how sweet it is

>> 9.28.2009

Panic. White-knuckled, full-body panic as the Redskins drove for the game winning touchdown. So conditioned to failure, so used to heartbreak, so prepared for defeat. It was going to happen, I was sure of it. Frantically, my subconcious began running scenarios, trying to imagine exactly how the Lions were going to blow this game. I knew they would lose again, and it would crush me again. All I wanted to know was how, so I could start bandaging the 20th straight blow to my spirit.

Sometimes, I wish I had the jaded heart of the bandwagon jumpers. The fools who turned off their TV/radio/internet feed after halftime, when the Redskins overpowered the Lions like an older brother who just decided to start playing "for real". The tools who, come December, will be sporting all their Lions gear and trying to high-five me like we're united in fandom. The ones who've never felt the urge to run for the door before this team discovers yet another way to lose.

As the clock ticked off the closing seconds, and Redskins chucked the ball around, I still thought it could be snatched away. I'd still thought I'd be spending another evening looking at the bright side; another night of taking the positives. Another Monday at the coffee pot, weakly grinning at my co-workers' playful jabs; another thousand words written about how things are probably getting better.

It may sound silly, but I didn't feel like victory was secure until the ball landed in Ladell Betts's hands. I knew that every damn Lion on the field was faster than him; at that point victory was inevitable. That pure, sweet moment of elation was the emotional cash-in on almost two entire years of suffering. My BlackBerry exploded with calls and texts and Tweets and emails and everything else. The sports bar I was at erupted in cheers and claps and whistles.

I received much dap for my Stafford jersey. Several folks asked me where I got it; one even asked me how much I paid. It was already starting! I had a grin on my face that absolutely could not be erased. On my way out, I stopped at the restroom, and encountered an absolutely plastered Browns fan--one of almost twenty who'd gathered at this particular establishment. He congratulated me on the win, then mentioned he was this close to buying a Favre jersey and becoming a Vikings fan.

I wish I could say I gave that man a rousing speech about fandom and loyalty and respect, about how joy when your team wins is fraudulent unless you steadfastly greive when your team loses, and about screw the stupid Vikings anyway. But, of course, I didn't. Besides not being anywhere near sober enough to take the message to heart, such a "fan" will always be that kind of fan. No sense wasting good breath after bad . . .

The Lions, and Lions fans, are getting a lot of love right now nationally for not being an 0-19 team anymore. Well, they're right. We celebrate this victory tonight--and then the Lions are merely 1-2. Celebrate, Matt Stafford. Celebrate, Calvin Johnson. Celebrate, all you Lions who've never tasted victory before. Celebrate . . . and then get to work. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of the season.

4 comments:

Isphet,  September 28, 2009 at 11:42 AM  

The streak is finally over. Wow. Thank goodness. Now maybe the Lions can get back to football; and more importantly; learn now and prepare for the future.

All I really care about at this point is that the offense continues to improve as the year goes on; especially Stafford and Pettigrew. The Lions DID focus mostly on offense with this year's draft.

Other than a few O linemen and some backup WRs; the Lions are pretty set for quite a while on the offensive side of the ball; barring injury. QB, RB, first WR, TE, FB, RT are all set for quite some time, it seems. The future actually looks to be quite stable for the Lions' offense.

The defense is going to be iffy at best this year; we knew that going in. I just want to see the young guys make strides this year: namely Hill, Fluellen, Delmas, Levy, Dizon, Avril, Sims. With some experience and some good interior linemen, The defense could turn around quite quickly next year. We just have to be patient with it this year, as the Lions seized their opportunity this last offseason to get the final pieces of the long term puzzle for the offense.

You have to Mayhew props also for managing to get Delmas, Hill, and Levy in the later rounds; those guys just aren't enough to turn the defense completely around in one year. It's going to take a D heavy draft this following year to get the defense back to a mid-range, competitive D, and yet another year or two of D heavy drafts to turn them into a championship-caliber D for the long term. But the Lions will be able to afford to do that the next few years now that the long term offense appears to be set.

Ty September 28, 2009 at 3:20 PM  

Isphet--

I'm going to look really hard at this soon, but man oh man oh man did Levy look good. We might all be forced to eat crow on this kid. Moreover, the youngsters in general are already the heartbeat of the team. Can you believe we had five rookies starting, and a sixth as the top kick returner? It's unheard of!

I have a hard time imagining what this Lions leadership group will be able to do with another full offseason . . .

Peace
Ty

Matt,  September 29, 2009 at 1:21 PM  

I have no words and too many words to describe my feelings after this win. Those of you familiar with me from my short time as a regular poster here know that it's going to be "too many." Here we go:

While I am definitely NOT a classic Lions Pessimist (those people drive me NUTS), I also am not of the eternal optimist ilk like Ty and many of my fellow commenters. It's about self-preservation (and, at least I like to think, general NFL fandom/knowledge): after 28 years of die-hard Lions fandom, I can't allow myself to get too built up only to be crushed again. A healthy amount of skepticism actually nurses my "little blue spark."

So, my "gun to the head" prediction this season was 5-11 with "definite" wins against STL, CLE, and CHI once and the other two coming from your choice of WAS, SEA, CIN, SF, ARI, maybe MIN, and CHI again. This, IMO, would be a solid improvement. My worst-case scenario was an 0-6 start followed by a "must-win" first victory against the pitiful Rams. I DESPERATELY wanted a win in those first six games to show that I could believe the off-season hype that the Lions were indeed, finally, turning in the right direction. I couldn't fully believe it until then because, frankly, EVERY off-season has been full of the same hype.

Now it's here. Christmas came in September. After last season's loss to the 49ers (our third consecutive blow-out), I vowed to not done my Lions gear until they got a win. A MAJOR commitment that you have to know me and the depth of my Lions devotion to appreciate, but something I had to do to protect my spark. It was also a protest (albeit silent) against the then still-employed Matt Millen and his "era." At the time, the thought that it would take all season didn't, couldn't have, even occurred to me. I purchased a draft day hat when they came out (HAD to have the new logo) which I brought, unworn, to the home opener in hopes of donning it as the clock hit 0:00. Obviously, that didn't happen. After the game, I dropped some coin at the Roar Store (or whatever it's called) for a kick ass hoodie in hopes of some good karma and because I needed something from my first regular season game at Ford Field. I pretty much have not taken either article off since about 4:20 Sunday afternoon. Christmas in September.

I was seriously bummed that I couldn't watch the win due to the black-out (especially considering that a week before I was IN the dang building). With the InterWeb unavailable (a whole other story), my eyes were fixed to the ticker as I watched Brett Favre lead another miracle comeback. Lions up 19-14, about a minute and a half left, Redskins ball. Uh oh. Frankly, in recent history and as Ty describes, this was a recipe for a guaranteed Lions defeat. They had not made a defensive stand to clinch a game since, like, 1942. Fortunately, a certain eternal optimist friend of mine who was watching the game called to provide play-by-play services on the final drive. As we all know by now, the first few plays looked like "classic" Lions. But then. . .they held. The clock showed 0:00 and the scoreboard showed the Lions ahead. Christmas in September. And, for a moment, words escape me.

Matt,  September 29, 2009 at 1:22 PM  

But only for a moment. :-) The spark I've been nursing is roaring back to life. The Lions can beat anyone now (they won't, but they CAN). Bring on the Urlacher-less Bears and Polamalu-less Steelers; we'll give them a game. The Browns, Seahawks, and Rams best look elsewhere for their patsy. I'm by no means jumping on a play-off bandwagon, but the NFC North is no longer the Vikings' or Packers' to simply stroll away with. 2009 will still be rough, but the Lions are now in the business of winning and, I believe, in 2010 business will be booming. To those who would say "Chill out, it was just the Redskins," I say "But that is how it had to start, with beating bad teams - teams we didn't beat last season." The team, the organization, the fans, the city, and the state need and deserve this.

One final story: I got my oil changed yesterday and, sitting in the car in my Lions ensemble, the guy comments "Nice Lions gear, but they still haven't won." I nearly jumped out of the vehicle: "NO! They WON yesterday!" He had misheard on the radio and I immediately began to regale him with tales of a game I had seen only as a highlight reel (over and over again :-). An employee literally dashed out of the backroom to join the conversation. THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!! The flame is roaring back (they might be bandwagoners, but I'll take it)!. Thank you, Ty, for carrying the torch.

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