It’s about a staggering record of futility in a league built on parity, about the beaten dog response of a fan crawling back to the television, the stadium, the bar, only to be humiliated again, while shouldering the trash talk of the drunken enthusiast who somehow thinks fandom speaks to their own ability. It’s about hope in the midst of irrepressible evidence to the contrary, and about the attempt to find a streaking ray of sunshine in the firing of a moron, the collection of a high draft pick, and the calming tranquility of the unknown. It’s about continuously forgetting the past.
It’s about a franchise that’s been rebuilding since 1956, that got lucky and landed the best player of all time, only to squander his talent, betray his confidence, and destroy his love for the game. It’s about the seats that stayed filled, about the management that didn’t care, about the brutal bottom line in the mortgaged souls of an out of work fan-base. It’s about the owner who fired his employees, destroyed their beloved team, and still expected them to buy American and show up on game day. Inexplicably, it’s about those of us that did.
It’s about how that makes you feel after sticking through the down times, and how the down times just seem to get worse. It’s about a lump in your throat and the dull ache in your heart and the silver which more resembles the sickening gray of the omnipresent Michigan winter. It’s about when Honolulu blue is a frame of mind steeped in depression, beyond the conceivability of a sunny island sparkling with sun and wave. It’s about testing fandom to its limits.
It’s about dreaming the fools dream and thinking that preseason means anything. It’s about turning a 4-0 preseason run into a sign of things to come, duped by your own need to see something, anything other than what has been. It’s about a preseason slogan “believe in now,” foisted upon you by a propaganda machine that needed you to believe, to buy a ticket or two, to update the Barry Sanders merchandise that you fastidiously clung to. It’s about spending your $15 for a “believe in never” T-shirt that you found on-line instead.
But it’s also about taking it like a warrior. It’s about getting knocked out in the fiftieth consecutive round, spitting teeth and blood, eyes swollen tight around a purple cabbage patch face. It’s about never even considering throwing in the towel, content to suffer the brain damage that surely must be associated with this kind of beat down. It’s about taking the jibes from the Patriots/Cowboys/Steelers fan who seems to have a reason why he roots for all three: about his uncle in Texas, his mom’s cousin in Pennsylvania, and how he thinks his grandfather’s brother-in-law’s second cousin on his mother’s side may have had a great, great, great, great, great, great auntie whose friend bought a mug from that silversmith Paul Revere. It’s about never renouncing your vows, and hoarding them jealously. It’s about knowing in full certainty that you ain’t on no bandwagon.
And it’s about results. There’s no denying that. It’s about being the best worst team in NFL history: for a season, for a decade, for half a century. It’s about the Bad News Bears meets Groundhog’s Day, waking up every September with the vague familiarity that nothing has really changed. It’s about new manager, new coach, new players, same story. It’s about the looming specter of the Fords, rattling their ghostly chains that have somehow landed you in purgatory. It’s about humbling yourself with fandom, expecting nothing, and giving the best of your soul. It’s about purging without catharsis or redemption.
0-16. Inglorious perfection.
It’s the story of the Detroit Lions and the saga continues…