Friday, October 7, 2011

Pinch Me I'm a Lions Fan

I can remember wearing the grease-smeared plain blue adjustable Lions hat that an old buddy got me as a gift one Xmas, just days after the worst season in the history of NFL Football had finally ended. There was something about wearing that hat at that time, something that felt right. People would send the odd wisecrack in my direction, but I didn't mind.

It may seem paradoxical or oxymoronic, but that pathetic 0-16 season was probably one of the times where I enjoyed being a Lions fan more than any other. Why? Because I knew it couldn't get any worse, and also -- probably more importantly -- because I was immensely proud of loving the silver and Honolulu blue, for better or for worse. A new level of ineptitude had been set by the Lions, but I wasn't about to abandon them.

Hope springs eternal, sure, but then there's also hype. And hype is what they're doing to my beloved Detroit Lions as I write. Everybody and their mother's mother thinks my Lions are going to demolish the Bears at home this Monday, and a lot of people think they are a shoe-in to make the playoffs and that they're even a possible Super Bowl contender.

But is Detroit really that good, or is the suddenly jam-packed bandwagon simply falling in love with a Cinderella story? In other words, is it hope that surrounds this fatalistic football franchise, or is it hype?

I don't care what it is, to be honest with you. I am not writing this piece to tell you how good Detroit is going to be this year or whether or not they are going to destroy the Bears in their first Monday Night Football appearance in ten years. 10 Years! 10 painful bag-over-the-head we'll-be-lucky-to-keep-this-game-close years. 10 woe is us and will somebody please fire that horrendously bad G.M. Matt Millen years. Oh, it is painful just to think about it.

But thinking about it is what I was doing as I strolled around my neighborhood like a giddy 11-year-old today, counting the minutes 'til Monday night. I was eleven years old the last time the Lions jumped out to a 4-0 record in 1980 and I can still remember the piece that the NFL Today by CBS did on them in their pre-game show that week. It featured the Queen song "Another one bites the dust" as a companion to a bunch of confident Lions dancing around in the end zone with the camera panning up at them from the ground.

I was giddy then and I am giddy now under similar circumstances, and regardless of how good or how bad this Detroit Lions season turns out to be I will remember today's feeling of anticipation -- ah, how good it feels to actually be anticipating something good instead of something atrocious for once when it comes to the Lions -- for a long, long time.

Here I am, 42 years old and going on 12. The world, once again, is the Detroit Lions oyster, just like it was back in 1980 when Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims was the catalyst for a revival of a team that was 2-14 the previous season.

I'm not foolish enough to think that it will all turn out famously. It didn't in 1980 as the Lions ended up choking badly by blowing a 14-point lead in the second half of the Thanksgiving day game against the Bears, then lost the coin flip and allowed a return for a touchdown on the first play of overtime. That pretty much did them in that year, and something similarly egregious might do the same to them this year.

But it won't bring me down if the Lions season suddenly becomes marred by some horrendously bad miscue at precisely the wrong time, or an injury to Megatron or Stafford, or a Jason Hanson shank just when we're all convinced that he's the best kicker EVER. And it won't stop me from hoping (dreaming too) that one day my beloved Lions make it all the way. Yes, I'm talking about football's holy grail: the Detroit Lions, Super Bowl champs. Imagine that? All these years of futility, leading to the single most joyous celebration in the history of sports fandom.

Ah, but I'm looking too far forward right now. I am writing this piece to celebrate the here and now. I'm living in the present -- an UNDEFEATED PRESENT might I add.

The Lions are 4-0 and people aren't laughing at my grease-stained Lions hat for the time being. It may not be confetti streaming down-post-Super Bowl-good, but it's pretty damn good considering where I've been.