three cups deep: celebration

>> 11.23.2009


A bar full of people going completely wild; strangers high fiving and shouting and yelling and pounding the tables.  Cell phones ringing, hands clapping, chants, and glasses being drained.  In the middle of it all, a young man and his three-and-a-half-year-old son: screaming, yelling, signalling "TOUCHDOWN", and revelling in the moment.

As much as the victory over the Redskins marked the end of an era--of Matt Millen, Rod Marinelli, and total futility--this moment marked the beginning of a new one: the era of Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz, and Matthew Stafford.  At this point, if you're reading these words, you already know the story.

Matthew Stafford, after scrambling all over the field and back, with time long since expired, let fly a Hail Mary to the back of the end zone--and got driven hard into the turf, destroying his left shoulder.  After Hank Poteat was flagged for shoving Bryant Johnson out of bounds, Stafford was helped up; he staggered to the sideline, and collapsed.  As team doctors worked on the Forty Million Dollar Man, Daunte Culpepper took the field.

There was a buzz throughout the stadium (and the bar)--both concern for Stafford, and excitement for what was to come; after all, here it was!  The Lions had one yard to go to win!  While I'm no fan of Daunte Culpepper, if you tell me I need one yard on one play to win, and give me a 6’-6”, 260-pound quarterback who can run . . . well, I like those odds.

Suddenly, the Browns called timeout—and suddenly Matthew Stafford, visibly in pain, gamely gimped back out to onto the field.  One play in hand, one yard to go, and zero seconds on the clock . . . touchdown.  With that, Stafford became both the first rookie to throw 5 TDs in a game since 1937, and the unquestioned leader of this franchise.  In the words of Kevin Smith:

"It makes me feel good, I almost want to cry -- knowing you've got a teammate out there like that, he's willing to put it all on the line and there's no telling what his injury is, how serious it is. You define the type of player you are, the type of person you are. It comes down to one play with everything on the line. He could've easily let Daunte (Culpepper) come in and take the play. But he wanted to be out there.

This will be Matt Stafford's signature win.  If he flames out in a blaze of interceptions, people will point to this win and wonder what might have been.  If he goes on to be the next Elway, and the Lions win multiple Super Bowls with him at the helm, this will be the game they point to and say “It all started when . . .” 

There’s no word yet on whether the new avatar of the franchise will be available to lead his team in the annual celebration of Lions football, Thanksgiving.  X-rays showed no broken bones; an MRI is set for today.  Still, even if he’s out for the remainder of the season, he’s proven what kind of quarterback he is, he’s proven what kind of man he is, and he’s made this team his own.

As the surge of euphoria quieted to beaming joy, Lions fans at the bar all buzzed and chatted and laughed.  A few came up to my son and exchanged high-fives with the biggest little fan in the place.  One fan came over to me and said, “Are you . . . Ty?  Is your name Ty?”  It turned out to be Minker, a regular reader and well-spoken commenter.  We shook hands, caught up, and then left for home with dozens of other fans, buzzing about the incredible win we’d just witnessed.

The Lions may be 2-8, folks, but the blue fire still burns.  Lions fans everywhere have been desperate for this win, desperate for a reason to hold their heads high and be proud.  Today, folks, do it.  Hold your head high.  Wear your colors, if you can, and speak out loud.  Go on the forums and the message boards and set blue fire to everything.  We’ll remember this day for the rest of our lives . . .

. . . and judging by the way my son raved about it for the rest of the night, maybe he will, too.


A Lion in ViQueen territory,  November 23, 2009 at 10:03 AM  

I feel content - like after I ate a big meal. After pounding my head on my desk at the end of the first quarter and saying "It's not fair," the Lions prove me wrong.


Hopefully they keep the hunger for Thursday's game. Can you get the Watchtower out by Wednesday lunchtime?


Anonymous,  November 23, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

This win was different. I think this team came together yesterday.

Stafford WILL play Thursday, if he has to be superglued together to do it.

Anthony W. Gibbs

Ty,  November 23, 2009 at 10:48 AM  


Indeed, the gnawing hunger for a win has been partially satiated . . . I hope they're drooling, as I am, for a Thanksgiving feast!

Watchtower? Yeah, I got your back. It helps that Green Bay's already been analyzed; all of the statistical fiddle-faddle's been done.

Great comment, man; thanks!


Anonymous,  November 23, 2009 at 11:16 AM  

I'm going to echo Anthony's opinion and say that as of yesterday Matt Stafford became the LEADER of the Lions. Stafford didn't have to give interviews to the press like Kitna predicting 10 wins and a chance for the playoffs. Stafford's WILL to win yesterday, his refusal to lose was appreciated not only by the guys on the roster (i.e. K34's statement) but Lions fans as well with the possible exception of the guy over at Church of Schwartz. 1.1 to 1.20 Lions win 38-37, sweet! The Lions have much to do in upgrading the roster, but yesterday, if only for a day, Lions fans caught a glimpse of what winning is all about. And yesterday without a doubt proved the Lions are learning how to win.


Matt,  November 23, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

I just have to quote myself here:

"You have to put the Browns' defense in perspective: MY perspective. My fantasy football team went into that game needing the Browns to hold Joe Flacco AND Ray Rice to less than 14 points. They combined for 13! This threw me into a 4-way division tie (all 5-5) instead of being two games back. The Browns D also aided this by keeping the Ravens' kicker in check. So, even though the team lost, the Browns D was simply stepping up to help out a fantasy football geek. :-)

We can now extrapolate this to next week's Lions/Browns game. The only player from this game on either fantasy roster is Matt Stafford (my opponent as no Lions or Browns). He will be on my bench behind Brett Favre. This surely means that Stafford will have his break-out game, throwing for 400 yards and 5 TDs, as the Lions completely trounce the Browns while my Las Vegas Kings lose a heartbreaker. :-)"

Clearly, I'm on to a powerful Lions prognostication tool here. While the Lions did not "trounce" the Browns, as I "predicted," Matt Stafford just had the break-out game of all breakout games. He threw for, ahem, over "400 yards and 5 TDs," including a game-winning 1-yard throw to his fellow rookie tight end with literally no time left on the clock. Oh yeah, and he had to limp back on the field on crutches with his throwing arm in a sling. Wow.

I know it was against a terrible team, but The Millen Era Lions couldn't conceive of winning a game this way or a quarterback capable of pulling it off. I honestly believe that if Culpepper had been in there on the last play, we lose. Same ol' Lions. This was a statement win. There might not be a ton more this season, but I can't wait for Thanksgiving. I'll be thankful if Stafford can go. :-)

BTW - Even with Stafford's 43 points on my bench, Brett Favre led my fantasy football team to victory!

Ty,  November 23, 2009 at 12:03 PM  


Agreed. I wonder, if it's a separated non-throwing shoulder, will they harness it up and let him go out there? The short, short week really hurts this; if he rests it until gametime, he'll miss all the walkthroughs for a complex and aggressive Dom Capers defense. Leader forged from iron or not, I'll be hard-pressed to agree that he'll make it out on the field for Thursday--but I'd LOVE to be wrong.


Ty,  November 23, 2009 at 12:35 PM  


Great to see you commenting! Hope all's been well with you and yours.

"As of yesterday Matt Stafford became the LEADER of the Lions"

I think that's exactly right. If there was ever any doubt amongst the veteran Lions about Stafford versus Culpepper, it's been erased. I think this is HIS team now; he's proven that he's the man to lead this franchise to its future.

"yesterday, if only for a day, Lions fans caught a glimpse of what winning is all about"

Yes, and I'll be savoring that taste of the future for quite a while.


Ty,  November 23, 2009 at 12:46 PM  


I was actually going to go back and quote you on that, man . . I still might! You absolutely called it; two evenly-matched (terrible) teams that can't run are going to throw, and if you throw enough against a bad defense, touchdowns will happen.

The call on Stafford's stats is awesome! I'm pleased that my own prognostication was so far off the mark. :)


PS--Congrats to your Las Vegas Kings!

Hyperion Ecta,  November 23, 2009 at 8:31 PM  

It definitely was a special day. The greatest in my time as a life fan and I shall remember it always.

Neil,  November 23, 2009 at 10:42 PM  

Oh man, the end of that game made me freak out like a damn fool. It was beautiful.

minker,  November 25, 2009 at 9:42 AM  

Ty, it was great to meet you and your son Sunday, what an incredible day! I feel so good about our team now. Having a leader with the will to win is so inspiring and I think inspiration is a lot of what this team's been lacking. I can't see any players sitting on their laurels after this effort. This team has been so hungry for a leader.

By the way, The NFL Channel will be rebroadcasting the game tonight at 8:00 in HD on NFL Replay! WHOO HOO!

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