Here comes ‘Hard Knocks’: Detroit Lions expectations are going to soar even higher

Detroit Free Press

Oh baby, it’s almost here.

As we celebrate National “Hard Knocks” Day in Detroit — the first episode of the HBO series will drop at 10 tonight and we will get a long-awaited look behind the scenes of the Detroit Lions — it’s time to predict what we are going to see. Let’s call it a self-administered quiz.

Yes, of course, you can turn it into a “Hard Knocks” drinking game, too, but I’m not going to call it that. Wink, wink.

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Prepare for Campbell overload

The nation is going to love Lions coach Dan Campbell because he’s such a fun, genuine, colorful character. So it’s time to guess what Campbell will say. If you get it right, give yourself five points :

A. “We are gonna bite somebody’s kneecap and then work into the thigh, that nice meaty area; and then move into the spleen! Add some salt. Spleen is underrated!”

B. “We got grit. We are gonna play anywhere. The freakin’ moon! On a toxic dump! In a nuclear reactor. Even in the ocean. And when we get into that cold deep water, treading water like crazy, we are gonna bury them under a mountain of dirt!”

C. “We are hyenas! He are starving! We are gonna go down to American Coney Island and order some dogs and feast like crazed wolves!”

Dancing in the streets

It will be disappointing if the show doesn’t feature Detroit’s rich musical history, so pick the scenario and give yourself five points if it comes true:

A. They play Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” during a montage about the last 65 years of failure.

B. They play Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in a discussion on how expectations are soaring.

C. They play Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as a long-shot rookie walks into the facility.

D. They play Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away” as Campbell gets on a Harley and heads out on the open highway. (I have no idea if he rides motorcycles … but he’s gotta, right?)

The king of pop

It seems certain that rookie Aidan Hutchinson singing Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” will be in the first episode. But what will we see? Give yourself five points for picking the situation:

A. Hutchinson sits in a meeting room and just breaks into song (yeah, I’m expecting far more, too).

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B. He jumps up on stage and sings while wearing one football glove.

C. He kills it. As he finishes his song, he moonwalks and his teammates go crazy.

A Honolulu-blue montage

If we see Campbell doing up-downs, give yourself five points.

If they feature Hutchinson, discussing how he went to Michigan football and profile his family, you get only two points. This seems so certain, the point value has been diminished.

Every time Campbell says “grit,” give yourself one point.

If Campbell says “grit” while lifting owner Sheila Hamp into the air and spinning around while screaming, “Oooka Booka,” give yourself 25 points.

If 97.1 The Ticket personality Mike Stone is seen running a 40-year dash, give yourself 10 points.

If Free Press Lions beat writer Dave Birkett is seen asking a question during a news conference, give yourself five points.

If you see yourself in the crowd during a Lions practice, you get five points.

Every time you see Birkett’s bucket hat, give yourself a point.

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The breakout stars

Pick one of the featured characters in episode one for five points:

A. Jamaal Williams putting his heart and soul into this team, while showing tenderness with his family.

B. Jared Goff, who is making his yearly appearance on “Hard Knocks.” Also, because, well, it’s an excuse to show his girlfriend, Christian Harper.

C. Tracy Walker kneeling before heading out to practice.

D. Hutchinson at home with his family and they mention his sister just won Miss Michigan USA.

E. Running backs coach Duce Staley, running around, full of enthusiasm.

The brain center

The part that I can’t wait to see is the interaction between Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, as they discuss players and the team. Pick one for five points:

A. Campbell turns to Holmes and says: “Penei Sewell is a freakin’ beast!”

B. Campbell says to Holmes: “Malcom Rodriguez is like a battering ram in a china shop. He’s poppin’ on tape.”

C. Campbell says to Holmes: “Hutchinson is like an Energy Bunny on Red Bull!”

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A man’s gotta eat

In a famous “Hard Knocks” scene, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones professes his love for Whataburger, saying, “I like it untouched. I don’t care if it’s been sitting for an hour and a half.” So what will we see Campbell eating. Ten points for closest answer:

1. Dude has to be a serious steak guy.

2. Sushi with a fork.

3. Taco Bell — I can’t really explain it, but he seems like a Taco Bell guy.

4. No food. All we see is him downing gallons of caffeine.

One thing’s for certain

The nation is going to love Campbell and this team after this series because there are so many great characters and story lines. This will turn giddy Lions fans even more giddy and perspective will soon be lost. This is a dangerous thing for Lions fans because it will set up the next round of heartbreak. After you hear all the inspiring speeches and cool scenes, expectations are gonna get nutty.

So right now, pick what will happen:

A. Get real people. The Lions won’t even win seven games. Because that defense still scares me. And Campbell is still just a second-year coach.

B. Man, I love where this team is headed. But I still see only seven or eight wins. Baby steps. That’s all that matters. The wide receiver group is improved but it’s going to be a while before we see Jameson Williams. Too many things have to go right for this team to win more than that.

C. I’m calling it right here. Playoffs baby! The Lions have a weak schedule, Chicago and Minnesota are a mess, and the Lions’ defense is gonna jell. Hutchinson is going to give this team a boost. Amon-Ra St. Brown is going to turn into a superstar. D’Andre Swift is going to stay healthy. Julian Okwara and Alim McNeill are going to be even better because of Hutchinson. Goff has weapons everywhere he turns. But it’s the running game, baby. That offensive line is gonna rock n roll. Drink the Kool-Aid, people!

MORE FROM SEIDEL: This Lions rookie epitomizes Dan Campbell attitude. We don’t mean Aidan Hutchinson

Me?

I can’t wait for this series. It’s gonna be cool just to peek behind the curtain.

But this whole thing creates an entirely new situation for Lions fans. You get to sit in front of your TV and watch the Lions; and for the first time — probably in your lifetime — you know it won’t end with heartbreak.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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