Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Honolulu Blue and Silver Linings Playbook

Ravens 18

I've heard that the movie Silver Linings Playbook is supposed to be pretty good. I don't know exactly what it's about, but I think to some degree it's about a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has some type of  psychotic meltdown and goes into therapy, and over the course of the movie he makes some progress and sees the bright side of life and makes amends with his loved ones or something. Anyway, that sounds pretty fitting right now, so if that's not actually what the movie is about, don't bother telling me. Let's try to find some positives from last night.

Silver Lining #1: This isn't the most demoralizing DTLs game of my lifetime.

Does it rather easily crack the top 3? Yes. When the dust settles and I have some more time to ponder it, will it sneak up to a solid second place? I see no reason why it wouldn't. Actually, I think I'm seeing a new article topic for the near future developing as I think it through. For the time being, last night's ______________ (noun, preferably hyperbolic and in no way an accurate descriptor for the undesired result of an athletic contest) of a game still doesn't quite approach the emotional abyss that the 28-27 loss to Dallas in the 07' game sent me into. However, it passes the Barry Sanders "negative one" playoff game, the Philadelphia 58-37 playoff game,  the Calvin Johnson "process of the catch" game, the Dom Suh extra point game, Sinners vs Saints part one, Thanksgiving 2012, etc, etc, etc.

I've said it before, but I think it's worth repeating, any serious fan of a sports team constantly tightropes on a fine line between fun/entertainment/cheering on whichever team you feel some sort of connection with, and an unhealthy, illogical, and entirely one-sided emotional attachment to a bunch of strangers who play sports better than you.

I'll freely admit it, I've gotten in a little too deep this year. Generally, I care far more about my own sports games than any team that I'm a fan of. I'd say that remaining a lifelong athlete has always been my healthiest obsession and remaining a lifelong fan might be just the opposite at this point. I don't care if it's Rec-League Tiddly Winks, playing sports has always been a major physical and emotional outlet for me. When school/work became overwhelming, family issues, relationship issues, whatever, we all have our own separate sets of problems, my escape has always been watching, and much more importantly, playing sports. Unfortunately, I've had an unlucky streak that has left me injured for 9 of the past 12 months, so I haven't been able get that competitive release that I crave. Not even pickup hoops. At times like this, for better or worse, the Lions games mean significantly more to me. It got to the point where last Tuesday I could barely concentrate during the afternoon because I was so excited and nervous about this stupid Monday Night Game that was still a full 6 days away. That was what the second half of the 2007 season was like for me also, but for different reasons.

Last night was not a pleasant one for me, but then again, it wasn't quite the worst.

Silver Lining #2: When I go to the Giants game this Sunday, the Lions won't yet be officially eliminated from playoff contention.

It's been an entire year since I've set foot in Michigan, and now almost 2 1/2 years since I've lived there.  In the unformulated life plan that's sitting in the back recesses of my mind, I've always imagined that I'll end up back in Michigan someday, but that I still have a lot of things to take care of on the outside first. Nevertheless, the homesickness has been more intense over the past few months or so, so I wanted my too short return to the mitten over the holidays to be triumphant.

My brother got us some tickets for the Giants game a few weeks ago, and despite the staggering weight of history telling me otherwise, I had really convinced myself, "We're going to be in the building on the night that the DTLs win the division".  I was completely ready to forgive the fake field goal, and the drops, and the penalties, and all the turnovers in the mud, and in the dome, and in the snow, because all those preceding events were going to set the stage for this magical evening at Ford Field on December 22nd, when Matthew Stafford leads the boys back to the promised land.

As it now stands, if Chicago and Green Bay both win on Sunday, it's all over; but at least the Bears aren't playing until later that night, so the Bromos vs Giants game will at least still matter at the time, however fleetingly.

Silver Lining #3: That wasn't even the longest game winning field goal that's been kicked against the DTLs. 

One Sunday when I was about 9 or 10 years old and bored to the point of delirium while sitting through church, I suddenly started paying close attention because I heard the priest mention something about football. The topic of Father Frank's sermon for that day was an ex-football player named Tom Dempsey. Being a compulsive stat geek even at that age, I recognized the name and knew that Tom Dempsey had once kicked a 63 yard field goal, the all-time NFL record. Until then, I'd never heard the full story though.

Father Frank went on to talk about how Dempsey was born with only half of a right foot and with no fingers on his right hand. The 1970 New Orleans were off to a horrible start to their season, winning only one of their first seven games. In this particular game, the home team Saints had blown a late 4th quarter lead and let their opponents score to take the lead with with only 11 seconds left in the game. The Saints had one final chance to get in field goal range, but they couldn't even get the ball to midfield, and they were down to the final play. Instead of attempting a hail mary pass, the Saints sent their deformed field goal kicker out onto the field. No one in NFL history had ever made one from farther than 56 yards out, but this kicker with half a foot was going to try one from 63. To the absolute shock of everyone in the stadium, Dempsey blasted his kick just over the goalposts to miraculously win the game and set a new NFL record. The sermon was all about belief in God to do the impossible and all that type of stuff, and Father Frank ended things with a final punchline: "Oh, and guess which unfortunate team they happened to be playing?… the LIONS." Everyone in the church started laughing except for me.

Dempsey's record stood for over 43 years, until last week when Matt Prater made a 64-yarder. He now also has some company in the exclusive "Kickers who have made game-winning 60+ yard field goals in the final minute to beat the Lions" club. I think I'll leave it to John Starks to sum up that final Justin Tucker field goal:

Silver Lining #4: It doesn't look like I'll have to worry about rushing to the airport and possibly missing my flight back to Boston after the Lions playoff game.

I specifically planned out my vacation days and my flight time to come back to Boston with one thing in mind: if the DTLs had a home playoff game, I had to go to it. They obviously weren't going to get a first round bye, so as recently as two weeks ago, there was what seemed to be a very large possibility that it was going to happen. I booked my return flight for the night of January 5th, knowing that the playoff game would likely be on Sunday afternoon, or better yet, on Saturday the 4th. Nevertheless, I was also mentally preparing for the chance that it would be the 4:00 game and how disappointed I would be if I had to leave and miss this 0 times in a lifetime chance to watch the DTLs play at home in the playoffs. I was pondering whether I'd just purposely miss my flight and call in sick to work the next day.

Is there still a slim chance that these plans can come to fruition? Well, mathematically I guess there is, but I'd say the odds of it actually happening at this point are about as slim as Packers chance of coming all the way back from 23 down in the second half without their starting quarterback. Wow.

Silver Lining #5: My Bromolyte Interview with Worm next week should be interesting.

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