As the self-appointed “flamekeeper”, I take it upon myself to tend the blue bonfire that us frozen, weary Lions fans huddle around. Ever since that frostbitten, breath-freezing morning back in December--when there was no hope, no chance, and nothing left to cheer for—I’ve been striking silver flints to make blue sparks, guarding the little tendrils of flame from the wind with my hands, packing snow against snow to keep blowing drifts from smothering the fire, and worked tirelessly to keep that blaze alive.
A few kindred souls saw the silver smoke rising, far off on the bleak horizon. Teeth chattering, they trudged through the snow. One by one, Lions fans gathered here from all over the world, holding up their hands to the fire, and thawing out a little bit. The few hardy folks who’ve come back again and again over the interminable, Siberian offseason have been joined by more and more new faces. Today, on the morning when the Lions’ 2009 football season begins in earnest, I’m pleased to say the lonely little fire now roars; the grim gathering of a few embattled, frostbitten fans is now more like a party.
Amidst a small crowd of Lions fans gathered to talk honestly and intelligently about the team they support, you see me, sporting my furry winter hat. I’m stoking the flames of fandom. I’m chopping, splitting, and hauling the wood and kindling. I’m pulling draughts from casks of hot spiced cider (and splashing in shots of warm spiced rum), and passing the steins around. I’m shaking hands and slapping backs, glad to see the men and women and boys and girls who’ve come again to share their friendship, and their fandom.
Today, it begins. The long months of cursing and conjecture, of complaint and celebration, of draft grades and free agent ‘shopping lists’ and trades both blockbuster and lackluster . . . now, metal meets metal. Plastic meets plastic. Beef meets beef. As deeply (and accurately!) as this game can be quantified with a database, slide rule, or graphing calculator, it’s all talk until two tons’ worth of muscle and sinew collide like an angry bull and a slow matador. For all the many words that have been written—and will be written, here--breaking down the players and coaches and alignments and position battles to come over the next few weeks, all that really matters is what happens on green grass and white lines in Allen Park. For the first time since I created this space, we as fans will discuss not what has happened in the past, nor what might happen in the future, but what is happening now—your rebuilt, reborn, re-branded Detroit Lions taking the field and playing football.
Take a second, wherever you are, and raise your stein of cider to that.