A Viking Funeral for Armchair Linebacker

>> 5.11.2012


Neil and I are two sides of the same coin: I soar through my blue-sky optimism on patched and tattered wings, while he trudges through the marshes of the river Styx, protecting his blue-flame candle from the muck and the mire.

Armchair Linebacker is dead. This evening, on Twitter, Neil from Armchair Linebacker announced that there will be no more Armchair Linebacker.

I’ve written before about the discordance between what I do and what he does. I never use profanity on my site; he never doesn’t on his. I preach a pious brand of faithful fandom; he lead Lions fans though violent and terrible spiritual Crusade, slaying infidels and vampire apes in equal measure.

Neil started at Armchair Linebacker on the cusp of the 2008 season. Indeed, the 0-16 year. In possibly the most prescient blog post of all time, he titled it “Welcome to Hell:”

Why hello there. Welcome to hell, also known as being a fan of the Detroit Lions. My name is Neil and I will be your tour guide during this frightening journey that we will take together, the Virgil to your Dante if you will. It will not be easy, and along the way, there will no doubt be dead bodies left in our wake and drunken ramblings and threats of suicide. I assure you that this is all a normal part of following the Detroit Lions.

I started The Lions in Winter at that season’s conclusion, at rock bottom, when the only direction to go was up:

I'm a fan. I was born a fan, and I will die a fan. The hooting and derision of the American sports culture has set my resolve. I'm sick of getting snickers on the football-y corners of the Internet. I'm sick of getting reaction takes when I wear Lions gear around town. I've thought about starting this blog for years, but this morning I knew that today was the day. I've pulled my hood tight, I've loaded up the sled with wood, and I've got fuel and spark to spare. I'm going to reclaim my Lions pride. I'm going to fan that little blue flame into the great big bonfire it ought to be, and nobody's going to be prouder than me when thousands are once again carrying torches to rally behind this team.

Neil cited burnout, and said he’d “told the story [he’d] set out to tell;” along with some epic tales of The Great Willie Young, he absolutely did. But when the Lions have taken fifty years of perennial laughingstockery and set it on fire, and the Lions’ head coach tops a national columnist’s Coach Power Rankings . . . things have changed.

Nobody could, or did, chronicle the Lions’ descent into Hell in all its naked shock and horror. Nobody else could, or did, chronicle the Lions’ journey through those dark and unspeakable days as well. Nobody else could, or did, call for the mass pillaging and enslavement of the state of Ohio if that’s what it took to claw back to respectability.

I understand why he’s stopping.

The Lions in Winter's purpose is to keep the spirit of Lions fandom alive. To tend the little blue flame, to provide warmth and light and succor to the damned and hardy souls who never stopped cheering—and awareness and enlightenment to those who’d long since abandoned hope.

Now, the blue bonfire roars so high that all the world can see it; it hardly feels like I need bother chop the wood, or keg and tap the cider. I’m no longer filled with righteous vigor dozens of times a day by an unending stream of stupid Internet rage.

Countless Lions fans (and, *gasp*, admirers) now have many, many places on the Internet where they can find intelligent analysis of Detroit Lions football. They have many reasons to be thrilled. They have many reasons to be satisfied, waiting only for the Lions to take the field again.

Doesn’t leave a whole lot to write about.

Don't worry: The Lions in Winter isn't going anywhere. The Lions’ job is far from finished, and so is mine. I’ve spent three and a half years proving my hope, my faith, my knowledge of the glorious Lions time to come is real. Now, my job is prove it is real . . .

. . . and maybe keep the flame from burning too high, extinguishing itself by losing control.

It’s no secret that my posting on here has slowed. We’ve entered the hard offseason, now, with nothing of real import occurring. Every year, I’ve beat my head against the wall trying to come up with something original to say about the daily tidbits of totally-inconsequential news. The fact is, I’ve never done that well and now it seems like wasted time.

I’m going to keep posting stuff of originality and quality, with little of the filler so much of the Sports Internet is flooded with. I’m going to keep covering the NFL at Bleacher Report, which by God if you haven’t gotten the message about how good B/R is right now just go ahead and read up. I’m tremendously proud of the work I’ve done there, and of the nearly half-a-million eyeballs my my writing’s pulled since I started last September.

The fact is, I need this place. I need this outlet. I need you folks. It’s the payoff for all those long years huddling my jacket over a tiny lick of blue fire on a pile of snow-damp twigs. The pride and joy of being awarded a game ball by the Lions’ head coach for directly helping my team win? I need to share those emotions with people who understand the contrast between Heaven and Hell. Who know how long we’ve suffered. Who know the meaning of being a Lions fan.

People like Neil.

When I got the news, I was in the middle of a ceremonial Twitter speech about the Vikings, how I hate their purple dirty cheating Viking faces, and how thrilled I am they’re going to build a new stadium in Minnesota so we can renew our hatred over and over for decades hence.

I sat down to write this, and it hit me: there’s only one proper way for Armchair Linebacker to die. Not to die, but to pass on from this world into the next. To be immolated in a blue-flame funeral pyre and reduced to sacred ash. To be placed on its longboat with treasured belongings, intoxicating drinks and live sacrifices, set afire, and set adrift to journey to Valhalla, the legendary hall of the immortal dead.

The archives of Armchair Linebacker will serve as an immortal reminder of the brilliant madness of Neil, Raven Mack, and the other depraved, brilliant fans who wrote under their banner. Even as Neil joins us for mugs of cider around the bonfire, even as Neil plies his trade at Guyism.com, the savage and monstrous genius he spread out across an encyclopedia’s worth of words will live on forever, swigging mead and feasting upon beast and fowl alike.

As Armchair Linebacker burns off to that glorious horizon and the undying lands beyond, raise your flagon and drink.

Armchair Linebacker is dead. All hail Armchair Linebacker.


Mike May 11, 2012 at 1:56 AM  

Words cannot express how sad this news is. I just don't know how I'm going to survive the most hopeful season we've ever known without Neil's ID to your superego, Ty. I was so looking forward to some posts about the King this year, and rants about how idiot Lions fans were screaming "SAME OL LIONS!!" after their first loss, or waxing poetic after a particularly spectacular win.

To me, the end to ACLB is visualised (at least to me) is finally standing on the top of the cliff he wrote about so much last year with his back to the hell we just came from with his eyes out to the horizon. There's a wonderful sunset going down over faraway peaks as he sits down and knows that his purpose of climbing out of the pit was over and it was time to hand it over to another to climb another cliff, only this one to reach the high peaks instead of out of the depths of hell.

Good luck to all you do, Neil. I hope you pop in here to read what Ty's said about you guys. It's just too bad Raven Mack hasn't had a season to celebrate like you were able to. Hope for the best for him too, and everyone at ACLB.

Jeremy Reisman,  May 11, 2012 at 3:15 AM  

Damn you, Neil. You've sacrificed so much ink and so much of your own sanity to guide us through the hellish waters of the river Styx. Trying to keep order when the world around us was crumbling, barely surviving the wreckage yourself.

Now the darkness has broken and times of riches and prosperity undoubtedly lie ahead. Yet, like a true hero, you've made the ultimate sacrifice and won't be there with us. You won't be there when we're atop the mountain laughing at the scoundrels that doubted us. You won't be there to bathe in the riches you foretold were coming. You won't be there, drunken of Honolulu Mead, naked, manhood flapping in the wind, cackling wildly and unintelligibly. Uh...soo...yeah...that got a little out of control, but it feels oddly apporpriate...

And damn you, Ty. Damn you for such a fitting and beautiful eulogy.

But, really, thank you both. You're both the reason I started writing and the reason I know there's still a long way to go before I can reach the level both you managed in just four short years. Congratulations to you both.

- Jeremy

Jeff May 11, 2012 at 9:34 AM  

sad to not have to check aclb daily for updates. loved the contrast from all the "normal" journalism. definitely will be missed.

Jeff May 11, 2012 at 9:35 AM  

sad to not have to check aclb daily for updates. loved the contrast from all the "normal" journalism. definitely will be missed.

Mike,  May 11, 2012 at 10:32 AM  

Getting out of hand should be renamed "going a little Neil".

Flamekeeper_Ty,  May 11, 2012 at 1:01 PM  

If it isn't obvious, I care. Neil poured his heart and Lions fan soul into his work for four years, and I'm only a few months behind him.

If I were to shutter TLiW, I'd hope someone would care enough to pay tribute to that work as I did Neil's.


Flamekeeper_Ty,  May 11, 2012 at 1:22 PM  


Fantastic stuff, and thank you. It's humbling and thrilling to hear that my stuff has been any kind of inspiration to anybody.

Keep writing, and don't stop.


Flamekeeper_Ty,  May 11, 2012 at 1:22 PM  

Oh that's perfect. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Neil,  May 11, 2012 at 4:29 PM  

Thanks, Jeremy. And, maaaaan, I'll still be here. I'm not going away, just Armchair Linebacker. The body has died but the spirit remains.

Neil,  May 11, 2012 at 4:29 PM  

Ha! Beautiful.

Ryden,  May 11, 2012 at 6:27 PM  

Neil, you will be missed. Your blog displayed what the inner pyche of a true lions fan really is. Emotions, halluciantions, depression, highs, lows, aborotions, sacrafices, tears, and immortal gods. This are all parts of Lions Fandom and you accurately displayed that.

Neil,  May 11, 2012 at 9:03 PM  

Thanks, Ryden.

Neil,  May 11, 2012 at 9:06 PM  

Hey, so the Armchair Linebacker URL is now kaput so the links in the article probably don't work, but if you still want to read the through the archives, just go to the site's original address: www.reggieroby.blogspot.com, where all of my gibberish - and the gibberish of many others - will remain for eternity.

Anonymous,  May 11, 2012 at 9:53 PM  


Does your wife know about Neil? If so, has she served you with papers yet?

Anonymous,  May 12, 2012 at 3:24 PM  

I can't even begin to express how disappointed I am to hear this news. I discovered TLIW and ACL at the same time a little over a year ago and have not missed an article since. You two were the perfect yin an yang to discuss my beloved Lions. Neil will truly be missed.

Bubbalouuey May 13, 2012 at 12:38 PM  

Well Neil was just as cool as hell but I'm not so sure about that Raven dude Gonna miss em though

Marc,  May 15, 2012 at 9:20 PM  


1 of the few places where the raw truth was spoken on freely. Continue on Neil. Continue on bro.

elliott May 21, 2012 at 10:21 AM  

Another good sports blog bites the dust. I don't care much for profanity, but respect the four years.

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