The Detroit Lions lost. That alone is nothing new for Lions fans to experience. But for many Lions fans, losing a tough playoff game is something they've never really had to endure, myself included:
Here's why today scares the crap out of me: Lions haven't lost a close playoff game since I was 8. I have no idea what it'll do to my psyche— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) January 4, 2015
This regrettable tweet was a mere 15 minutes before kickoff. The answer? Something not so good.
The depression of the season's end is something 31 teams have to cope with. It's a hard reality to face when the entertainment that consumes your entire Sundays is suddenly a huge void to fill for eight months. But when it happens in the playoffs -- especially in a fashion like Sunday's game -- it's an entirely different feeling. One minute you're envisioning how the Lions would look like lined up against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, the next moment you're getting nauseous at the sight of Jerry Jones and his buffoons bouncing off the walls of his ridiculous suite in his ridiculous stadium.
We Lions fans have gone through some tough losses. Whether it is a loss at the hands of some obscure rule or a loss that cements the team as the worst in history, Detroit fans have endured it all. But the devastating playoff loss is a new phenomenon to many of us, and it's hard to know how to react.
Of course, the easiest way to deal with all of this is throw all of your emotions into a little tomato-sized ball and hurl it at the refs. You'd certainly have a case, and it's hard to imagine anyone blaming you. But ref-bashing just doesn't do it for me. I understand how it's therapeutic to blame something out of the Lions' control for the loss, but poor officiating is something 32 teams have to deal with. Regardless, even if all the hatred and vitriol somehow results in a rule or infrastructure change, that's going to do little to heal the wounds of Sunday. Tell me, do you feel any better about the 2010 home opener in Chicago now that the Calvin Johnson rule is in place? Are you any less bitter about 2012 Thanksgiving with the Jim Schwartz rule in the books? Yeah, me neither.
My initial anger tomato was thrown at Jim Caldwell. My season-long bellyaching over Caldwell's conservative nature was seemingly validated the moment he decided to turtle on fourth-and-1 late in the game. The moment the clock hit zero, the entire season was Caldwell's fault. He had squandered this beautiful opportunity and only he was to blame. Of course, this is just as ridiculous of a reaction as the ref-bashing crowd, but, hey, everyone copes differently. I still think Jim made the wrong decision, but the choice isn't as clear-cut as I sometimes make it out to be, and there was plenty of other blame to spread around (*coughsammartincough*).
Soon after, I just chose to withdraw. I logged off Twitter. I turned off the phone. I went home where I could be alone. Some people tried (unsuccessfully) to console me and some argued with me, but they both hurt the same. I just didn't want to talk about it anymore. So I did some long-awaited chores. But that only distracted the body, not the mind. It wasn't soon after that I turned the phone back on only to see Ndamukong Suh sobbing. I was right there with him.
Some people can quickly turn the page and bury themselves in the offseason. The conversation quickly turns to who the Lions will draft at No. 23 or what will become of Suh or will the likes of Reggie Bush and Stephen Tulloch be around next year. But I just can't do that. It seems superhuman to be able to just put a game like that behind you less than 24 hours after the final whistle.* It doesn't help that this offseason could be a particularly harmful one and one I'd like to avoid talking about anyway.
So I guess the best way to handle it is just to face it. That just happened. It may feel like a unique travesty, but the truth is every year a team goes through something like this. Dreams are shattered, hearts are broken and fan bases have their loyalty challenged. This is going to go down as one of those games you'll never forget, and the pain won't ever truly go away. But it will fade with time. Unfortunately, we have plenty of that ahead of us. Stay strong, friends.
*By the way, kudos to Sean Yuille for being able to belt out several very well-written articles quickly after the game. He has to have some sort of superhuman strength to be able to pull that off.