Not a day goes by without someone in the national NFL sphere professing their love for the Detroit Lions. It seems that way, right?
“Get on the bandwagon!” folks keep imploring. “There won’t be any room if you don’t.”
The love is everywhere, all the time, and it’s not even June. Call it the summer of Honolulu Blue, a tsunami of sorts, a force so strong it might push the continents back together, or Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.
Imagine a single land mass again, like Pangaea, a borderless life where folks could stroll from what is now Russia to what is now Alaska, as scientists theorize humans did some 16,500 years ago, or about the last time the Lions won a playoff game.
Would the Lions get credit for bringing the planet together? I mean, why not?
OTA’s (organized team activities) started Tuesday. The man who is primarily responsible for the deluge of hype is set to meet with reporters today. Not that Dan Campbell is pushing his team as NFC North favorites, or as the key to world peace. He’s just not running from expectation.
“Every team should want to go to the Super Bowl every year,” he said during league meetings in March.
“Our standard has always been about winning, man,” he said.
His use of “man” is partly what’s endeared him to so many talking head-types, of course. So is him guiding the Lions to a late season surge last year.
Here’s what NFL observer, and former player, Louis Riddick said last week about Campbell and the Lions:
“(He) is building a monster in Detroit.”
Could this really be? Or is it a set-up? A joke that everyone is in on except for those who love the Lions?
Riddick, who works for ESPN, insists it’s not.
“Forget what you think of the Lions,” he said. “Campbell is going to have the last laugh.”
Whoa. Talk about cosmic comeuppance.
It’s almost too much to even think about. How about a playoff berth first? Or a divisional title? Even if Campbell says the Super Bowl is the goal.
The Lions haven’t won their division in 30 years. They will almost assuredly be favored to win it this fall. Or winter if you’re splitting hairs; the regular season ends in late December or early January.
If they clinch, the season won’t matter. Nor will the temperature, for the heat generated … well, yeah, it’d be more than metaphorical.
To get there, the Lions will have to handle the heat they’re generating now, though. Like ESPN’s MIna Kimes tweeting: “I love this Lions coaching staff so much.”
Or the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah saying of the top half of Lions’ recent draft haul:
“Don’t look now, but all five of the Lions picks have been one of my Top 50 prospects.”
Even though they drafted a running back/slot receiver with their first pick in the first round? And then took a linebacker later in the first round?
Yes. He didn’t back down.
Or, finally, a free agent that arrived in Detroit and said it was “refreshing to be at a place where I am appreciated.”
That was David Montgomery, whom the Lions signed away from the Chicago Bears, and who said of the Bears this week during a gaming interview that they “sucked the fun out of football.”
Implying that the Lions were fun. Wait, what?
Yeah, he said he wanted to compete and was tired of losing and that’s partly why he signed in Detroit.
“I like to compete,” he said. “That’s what football is about.”
So let me get this straight. A player from another team left that team because he thought he could “compete” and have “fun” in Detroit?
What is happening?
Campbell, for one, clearly. Brad Holmes for another. A talented roster, an offense that scores, a defense that improved, a city — and region — that adores its team like few others.
Montgomery said he loved Campbell’s passion. That he is a player’s coach. That he could tell.
“That was one of the things that brought me here and excited me,” he said. “Because I watched the ‘Hard Knocks’ before I got here. And to see how he was coaching, bro, I was like ‘yo, I can play for him.’ He makes you want to run through a wall for him.”
Maybe. But so what?
That doesn’t diminish what Montgomery felt watching “Hard Knocks” or what he felt when he met with Campbell. It just reinforces what so many are beginning to suspect:
The Lions are changing. Their culture. Their vibe. Their talent. Their expectations.
Is it a ruse? A cosmic prank meant to gut-punch the longest suffering fan base in the league?
Or is it real?
Because the hype sure is. And it’s only going to build this summer, from OTAs to fall camp to the lead-up to opening night in Kansas City.
So, until then, take the buzz as a “W,” and as confirmation that the perception is finally beginning to change, at least until proven otherwise.
We’ll find out soon enough if the change is here to stay.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.