A couple of years ago, I had what might be called a quarterlife crisis. I’d just bought a minivan—relegating my newish five-door Pontiac Vibe to pointlessly capacious commuter duty. In a move designed to both lower my car payment and raise my self-esteem, I decided to trade it in for an older two-seat convertible. After months of looking for just the right car, negotiating with the dealer, dealing with the bank, navigating my way through the credit crunch, and getting the stamp of approval from Mrs. Inwinter, I finally got everything arranged. All the pieces were in place, all the numbers were crunched—and though the deal went right down to the absolute bottom dollar, I knew I had finally gotten what I wanted.
I called the dealer to arrange pickup. When I asked what I needed to bring with me, he said “Your proof of insurance, title, and payoff statement.” With fresh memories of the test drive whizzing through my head, I asked my bank to fax over a copy of the payoff statement. They did so. It was a thousand dollars higher than I thought it’d be.
To this day I don’t know how I screwed this up, but I thought I’d owed exactly one thousand dollars less than I really did. There was nothing to be done; I’d already spent a week going back and forth to make it happen. I’d negotiated so hard that at one point, I was in a room with the salesman, the sales manager, the service manager, and the general manager, bending them all to my will. To suddenly be a thousand dollars apart meant it was over.
I halfheartedly kept searching for another car, another deal, but it wasn’t meant to be. I was, I thought, thirty minutes away from swapping keys and driving a real, live sports car home . . . instead, I was back in the wagon. I was crushed, and for a long time felt fated—doomed, even—to drive this car into the ground. Sadly, I consigned myself to waiting for my midlife crisis.
In the meantime, though, it’s become easy to remember why I bought this Vibe to begin with: it’s big inside without being big outside, it gets great mileage, and—with a stick—is surprisingly fun to drive, even with five doors and a sewing machine engine. It’s far from what I wanted, and even farther from what I imagine I’ll be in the market for come Model Year 2031. But even though it doesn’t put the “permagrin” on my face, I’ve spent a few years wringing enjoyment from this ride; I know how to be happy with it. I know exactly how hard I can push it around every corner on my commute. I know that with a well-timed downshift, I can coax just enough “zing” from it to gleefully thumb my nose at an oblivious cell-phone-jabbering Saturn Vue owner as I pass them with authority.
In some ways, it’s pathetic; I’m psyching myself into getting my he-man car-guy rocks off within the context of posted speed limits. But in other ways, it’s simply acknowledging reality: I’m a happily committed family man, working hard to give my kids every opportunity that I can. I’m not going to eat my cake unless my family can have it, too—and that day just isn’t here yet. So, I’m making do with what I’ve got—and frankly, I’m more blessed than many around these parts these days.
Being happy while following this Lions team is much the same. It isn’t what I want—and God knows That Glorious Day has seemed right around the corner so many times. But . . . this is what I’ve got. I’m a Lions fan. If I tried to drape myself in the colors of a winner, it would be a hollow lie. Until the day comes when the Lions win games consistently, I’m going to revel in the glory of Calvin Johnson stiff-arming half the Bears’ defense en route to the end zone. I’m going to go crazy about Cliff Avril picking up the slack for an injured KVB with a three-sack masterpiece of a breakdout performance. And, yes, I’m going to queue up YouTube and watch Drew Stanton run for paydirt and do something vaguely resembling “the Dougie.”
I’m not going to let this team’s limitations, inexperience, and bad luck ruin my Sundays; I’m just going to watch and cheer and hope, and cherish the good stuff that happens while the snows roll in. It’s going to be a long, long winter when this season’s said and done . . . maybe the longest winter yet. With an NFL lockout looming on the horizon, it’s possible that there might not even be Lions football in 2011. So, please, don’t tune out. Don’t unplug. Don’t let Packers fans take over our stadium next week. Don’t miss out on the really cool moments this team is generating, even without some of their best players. Make do with what you’ve got, and be thankful you’ve got something to make do with at all.