Guillaume de L'Hospital, the great 17th century French Mathematician, wrote the first book of differential calculus and is largely credited with the invention of "L'Hospital's rule" an expression that allows for the solving of limits of indeterminate form.
What does this have to do with the Detroit Lions?
Well the numbers of "indeterminate form" that L'Hospital was considering, involved fractions in which zero and infinity were either divided by themselves or each other.
For example, how can you rate the improvement of a team that won zero games last season?
We can't rightly say that the Lions are twice as good as they were last year, for example, because twice as good as zero is still zero.
This is where our old friend L'Hospital comes into play.
In the same sense that zero is the complete absence of anything (in this case wins) infinity represents the other end of that spectrum, a number of largeness beyond reckoning.
It would therefore take a number of this size to transform zero into any real integer such as one, the number posted by the Lions with their first win in nearly two calendar years Sunday afternoon vs. the Washington Redskins.
We can now say that the Lions are therefore infinitely better than they were last year, and thus can lay claim to the title, "most improved NFL team of all time."
Only a team that has spent a winless season can even fathom this type of turnaround.
A team that won a single game in a given year and then 16 the next, would only be 16 times better (from a record standpoint) and thus couldn't even come close to the infinite improvement of the Lions.
In a game that wasn't exactly the prettiest ever played, the Lions somehow held on and experienced the phenomenon that mathematicians, religious scholars, and general ponderers have considered for millennia.
The creation of something from nothing.
Early in the game, the Lions looked sharp with rookie Matthew Stafford hooking up with Bryant Johnson for a touchdown strike that capped off an impressive 99-yard drive.
This was set up by a goal line stand turned in by a ramped up defense that played remarkably well throughout the entire game.
When the field was segmented vertically, with clear throwing lanes, Stafford was accurate and threw darts, showing the strong arm that made him the No. 1 pick.
He still struggled however when the field set up horizontally and required him to put some air under the ball or drop it in between zones.
Nonetheless, the kid clearly looked the best we've seen so far, and with 21-of-36 passing for 241 yards one TD and zero interceptions, I'd say that he might be on his way to some good things for the Lions.
Add a solid rushing effort from Kevin Smith, who broke 100 yards before injuring his shoulder in the second half, and inspired play by the aforementioned defense, and the Lions looked like a team headed in the right direction.
Granted, the Redskins looked absolutely terrible, such that no matter how many times the Lions tried to lose the game the Skins gave it right back to them, but at this point, a win's a win and Lions fans everywhere should be rejoicing.
Just too bad that not many of them actually went to the game.
In front of the smallest crowd to witness a Lions game in 20 years, the team battled, put pressure on Jason Campbell, bottled up Clinton Portis, and made some timely plays in the secondary.
And though the Lions have a long way to go, as this was a game they probably should've won by a good bit more, I've got nothing but smiles to offer any of you.
The Lions win!
I'll say that again because it felt so good.
The Lions win!
It seems like anything is possible.
Super Bowl, Baby!
Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Great minds like L'Hospital were only considering the conundrum of infinity, whereas Lions fans have been considering an even more bewildering enigma for far too long.
But here's what I know.
From zero came one.
And if it took infinity to get there, then another one, two, or ten can't be that far behind.