Hi there. Welcome to our home. Please, help yourself to coffee or donuts in the back. Feel free to talk among yourself for the next few minutes, or if you're more comfortable, you may take a seat and we'll begin shortly.
Okay, we are ready to begin, please find a seat everyone. "Roary" nice to see you again. "Ice" I'm glad you could make it this week. "Ed", how many times do I have to tell you? This is a place for fans who have been unfairly abused by referees. Those that have to deal with quarterback incompetence and head coaches who continually get credit despite zero results must go down the street to MetLife Stadium.
I see a lot of new faces today, most of them blue. And I don't just mean your temperment. Haha...sorry. I sometimes like to lead these things off with a joke, but I can see no one is in the mood this week. So let's just jump right into this. Who would like to start us off this week?
A man in spiked shoulder pads stood up. His face, smeared with running black and silver paint, was noticeably damp, presumably with both sweat and tears. As he walked towards the front of the room, he gulped quite audibly in the muted room.
"My...ahem...my name is...uh...Richa...uh...Ricardo, and I'm an abused fan."
"Hi, Ricardo," most attendees robotically responded without lifting their heads from their collective hands.
"IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!" Ricardo's tone quickly changed to one of ire, as it all rushed back to him. "WE'RE JUST COMING BACK IN THE GARD-DAMNED GAME, AND THE REFS BEND US OVER AND HAVE THEIR WAY WITH US!"
"I understand your anger, Ricardo, and I'm glad you got it out. But, perhaps you could explain your situation, so that other's can understand and empathize with your plight?"
Ricardo solemly nodded. "Well, it all started with the tuck rule. I mean, what the hell was that? They make up a rule...cost us the game -- which would've put us in the AFC CHAMPIONSHIP game, mind you -- and they give the Patriots, a franchise that literally has EVERYTHING, another Super Bowl. It's a conspiracy.
"And then it happened again this week. The RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIDERS tackled that puny Bengals guys, pried the ball from him, saved the ball from going out of bounds, and returned it for a touchdown. Me and my bros were going crazy! Then the referees, straight out of Nazi Germany or something, come in and tell me that they accidentally blew a whistle and there was no touchdown. But, GET THIS, not only is there no touchdown, but the Bengals now get the option to take a four yard gain or REPLAY THE DOWN!"
At this point, there were several audible gasps in the crowded room. One woman burst into tears, while a father turned his face away in disgust and covered his son's ears.
"I spent the rest of Sunday in an angry stupor," Ricardo continued. "I don't really remember what I did or what was said, I just remember the dark, dark thoughts. The thoughts of violence, the thoughts of uncontrollable rage. I was scaring my wife. Hell, I was scaring myself. I...I just don't know if..."
Ricardo tried to continue, but the emotional toll was visibly too much for his body to handle. Trying to hold back the tears, his face contorted in every direction. Giving up on the battle, Ricardo quickly shifted back to his seat, where his emotions erupted in a screaming wail.
It took a few moments for the room to recover. Every face in the room wore the look of understanding and empathy. When he finally reached equilibrium, Ricardo noticed this and let out a deep sigh from the bottom of his stomach. He forced a smile through the tears.
"Thank you for that, Ricardo. I see that there are plenty of people here that went through the exact same thing as you. I hope that Ricardo's story will help all of you cope with your unfortunate circumstance. You are not alone."
"So who's next?"
"How about you? You're a new face."
I looked up, sensing and dreading that his eyes were upon me. When I looked up and locked eyes with him, I tried to quickly avert my gaze, but I had been caught. As I peered back out of my peripheral, his eyes drew my face back towards him. There was no escape. I had to do this. I slowly walked to the podium and slumped over it.
"This...uh...this actually isn't my first..."
"Start with your name," he interrupted.
"Oh...uh...my name is...uh...screw it, my name is Jeremy and I am a battered Lions fan"
"My name is Jeremy and I am sick of this," I quickly gained momentum and couldn't see nor hear anything other than myself. "I tried and tried and tried to not care anymore. The Lions weren't in the playoff race, so I wasn't going to emotionally invest myself in the game. The Lions were winning, and it was pleasant and all, but I wasn't going to get mad if they lost the game. They were playing the Texans. No one expected them to really win, and clearly the Lions were still competitive. So there was that.
"But the refs...those freakin' refs. As I sat contently on my couch, they poked with me their fiery sticks. Nudging me, begging me to care. First, with the punt that obviously hit a Texan player. OF COURSE, CBS couldn't find a definitive angle. OF COURSE, the play wasn't called in our favor on the field. OF COURSE, it wasn't overturned.
"But I didn't let it get to me. I was proud of myself. The refs tried to mess with my day, my favorite holiday. But I had resisted their temptation to rile me up. I had simply turned the other cheek. Their constant prodding was not going to affect me, today. If I give myself up emotionally, the terror-refs win.
"But then the unthinkable happened. The Texans ran for and seven yard gain, and suddenly it was a touchdown. As my own little support group erupted in a collective fit of rage, I sat back calmly. 'They'll review it, and they'll obviously get the call right,' I said, trying to act as the rational fan, for once. But then the Texans lined up for the extra point. And there was no stoppage. No review. We all desperately looked to each other trying to make sense of the situation. Finally, we rewound the game and heard the immortal words that will haunt my existence:
'The Play Is Not Reviewable'"
A woman screamed, and ran out of the room. It couldn't be heard over the deafening gasps and groans, but the woman, in a bout of brief hysteria, ran directly into traffic and was immediately killed by a semi-truck.
"At this point, I couldn't help myself. How could anyone? The hate, the anger, the spite. It all came rolling back in one flush of emotions that turned my face crimson and swelled my body with a tenseness that I feared would result in some sort of physical outburst. I stood up and paced around on the wooden floor, clenching my fists to make the pain go away.
"When I finally calmed the body, the mind was still racing. I went to my safe place. Twitter. I let out all of the emotions I was feeling in a barrage of ALL CAPS tweets. But it wasn't enough. I stood up again. Paced around the room again. Trying to wrap my head around the rule and why it even exists felt like fitting a rubber band around Hummer. I was going to snap.
"As I watched the rest of the game, my emotions were heavily exaggerated. Each Lions first down resulted in a fist pump that nearly threw my shoulder out of the socket. Each dropped pass and fumble led to hair-pulling and thoughts of graphic violence.
"By the time it was over, I could no longer feel anything. Anger, sadness, the thirst for blood, they were all just concepts unable for me to fathom. I was silent. I was devoid of anything. I was tabula rasa. I was broken. Life had reset me back to factory settings.
"And as Thanksgiving rolled on, I met a few new people. They spoke of the incident with a light-heartedness that would normally spark an internal rage inside. But I was beyond that at this point. I smiled. I laughed. I basically mimicked what everyone else was doing, because my robot brain told me to. It could no longer deal with the stress and torment of being a Lions fan. So for the rest of the day, I wasn't.
"And now I stand here wondering if I can ever fully recover. I survived 0-16. I survived the Calvin Johnson rule. But I stand here today wondering if it was all worth it. I won't ever be able to fully pull myself from the game, but I'm not sure I can physically afford to emotionally invest in this game when I so infrequently receive any dividends.
"But then I know things will never change. I will never change. I am a slave to this team, to this league. I will continually throw myself into the ring, and perpetually get the shit kicked out of me. And the scary things is, deep down I know there's some part of me that loves it. It's hard to recognize now, but when the football droughts of Spring and Summer come, I will beg for the agony. I will crave the bouts of insanity with an insatiable appetite.
So I will see you all again next year."