“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
—Karl Marx, Contribution to Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right
Faith is a marvelous thing. It comforts those who have no other comfort. It fuels those running on empty. It inspires people to do wonderful—and terrible—things, even in the face of great adversity.
I started this blog because I was trying to do something wonderful. After 0-16, the fanbase had been reduced to two small camps: those who’d never stop caring because they loved the Lions too much, and those who’d never stop caring because they had no idea what else to be angry about on the Internet. I wanted to write to, and speak for, the former. I wanted to teach, and inspire, the latter.
As the self-appointed Flamekeeper, I’ve spent years figuratively slogging through the woods with a laden sled, and literally poring over spreadsheets ‘til I woke up the next morning upright in my chair with my hands on the keyboard. All the while, my general faith that things will turn around for the Lions—bolstered by my specific faith that the Lions have found the right executives and coaches this time around—has kept me going.
This season has been the culmination of everything I’ve worked for, and everything us fans have waited for. No more arguing, no more hypotheticals, no more drama: the Detroit Lions are going to the playoffs. All that’s left is to watch, cheer, and see how far they go.
This is an existential crisis for me. I’m reminded of a passage from Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that You exist, and so therefore, by Your own arguments, You don't. Q.E.D."
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.
On May 27th, I flatly declared The Lions are Going to Make the Playoffs. On August 18th, I said there are two possibilities for Matthew Stafford this season: injury, or becoming a Top 5 quarterback. When called out for drinking Lions Kool-Aid, I poured another round. I knew, without knowing. I believed. The glory I’ve seen far-off on the horizon since the day Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand assumed control of the franchise—the day I started this blog—is here.
And the moment itself? Where was I, as the clock on an eleven-year nightmare hit 00:00?
I was at church.
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the actualization of everything I’ve been telling everyone will happen has thrown me. Over the years, I’ve learned very well how to rationalize the difference between my hopes and reality. I’ve learned how to soak up disappointment and despair, use it to adjust my perspective on things, and then wring it out, ready to keep tending the little blue flame.
I have absolutely no idea what to do with this fact: the Detroit Lions will walk into Lambeau Field, and play a game for no higher stakes than what seed they’ll be in the playoffs.
Throughout the previous eleven years there have been many seasons the Lions have won a big game, or a streak of games, at the bitter end of an awful campaign. Every time, it’s been pointed at as the start of something new, a stepping stone for the promising season to come. In reality, it’s often had more to do with the Lions’ opponent sleepwalking through a game they figured they had in the bag.
I don’t know whether the Packers are going to play Aaron Rodgers, or any of their other starters Sunday morning. I don’t know whether the Lions will play the sixty-minute, mistake free game they played against the Chargers, or implode as they did in the first Packers game. I don’t know if the Lions will rise to the occasion and claim a higher seed—and potentially, a much easer path through the playoffs—or show up, punch the clock and go home.
So what now? What now, that I have no idea what the future holds? What now, that my convictions about this season have all been satisfied? What now, that the Lions players, coaches, and staff have shown to the world they can play with anyone in the NFL? What now, that I’ve had my faith—my opiate—denied by proof?
I’ll do what I’ve always done: I’ll cheer with all my heart, and hope to inspire you all to do the same.
This blog was partially born out of a struggle between factions of Lions fans—but now, there are no factions. We’re all just celebrating the Lions’ success together—exactly what I’ve always hoped for. The Lions in Winter’s mission was and is an exploration, and chronicle, of what it means to be a Lions fan—and I can’t think of anything more exciting to explore and chronicle than the Lions’ run to and through the 2011 NFL Playoffs.