Sunday, December 19, 2004
4th quarter. Lions/Vikings, in Detroit. The Vikings were up 28-20, Lions driving. Joey Harrington, playing through the flu, had showed immense heart all game. He had played so well that people were speculating that being sick actually made him play better-- kept him from overthinking his game and getting too analytical about his throws.
Amazing things had been happening. Joey had thrown a long laser to Az-Hakim. Az had run with it, been wrapped up, and flipped it backwards to Bryson, who had kept running with it. A two-point conversion had been missed, but a penalty had given us a second chance, and we had made it.
Roy Williams had just caught a touchdown with 12 seconds remaining in the game, making it 28-27. All the Lions needed to do in order to tie the game and send it into overtime was make the extra point. Nice and simple, no bad weather or dicey winds in the domed Ford Field. Excellent turf. A damn good kicker in Jason Hanson. One point.
And then it would have been overtime, and anything might have happened. Heck, the Vikings might have still scored, in the end. It would have hurt to lose, but it would have been something you could understand, a kind of loss that would be painful but comprehensible. Oh well, you could grumble. Just the Pepperhead doing his old thing, just Moss making another crazy catch, just Joey sneezing at the wrong time and throwing the ball a few feet away from where it should have gone. Same old Lions.
But maybe the Lions could have won. Maybe Williams would have made another tiptoe catch, coming down gingerly on his tender hip. Maybe Kevin Jones would have found a hole in the defense and run through it. Maybe Joey would have thrown a beauty, maybe Hanson would have kicked in a 45-footer. The Lions of the start of the season, the Lions we all thought we were going to get to see: young quarterback, young running back, young receivers, bringing the glory back to the old Honolulu-blue-and-silver. Restoring the Roar.
Just one kick. One simple, simple kick. Line up. Muhlbach snaps the ball. Nick Harris catches and sets the ball. Hanson kicks the ball. Just that.
Of course, these are the Lions...
Above all, these are the Lions.
There's almost no way for me to describe what this did to me. When Roy Williams scored that touchdown, I was ecstatic. Screaming in joy. Overtime! Against the hated Viqueens! George came running in from around the corner-- he likes to watch Lions games in seclusion, because he gets too nervous watching them with other people, but he'll come in at halftime or the end of a game. We high-fived, 'Can you believe this?'ed, and turned around to watch the extra point.
No. Fucking. Way.
Muhlbach muffed the snap. Replay showed the ball come backwards through his legs, angled downwards. It scuttered over the turf like a frightened armadillo. Harris tried to pick it up from the ground, realized that the Vikings were coming through the line, and half stood up with the ball, only to be drilled by the oncoming purple helmets. Hanson took a couple of uncertain steps back, confused and shocked, trying to figure out where the ball was, what he was supposed to do with himself.
On the sideline, Joey Harrington looked skyward, his scruffy beard and reddened eyes making him look like a maudlin drunk. How much of this was despair at what had just happened and how much of it was due to the flu was impossible to tell. The TV cameras zoomed in on Mooch. His eyes were wide, his plasticly mobile face frozen in horror and disbelief. A few minutes later he had mastered himself enough to go over and comfort Muhlbach, who was sitting alone on the bench in a morass of utter shame, but the moment was there and no matter what he might say afterwards to the press or to his players it was plain to see that Mooch knew as well as anyone that the game had been within reach, right then, and then inexplicably lost.
In my dorm room, I was curled up in my desk chair, head grasped in hands-- a position anyone who watched the first 3 ALCS games with me would immediately recognize. It's the 'oh shit' position, the 'brace yourself for terrible agony' position, the 'I can't believe my team just imploded like that' position. "No way," I was saying. "No way. No way. How is that even possible? How does that even happen?"
Behind me, standing up, George was completely silent.
After a frozen 5 minutes, in which we couldn't even look at one another, he shook himself a little. Shook his head, and went for the door, to go handle the horror in the privacy of his own room. "How was that even possible?" I asked again just as he reached the door. Rhetorically. There wasn't really any answer.
He turned around, hand on the handle, every bit of his body language saying 'slumping defeat'. "I've seen it so many times," he said. "It just makes me want to fuckin' cry."
They just showed part of the postgame press conference on Sportscenter. Joey Harrington looked dead. I literally couldn't understand what he was saying, his voice was so thick with sickness and despair. It didn't even look like his eyes were focussing properly.
The Lions messageboard wasn't taking it much better.
holygoat: Wow. I have now seen everything. There are officially no more ways for the Lions to lose games.
nwilcox: This is un freakin believable !!!! Jsut when I thought last week loss was bad.
tigersfan25: The funny thing about this is just second before that XP got off, the thought had crossed my mind about that happeneing.. Little did I know that it would happen.
The Ronz: This is one of the more unbelievable losses that I have seen in 30 years of watching the Lions.
Big Toe: I knew it. I saw it coming. I guess I've been a Lion fan too long. When they took so long to hike it, I just knew we'd miss it or something would happen. I have to admit, I feel badly for Muhlbach. He'll obviously never play an NFL down after this season and this will be his primary NFL memory for the rest of his life. As for us, we're ****ing used to it.
Mattingly70: This is maybe the worst loss since the Eddie Payton return on Thanksgiving.
Kamakzie: We are officially cursed.....
kpking3032: every curse needs a cute nickname though...the billy goat, bambino, etc....what the hell is the Lions curse name?
nwilcox: Millen-Cahonaes Curse. This organization has been a complete joke since this moron has been part of this organization. The next time I see his face on a TV I sure hope it is the press conference that says he ownt be back next season.
Yoda: We weren't winning many playoff games before he got here either. It's the Lions.
And finally, this lovely little tidbit:
Buddha: If ever there was one play that symbolized the entire history of this franchise, that was it. I've never laughed so hard at the end of a Lions' game. Pathetic. What else can you say?
Joey looked real good. Finally they threw the ball downfield! The defense couldn't come up with the big stop (as usual) but the offense bailed them out. And what happens? The unthinkable. Hilarious.
Why is Brock Marion on this team? And can someone please teach Teddy Lehman to tackle? Please?
If they lose to the Bears next week, it'll be a travesty. It'll be the Bears offense versus the Lions defense. Come one! Come all! Watch the moveable object battle the resistable force for the right NOT to finish last in the NFC North!
Whoopee doo. Excuse me, but I have to go see which free agent the Tigers didn't make an offer to, which last place team just held the Pistons to 70 points and which walk on just turned the ball over for Michigan.
It's the MOST wonderful time of the year....
The only good thing to come out of today was that Heather came over (later, after I had somewhat mastered myself) to talk Maya and order in Pizza House pizza. Extra mozzarella is a small consolation, but it's the most I can get. There's ice forming on the inside of my windows, because the heating vent won't turn on and the temperature today was a balmy -12. Did I mention the biology final tomorrow that I literally cannot study enough for?
If you'll excuse me, I think I'll just go microwave my head now.