard, but at the end of the day, the knights of the court put the jester in his place. It’s been this way for so long, that we’ve accepted the role we’ve been handed and have just learned to love the Jester for who he is and subconsciously don’t want to see him knighted. I love a good analogy, don’t you?
So now that I’ve verbally defecated all over your screen and you are thinking, "Did I really just waste like 20 minutes reading this garbage", I don’t really know what I am looking for as a response. I think I just wanted to capture this thought, because there are times that I really hate being a Lions’ fan and part of the contentment to be miserable. I also want to make it clear, that I am not singling members out here, I am generalizing and I count myself as one of the fans whose fan-brain has been saturated by our history and turned to cynical goo. I guess I am just curious about others’ thoughts about this and whether or not you all see a disparity between the Lions’ fanbase and those of other, more historically successful NFL teams. I hope that some decent dialogue follows. Maybe dialogue is the drug that helps relieve the symptoms and the cure is a façade that will never come, even with a Super Bowl win. If that’s the case, thank God for Pride of Detroit. Holy shit, I need to get some sleep…..
I wanted to wait until today to post this because I wanted a chance to re-read this today to make sure I wanted to actually post it. After reading it… yikes. But I decided, what the hell…..