Monday, September 1, 2008

Welcome to Hell

Why hello there. Welcome to hell, also known as being a fan of the Detroit Lions. My name is Neil and I will be your tour guide during this frightening journey that we will take together, the Virgil to your Dante if you will. It will not be easy, and along the way, there will no doubt be dead bodies left in our wake and drunken ramblings and threats of suicide. I assure you that this is all a normal part of following the Detroit Lions.

This is just a quick introductory post to let you prepare for the journey ahead. You will need wills of steel, balls of iron, and livers of adamantium if you are going to join me at the end of the trek. But fear not gentle friends, for we can only find our true selves once we have stared into the burning fires of our own souls and come February, when this season has come to yet another bitter end, I can promise you that we will all be stronger and better for the experience.

Sometime this week I will put up a comprehensive preview(probably...okay, maybe)of the Lions, but for now, I will attempt to quickly sum up the prospects for the season. I believe I can do this in one word: shit. But, seeing as how I am a gentleman of the finest quality I will elaborate just a bit.

You see, for years the Lions have been a joke, an utter disgrace who have occasionally, during their more putrid times, wandered into the territory of national punchline. Recall if you will the many horrible, horrible Jay Leno jokes during the apocalyptic 2001 season which culminated in Johnny Morton euphorically calling out Leno on national television following the Lions first victory of the season in Week 16. But, that story would have a happy ending, as the following off season would result in the Lions selecting the man who would no doubt save their franchise, the best piano playing quarterback in the NFL, Smilin' Joey Harrington. And as for Morton, his time with the Lions came to a graceful end when Matt Millen, the Lions dynamic and genius General Manager, questioned his sexuality. So, really, everything worked out for the best.

Since then, the "glory years" of first round playoff exits in the 1990's, filled with visions of Barry Sanders dancing around tackles, have faded with each passing year. And with each passing year we have been promised that the franchise has finally begun to turn the corner, that the players the Lions drafted were bona fide stars in the making, franchise players who would finally take us to the promised land. All they needed was time and the right system to get them there. First, it was the West Coast Offense favored by the befuddled Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci. That failed spectacularly and led to the rise of the insane yet highly regarded Mike Martz and his Greatest Show on Turf system. Things seemed to be looking up, as the Lions had famously accumulated a stable of talented but mercurial receivers who would surely thrive in Martz' freewheeling offense. And they did. Mostly anyway. Roy Williams looked like a stud in the making and even former Arena League sensation Mike Furrey caught enough balls to lead the NFC in receptions. Unfortunately the rest of the team still was terrible and Lions fans everywhere could do nothing but hope that eventually the rest of the Special Olympians populating the Lions roster would catch up to the Lions suddenly vaunted aerial attack.

And then 2007 happened. Improbably, the Lions began the season 6-2, with retread Shaun McDonald and the man who was being held up as the new Christ child himself, Calvin Johnson, added to the receiving mix. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that Mad Marx was so obsessed with the Lions passing attack that the ground game became mired in quicksand and the offensive line wandered around like a bunch of drunk nineteen year olds visiting Windsor for the first time. The result was quarterback John Kitna being declared legally dead after too many sacks and the team imploding in spectacularly devastating fashion over the final eight games of the season, finishing 7-9. The familiar refrains of "OH GOD, THESE GUYS SUCK," and "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, FIRE MILLEN!" began to rain down again from Lions fans while kindly old Bill Ford sat drooling behind his desk deep within the confines of Ford Field.

And then it happened. Someone was fired alright, someone who clearly was the reason for the team's spectacular meltdown. Matt Millen was finally gone. Okay, no, that didn't happen, except in a dream. The reality was that Mike Martz was shown the door and the Lions announced a newfound dedication to smashmouth football and a power running game despite not having the personnel for that type of attack. Meanwhile the defense remains as stagnant and putrid as ever as the Lions traded away their best defender, Shaun Rogers, in the off season for a draft pick and a cornerback who, as of right now, isn't even a starter on the depth chart. And so it goes. One more year, one more expectation of complete and utter failure. Only this time, there is no irrational niggling of hope trying to burrow its way forward from the back of the brain.

So welcome to hell, we are glad to have you. Let the journey commence.

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