The Detroit Lions are the Opium of the Masses

>> 12.28.2011

Is there any more oppressed creature than a Detroit Lions fan?

“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.


Cjpops76,  December 28, 2011 at 9:31 AM  

Ty - you didn't "know" or "believe." You made a reasoned, educated guess based upon facts, research and skeptical, scientific inquiry.

Your work is reasoned and your conclusions drawn from looking at the evidence. Your predictions are not about faith and baseless claims. Douglas Adams (renowned athiest) would be proud. And so am I.

Celebrate the team's success. We all should. Especially those who didn't hurl themselves off the band wagon at the first (and second...and third...and fourth...) sign of trouble. But, even those that did, we should welcome back to the fold. One thing's for sure: I'll be right there with ya every Sunday...cheering them on.

Keep up the good work with the blog - always enjoy reading.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  December 28, 2011 at 4:05 PM  


This is just about the best possible reply. Thank you so much

Of course, to *me* all of my research and opinions feels real. I approach my statistical analysis and film breakdown as objectively as I possibly can.

However, to keep hacking away at that stuff, it takes a fundamental belief that it's all worthwhile. If I project a big Lions win and they lay an egg, it drags on me when I turn around to do the next projection. If the Lions had gone 7-9 or 8-8 while Stafford stayed healthy but played unremarkably, it would have been a loonnnnnngggg offseason of figuring out where my evaluations went wrong . . . and why I was seeing something that wasn't there.

What I'm driving at: I've been using the tools of analysis and observation to 'fight ghosts' for so long, now that the ghosts are gone I'm feeling a little disoriented. Don't worry, though, I'm still going to do what I always do.

Thanks again for your awesome comment!


Cjpops76,  December 28, 2011 at 4:33 PM  

Fighting ghosts is one thing, Ty. I certainly appreciate the analysis. However, at some point, the players on the field have to play and the randomness of the equation must work itself out.

Statistics and percentages and past performance is one thing. That is important, but, almost half (42% by your numbers) of a regular season's outcome is randomly determined.

I like to think that what you do is provide the most reasonable, fair approach to the numbers that you can. Then, ultimately, you're a fan just like the rest of us. You root for and want the Lions to win just like the rest of us. In that case, making predictions for Stafford to have a Top 5 year or for the Lions to make the playoffs are your opinions influenced in the best possible way by the facts.

You don't waste our time with ideas on how you think Barry Sanders and Maurice Morris are comprable runners just because they both wore the Honolulu Blue and Silver. There are facts and stats that back up your claim as to one being more accomplished than the other, even though we all root for them to do equally as well.

The point is: The Lions have built a team and an organization capable of winning games and making the playoffs. The numbers back that up. The great thing is, they have (more of) the talent that can now tip the randomness in the favor of Detroit. Now - THAT - is something to cheer about! :-)

Lourawls74,  December 30, 2011 at 1:19 AM  

Hey man I just want to say you have a great blog here, and as a displaced Lions fan I really enjoy your input. You come off as a fan, but an intelligent, thoughtful fan. I wish you did the podcasts more often, they are very enjoyable.

Bigwalt2990,  December 31, 2011 at 10:45 PM  

Oh, there are still factions....Backus haters etc.

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