The Bitter Highs and Sweet Lows: Bears vs Lions With The Dowbboy
When I proposed to Bruce that I chronicle the Lions and Bears game as we watched it together, Bruce was very enthusiastic. ‘Sure, great idea.’ That was Wednesday. By Friday, he had scheduled a round of golf first thing Sunday morning, steering him clear of watching the game live in favor of tossing his putter into the pond on the 17th. I can’t say I blame him. It was as if he knew how the game would go.
Meanwhile, I watched the game live then waited for him to come home so we could watch the PVR recording together. Here’s how it went:
- Bruce skips most of the 1st quarter. This was an unfortunate decision because the Lions never looked better. I opt not to tell him. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.
- Ziggy Ansah forces a fumble on Matt Forte, but Forte gets a lucky break and recovers it. Bruce is impressed, ‘Ansah is a player.’ I opt not to tell him that Ansah doesn’t do anything the rest of the game. What he doesn’t know…
- The Direct TV commercial featuring Fred Willard, Jennifer Coolidge, and Jeffrey Tambor has Bruce in stitches. He’s a big fan of all the Christopher Guest movies. The killer line: ‘It’s innovative and that’s what we want here.’ That’s the opposite notion floating around the Lions building, says Bruce.
- ‘Boy, our defence stinks.’ I hate to tell him the Lions defence actually plays decently at the end of the game, stuffing run after run to keep their offense in it. But, yea, mostly, they really do stink.
- ‘Nice burst from Zack.’ That’s Zenner, a running back for the Lions. He’s the first NFL player with the initials Z.Z. in your media guide. He also doesn’t play another down after that play. Or this season: he was placed on IR on Monday.
- Calvin Johnson breaks a big 43-yard catch and run. Apparently he’s lost a step. I ask if he’s injured. Bruce says he’s just old. He then makes a comment about what his knees feel like, somehow drawing a comparison between himself and Megatron. I stay silent.
- The Lions score a second touchdown. Bruce says, ‘Whoopee doodles.’ That’s code. He’s excited…
- ‘Great. Another terrible special teams play. We’ve been awful all year. Our special teams guy is the same person running Jeb Bush’s campaign.’ You had to know he’d bring politics into football.
- ‘Another one of our stiffs: Kyle Van Noy.’ Two years ago, Bruce was singing his’ praises when he was at BYU. He said then, ‘This kid is gonna be a player somewhere.’ Apparently, by ‘somewhere’ he didn’t mean Detroit.
- Ronde Barber defends a late hit on Martellus Bennett (6’6”, 280 lbs.) by Glover Quin (6’0”, 207 lbs.) because Quin is much smaller than Bennett. Blaming the victim, Ronde.
- After putting up a prayer to Jefferey (who is a monster in 50-50 plays, which is why Cutler prays so often to him), he throws consecutive incompletions. He’s so bad throwing precision passes. If he built your house, he’d measure none and cut once.
- ‘Teryl Austin isn’t going to get head coaching interviews again.’ I finally crack and admit that Austin's defence does well in the Overtime. But, yea, he’s not gonna get interviews. They do stink.
- ‘It takes a particular tortured person to watch the Bears and Lions. No good will come of it.’ Except this article. That’s good.
- On third down, Stafford breaks three tackles and runs for a tough five yards and a first down. He’s the QB equivalent of a Pizza Hut commercial. You see it, you think it looks delicious, you imagine all those beautiful moments you had together. You make the call. You take the deal and buy a second large. You eat a slice. Tastes so good. You eat another. Not so good. You eat three more. You realize it was disgusting and you don’t recall ever having positive memories of Pizza Hut. Oh, and there’s a whole other large pizza to eat.
- Calvin Johnson makes another big downfield play. Bruce indicates this how you need to use Megatron, The next play, Stafford overthrows Calvin like they’ve never run a goal line fade before in their lives. Bruce can only drop his head.
- Golden Tate catches a touchdown and has it stripped immediately, a very controversial play. Bruce’s reaction is about the same as everyone else. He breaks it down, step-by-step, frame-by-frame and then says, ‘Well, I dunno.’ Ronde Barber admits, ‘I’m gonna step declaring plays touchdowns. I don’t know anymore.’ He and Bruce have an unspoken understanding.
- ‘Nothing against your team but beating the Bears is hardly a litmus test.’ I’m not offended. But he’s not getting a call next time I make a Starbucks run on my way to his place.
- ‘You guys complain about Cutler, but compared to way Stafford stumble bums around in the pocket, he looks like Fred Astair.’ I’ve always been more of a Gene Kelly fan myself.
- Cutler makes a vintage Cutler pass, heaving a backfoot prayer and is lucky to have Marques Wilson jump over a defender to make the grab. I once had a debate with a Packers fan friend who said during their Super Bowl run, the Packers offense was built heavily upon high-threshold plays where if Rodgers doesn’t drop the pass in a bucket, the offense fails. As if that was a bad thing, relying on an elite QB’s talent to make an offense run. Cutler’s game is built entirely on high threshold plays that rely on luck. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum. If he’s not lucky, they suck. Packers fan are spoiled.
- Cutler overthrows Forte badly on a wide-open wheel route. ‘The Lions defence is giving the Bears more second chances than Charlie Sheen out there.’ After the last few plays, I can’t watch Jay Cutler play, let alone a second time in one day. I leave the room. As I come back into the room, Cutler throws an interception in the endzone. I don't even bother stopping. I just turn back around and leave again.
- TJ Jones, a Canadian from Winnipeg, muffs a punt for Detroit. ‘I’m used to American guys screwing up for the Lions, now it’s Canadians.’ Bruce has a unique way of compartmentalizing negatives when it comes to Detroit.
- Ronde Barber comments that Ameer Abudllah isn’t in the game, likely because of ball security issues. Bruce chimes in, ‘That’s like the player in New York who was a fumbler then they coached him up; high-and-tight.’ You mean Tiki, Bruce? Ronde’s brother. That was so meta.
- The quarter starts with a Bennett drop. This typifies the rest of the game: both teams trying to drop the ball.
- The next play, the Lions commit their second turnover on special teams. Joe Marciano (a.k.a. Jeb Bush’ campaign runner) is shown on TV. Bruce brings it around to a Sopranos reference, ‘Not in the face, Tony! Not in the face!’
- Mrs. Dowbiggin enters the room to ask which bottle of red wine to open for dinner. Considering it’s a Lions game, Bruce uncharacteristically doesn’t take the bait to make a joke about getting drunk. He says he’ll think about it.
- The next play, Stafford throws an ugly backhand interception. Not missing a beat, Bruce yells to Mrs. Dowbiggin, ‘Open the Italian one! Pour me a glass!’
- Chicago scores to go ahead. Bruce puts on his nice-guy, Ned Flanders voice mocking Jim Caldwell, ‘Yea, good job guys. I’m doing a great job. Have you noticed?’
- ‘Stafford is like one of those crabs on the seashore, scuttling sideways, trying to throw the ball.’ Stafford as a crustacean. That’s a new one.
- The Lions move down to the ten-yard line. The Bears have three timeouts and let the clock keep running. Jay Ratliff is hurt, though, so after 40 seconds drain off the clock the Bears are forced to use one of those timeouts, bungling any semblance (of which there was little) of clock advantage.
- The next play, Stafford throws a fade but Golden Tate doesn’t get the memo. He stands still. The ball sails into the sideline. The refs throw a flag and the play is ruled intentional grounding.
- The next play, the refs give a makeup call, flagging Pernell McPhee for roughing the passer because his arm clips Stafford’s calf who does the old ole! The backjudge watches the play, turns away, turns back and sees Stafford screaming his head off before he throws the flag. The Lions score on the next play.
- The Bears start the final drive of regulation needing a FG with 16 seconds. Jefferey makes a great catch, then another which is also ruled pass interference but they take the yardage. The referees mess up and for some reason allow the penalty and not the yardage, which was superior. They convene with John Fox screaming his face off a few feet away. They allow the penalty to be declined. The refs have continued to do a phenomenally terrible job.
- The next play a third shot to Jefferey that results in a pass interference that the Bears do accept. The refs don't screw this one up, as if to taunt the teams that they can manipulate the game at their whim. Robbie Gould hits a FG to go to overtime.
- This game devolved into a football wasteland. Bruce takes the moment to pause the PVR and gets up, muttering, ‘Let me go open that red wine for Mrs. Dowbiggin…’
- When I PVR’d the game, it was the television in the bedroom. I switched to the television in the lounge halfway through. Because of the overtime, the recording in the bedroom ends after three hours. I thought ahead and taped the overtime in the lounge. As the recording ends in the bedroom where Bruce is watching, we get up and go to the lounge to finish the game. Considering this is the Lions vs Bears, migrating from one place to another to continue our suffering makes us feel like the Jews wandering into the desert after crossing the Red Sea.
- The overtime is evidence of two institutionally conservative head coaches going head-to-head. Prevent defenses, dives into the line, punting back and forth. The refs add a dose of spice, which feels like rubbing jalapenos into your eyes. Neither team appears to make an effort to win until the Lions take their third possession of the overtime.
- The screen freezes. To further complicate the viewing experience, the NFL Sunday Ticket cut off as the Lions begin their fourth possession, the game-wining drive. I forgot to mention this happened while I was watching. Bruce just sits there, exhausted and not really upset. He does mutter something about how with the Lions, sometimes you need to see it to believe it.
I leave the room as he hops on NFL.com to look up the highlights and piece together the final drive, a field goal by the Lions for the win. I think to myself, that’s what being a Lions fan is like. Eager masochism. Then the thought goes away as I stare at the Bears jersey now stuffed untidily in my backpack. Nah, that’s just being an NFL fan.
Rhys Dowbiggin @Rdowb @NPBroadcaster