Welcome to another edition of Honolulu Blue Kool Aid, where the occult meets Detroit sports. Content warning for extreme flippancy.
Numbers lie, cheat, deceive and betray. Devils always love accounting and taxes; according to The Lesser Key of Solomon, the most notorious treatise on summoning the greater stations of hell, many are a duke, king and president who teach arithmetic, algebra and calculus. One of them must have created Microsoft Excel at one point; there needs be no other examples given, but we could continue on for quite a while if we’re being honest. Actual enjoyers of Excel and spreadsheets are advised to not chime in.
Without numbers, it would be impossible to discuss chaos, which has a number assigned to it, or several, but it is certainly not numberless. How shall we measure this tragedy? Don’t worry, we have the statistic.
This column is about 11 points, their generation, their lies and their sins. The Detroit Lions scored 11 points, but they also did not score 11 points. The final score between Detroit and the Cincinnati Bengals is 34 to 11, and yet I know that is false, a damnable lie that will deceive by its conceit. It is statistically true, but it also extremely wrong. The Lions got shut out, and your tomfoolery, o you wretched numbers, are only obscuring the truth.
This is an incomplete sequence of events that led up to these so-called 11 points, and the thought diary of a man lost at sea.
Midnight, October 17: The final night of Mercury in retrograde
One of the most popular questions in the history of questions is whether or not the Lions are cursed. I previously wrote and then deleted 2000 words on this subject, on the belief that discussing astrology, chaos magic and seances in the context of American football had an interminably small audience. Alas, the normies will be subject to an excerpt now.
Every year there is a period during the NFL season where Mercury falls into retrograde. This is concerning and vexing for a number of reasons, for Mercury in retrograde is a proven sign for chaos and anarchy. Plans are flipped on their heads, and communication in particular is vexed and stymied.
For a sport like football, it’s easy to see how a cosmic damper on communication can lead to terrible things. Playcalling, defensive assignments, barking at the line of scrimmage, all these can be influenced by Mercury in this manner.
Sunday represented the ultimate day of Mercury in this condition. From this premise alone we can conclude cosmic forces were at work when Jared Goff believed he could throw the ball away on fourth-and-4.
10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time: The Lions choose to begin the football game
Alea iacta est.
2Q 10:49: Jared Goff throws the ball away on fourth-and-4
Right, yes, thank you that did happen. Goff believed there was going to be a holding penalty upheld on Penei Sewell, so he threw the ball out of bounds. This was done regardless of D’Andre Swift being wide open, just as it was done regardless of how the penalty could be declined, and just as it was done regardless of the passage of the cosmos and the gods of old.
You may wonder what this play, which should join the annals of history alongside the butt fumble and Dan Orlovsky’s backwards road to glory as unbeatable plays of quarterback brilliance, has to do with 11 very sad points. I will tell you: it was an omen.
At this point, the Bengals led only by seven points. In fact, the whole matter remained very manageable right through the first half of the game. But when Goff makes a decision like this, it casts doubt on just how capable a comeback was going to become.
4Q 12:38: The Bengals loosen the grip
There is a lot that happens between Goff’s decision to throw the ball away on fourth-and-4 and Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow throwing his third touchdown pass to tight end C.J. Uzomah. That lot happens to be irrelevant. The story is known by now. The blackout is understood. The Bengals open the gates and unleash hell. The Lions answer with nothing.
This brings the time to now. Uzomah has found the end zone. With a quarter left to play, it is time to relax on defense.
4Q 12:30: Amon-Ra St. Brown catches a 9-yard pass on the first play of the drive
4Q 12:19 The Lions keep moving the ball, against better judgement
“We weren’t even in that fight,” Lions head coach Dan Campbell said. “Everything that we did there, you look at our stats offensively, that was because they were just in prevent, cover 2... we should make those plays.”
Such words are rare from the mouth of a NFL coach, and it made them all the more special and important in this spot. This garbage time is exactly where an offense saves face, almost by design. Perhaps because he is a former player, Campbell knows this song and dance well enough. He doesn’t play it. Although he refuses in the press conference to call out individual performances, it is the greatest damnation you can place upon yourself: we only performed because the other guy let us.
And it was true, dammit! Here’s the flip-side to your weeping, here’s the inverse of the Ted Lasso hope-springs-eternal (it’s not meanness, it’s this, this harsh wolf world and consequences and hell in human skin), here it is, this honesty, it is necessary, it is here and here is good. This is yin and yang, baby! You will never separate the two, and they are found within one another.
4Q 8:47: After 12 plays, Jared Goff throws incomplete and the drive stalls on CIN 19
Wait, no. I don’t like where this is going, hold up a seco-
4Q 8:36 Austin Seibert kicks a 36-yard field goal
4Q 8:36 Austin Seibert kicks a 36-yard field goal
It is the right the decision. There is no point even trying on fourth down. But god. Good Christ, Buddha, Apollo, Prophet. This is the land of despair. Pluto’s joyless realm. All the struggle, all the thrashing in this morass. Was it worth it? Was it worth it? Was it worth it?
The scoreless side is broken. There is liberation in the sense that void follows the end. Unfortunately, there is still time on the clock.
Ephemeral, ephemeral. Four minutes of struggle. Is this how you hustle and grind? Do you find success waiting for you around this bend? Do you? Do you?
4Q 8:36 plus one second in real time: The vast nothingness of space
You feel it too, don’t you? The dread chill, knowing even as bad as it was going to get, it would get worse. It’s been here with you all this time, hasn’t it? All this rage, all this shame. You could feel it coming, and you still lash and flail against it. Is this what drives you to spend your time with this sport? With this team?
Don’t deny it. You know deep inside why you are still here. You want to be. This is no blood oath that binds you to this place. The door was always there, and it has always remained unlocked. Perhaps it is the fools, the fools goading you to leave, but you won’t, you want to stay here, you want to see this dread project to its bitter end—if such an end-state even exists.
There is something profound about this trey. There is something lurid, horribly so. We compose ourselves deep in this abyss, pan-flutes lilting in the darkness. Perhaps you wanted the Lions to tank. Was it worth it?
We purse our lips, guttural intonations. “Perhaps,” he said.
4Q 5:16: The Bengals respond with a 8-play drive capped with a touchdown by Auden Tate
Joe Burrow is not on the field for this drive. This is orchestrated by backup quarterback Brandon Allen and capped by a backup receiver.
4Q ??? I think there’s a touchdown after this
D’Andre Swift salvages a little more of that spiritual hope, devoid at least of the cosmic emptiness felt earlier. The two-point conversion felt little more than a preseason drill, a chance to try something with St. Brown that might prove fruitful in another matchup.
This totals your precious 11 points.
It is desirous to take silver linings from such an ending, but after this brush with the great silence (silver cords, things of that nature) I think it is time to swear off thoughts on football for a few hours.