Whether you've been here since the beginning, or just wandered up to the blue bonfire, welcome.
Today is the first day of the first year of the New Lions. Not the possibility, not the promise, not the potential. Reality. This is the year when the Detroit Lions will take the field knowing they should win—and more often than not, leave the field victorious. This is the season that the Lions stake their claim as a perennial playoff team. This is the year that their championship window opens. This is the year where everyone, everywhere, sees the massive, roaring column of blue fire exploding above the tree line, lashing out into the sky, and are compelled to come near, and watch in wonder.
It has been a long, slow wait. It has been a punishing chore splitting and hauling the wood. It has been a bone-chilling, skin-cracking cold, penetrating my parka on the edge of the wind’s knife. It has been more than three years I’ve tended the little blue flame—and together with many of you we have sheltered it, fueled it, and watched it grow. We have warmed our hands as it’s waxed, and gone back to work as it’s waned, all the while greeted the folks who’ve come to watch with a smile, a handshake and a mug of cider.
Yesterday, the Lions signed middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, and re-signed cornerback Chris Houston. Together with Justin Durant, Eric Wright, and Erik Coleman, the Lions have added prime starters or quality backups for every position in the much-maligned back seven. Tulloch will center Levy and Durant behind the monster defensive line, and Wright will compete with Alphonso Smith, Nathan Vasher and Aaron Berry for the #2 corner spot. Add Coleman competing with Amari Spievey to be Louis Delmas’ backfield partner, and suddenly the Lions’ defense looks solid, even scary.
The offense is still the identity of this team, though, and with Matthew Stafford leading a truly exceptional corps of backs, receivers, and tight ends, the Lions will put up points in bunches. Based on their play last season, the talent they’ve added, and the return of Stafford, I expect the Lions to be amongst the top five scoring offenses in football. Pair that with the at-least-average-and-probably-better defense and, well . . . you have a playoff team.
Suddenly, the Lions are a hot ticket. The Lions opened as 30/1 longshots to with the NFC, but have been bet all the way down to 6/1. Peter King, when asked for his picks to make the Super Bowl, spoke the Lions’ name (as “a little bit of an upset.”). We haven’t seen this kind of attention and praise for our Leos in many years; it might seem bizarre, even disorienting. Some of you might be young enough to never remember the Lions entering the season as playoff contenders! Here’s a piece of advice to guide you through this strange and confusing time:
Crack a smile! Have a laugh. Take a big swig of hearty cider, and toast your favorite team with gusto. Break out your old Honolulu Blue gear, or buy some new stuff. Don it with pride, and say hey to everyone you see doing the same. If we ought to have learned anything over these past few seasons, it’s to treasure the good times—so why hedge our bets? Why hide this light we’ve kept burning for so long? What was all that work for, if not to enjoy it in times like these?
Yes, I know: you’ve been hurt before. You’ve believed before. But trust me on this one: you won’t want to spend this season with your nose in the air. You won’t want to spend this season mowing the lawn during games. You won’t want to “wait” for the Lions to “prove it” before you believe. Watching them prove it is what it’s all about! It’s what we’ve all waited for!
So. Today, be awed by the power of the blue flame. Marvel at the swell of support from across the nation. Read the reports of training camp practices (real practices!) like a kid who found their parents’ Christmas shopping list. Cherish every moment of this Lions season that you can, because it will be be one we’ll want to remember forever.