Column: Monstrously Splendid Football

COLUMN: Let's see what happens at home versus Tennessee's Titians, er, I mean Titans. Will McNair be a demon of the air? Will Kearse wreak his promised revenge on the Leos who remorselessly passed on him in the draft? I dunno, but I sure look forward to the game when I think about it.

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Monstrously Splendid Football

Frank J. Bunker -

The Detroit Lions play like a Hieronymous Bosch painting: The Garden of Earthly Delights. Monstrous at times, occasionally well, always splendidly.

Painted in 1500, Bosch’s masterpiece illustrates man’s life on earth and what awaits him in the after-life: hell, purgatory, or for the very few, heaven on earth in the Garden of Eden.

Heaven’s only a small part of the three-paneled painting. From the left, peace reigns in the Garden of Eden; the center panel depicts the sensual pleasures of this world; and the right panel shows what happens at the bottom of the bottomless pit also known as the NFC Central cellar.

From far away, you can see figures and symbols in a space that reminds us today of a Twilight Zone reality. Only up close do you see these images are made up of smaller beings: monsters, beasts, and people engaged in the travails of life and the symbolic representations of their interactions.

Pretty scary stuff, at about six-and-a-half-feet tall by about twelve-and-a-half feet wide. The triptych once graced the alter of a medieval church. It now hangs in the Prado. Don’t ask me how it got there. My aim is to tie the ideas in the work to the Lions and how they relate to Lions Fans.

In a way most compelling, the painting shows the not-so-weird stuff that the life of the Lions Fan is made of and the weirder stuff inside our souls when the frustratingly talented team is 0–4. It portrays what looks like a green bird-man with a red skeleton ghost head and purple boots staring at a barfing hedgehog with glowing orange eyes that’s not the San Diego Chicken. Beside them what appear to be nude dice players frolic while chased by winged, though frustrated, succubae that one day would be professional cheerleaders. On second thought, it’s just like the view from the nosebleeds in the Silverdome.

More directly relating this to the Detroit Lions, this painting’s realms perfectly describe where the team has taken the fans over the past 44 years. Sure, like the Garden of Eden a long time ago — everything once was bright and the future looked rosy. The new regime’s job is to return us there again.

But there’s one matter weighing heavily on our souls that leaves judgment in Lions' purgatory: The Lions' PREVIOUS ownership traded Bobby Lane, the winningest quarterback in team history, to the losingest franchise of that time, Pittsburgh. Immediately, the bottomless pit opened underneath Motown and its pro football franchise. And the rest is a Lions history that’s been beat by all, most surely not a pretty picture.

Yes, fellow Lions Fans, it’s there for all to see — then and now in the Prado. This year’s team has most vividly put us through all three realms of Bosch. Most of all, his last and exceedingly hot place. Oh, yeah. It’s a really hot place the fans find themselves in. Almost as hot as what the Lions coaching staff faces.

Sure Seems a Scorcher

In four contests so far, the Lions' faithful have seen the truly monstrous. Seven sacks in the first game; seven interceptions in the second; a 35–0 home shutout for the third event; and almost three-quarters of sheer futility in Minnesota.

I haven’t forgotten. Things weren’t all bleak at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. For a while, the Offense started to act like they’d been paying attention in all those meetings during the off-season and at "Fall Camp." Blockers blocked. Runners ran to daylight. Receivers caught the ball, even in traffic. And more than any one could of dreamed after Green Bay, Charlie Batch showed what all those coaches and all those millions of dollars can bring with a career-best game.

A ray of hope? A glimmer of purgatory? Naaaaaah. Think again. They still lost. But wait, there’s more to the story, relatively speaking, for the Lions Fan in the hot hot land, deep down under.

There’s a view from within eternity. Making time seem that way is the 4-game losing streak has taken place over seven weeks, making it seems like forever since the last time the Lions won. Now for a Lions Fan, that’s the definition of life in Hades.

What Redemption?

Let’s see what happens at home versus Tennessee’s Titians, er, I mean Titans. Will McNair be a demon of the air? Will Kearse wreak his promised revenge on the Leos who remorselessly passed on him in the draft?

I dunno, but I sure look forward to the game when I think about it. The guy the Lions did pick isn’t all that bad. His name is Chris Claiborne. And he’s starting his first game as a Detroit Lion at Middle Linebacker. Claiborne’s not a bad player either. He’s started every game he’s been a Detroit Lion over the past two years at Will. And he’s only about 23 years old.

Remember, too, the Titans were in town for the pseudo-crucial third pre-season match up. Batch moved the offense, even if half the geriatric skills positions were mending wounds. On defense, Lions DE James Hall spent more time trying to take the ball from McNair than the Titans' star running back. Wasn’t that the game he got seven sacks of his own? If so, was that a glimpse of heaven to come, eh, Lions Fans?

So the Lions are putting us through Hockeytown Heck this season. At least they’ve shown us a teaser of what good things may come. So, what else is new? Well, I thought I’d grow used to the painting by now. But, no. I still hope every season will be the Lions’ year.

One thing’s for sure in this 21st century. Even if their play is not always heaven on earth, no matter what the Detroit Lions do, whether they win or lose, they are always worth watching.

The reality is, the Lions do things memorably. Splendidly, actually. As in splendidly good, bad, and ugly. Yes, splendidly. And that’s why they are the only team worth rooting for. They’re like seeing a picture worth a thousand words, splendid memories.

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