Disclaimer: I guess even the most resilient and optimistic of fans can let a little pessimism set in from time to time. Maybe it's more of a level-setting of expectations, but I'm feeling a little of that after my daily rounds of Lion's articles on the internet. Take it as a "mood-of-the-day" thing and not an overall drowning of my hope.
I'm sure we all have our daily internet rituals geared towards dredging up all things Lions. Mine starts, of course, with POD. I'll give the site a quick once over and check out any new posts, articles or comments. After I leave a few new comments of my own, it's on to MLive.com, Freep.com and DetNews.com to finish with my dose of the local vibe. From there, it's on to the major publications like SI.com, NFL.com, CBSSportsline.com, FoxSports.com, ESPN.com, ProFootballWeekly.com and a few others. Today was no different. It's like a sacred ritual; performing the morning scour while I'm enhancing my cock-crow view with a strong cup of freshly ground dark roast (and I mean fresh... as in I grind my own beans. It's the only way to go!)As it's been for the last few days, the news is all training camp. The optimism from Allen Park exudes in each and every article. The topics for today included the healthy quarterback competition, the continuation of Landon Cohen's meteoric rise, Schwartz's team-first versus defense-first approach, Buchanon's stick-like-glue coverage to Calvin Johnson, Delmas' firm grasp on a starting role and the new offensive line approach that is sure to get the most from the group. This stuff should all be put on a new cable network. The call letters would be H.O.P.E... all optimism, all the time. Very little negativity coming from the local journalists right now, but that's good, right? I mean would we rather read that everyone is stinking up the joint and we are setting the stage for another 0-16 season? Of course not. Granted, there are a few tidbits out there that talk about thrown interceptions and the offensive line not looking great, but those are in the minority. Most of the articles coming out in the past few days have been heavily weighted to the overly-optimistic side of things.
By now, you're probably saying "Yeah, so what? That's a good thing". Right... it is. But as I was reading these articles today, I was feeling something other than warm fuzzies and hope. I was feeling déjà vu. I've read all of these articles before... last year. And you know what? I read them the year before that and the year before that, too. So how do we trust that this year's set of journalistic chronicles are any different than those of the past few years. Truth be told, we can't. Thus, my morning discouragement begins.
The consistent theme with most of these articles is the "new approach, new coaches, new scheme, new results" premise. But is that really always the case? History says no... not for the Lions, anyway. We've all heard this same song and dance before. Whether it's the West Coast offense or the Tampa 2 defense, optimism abounds because we are forcefully given the yearly training camp handbook "1001 Reasons Why This New Approach Will Work" as our daily reading assignment. Mostly, we simply scan it and then buy into it - fully. Journalists and coaches feed us scoop after scoop of why this new approach will work and we are so starved for positive news, we can only say "Please sir, may I have some more?" They formulate it to make perfect sense to us. The end result is us saying, "Yeah, he's right. How can this fail?" Then 0-16 happens and we wonder what happened between the new no-fail approach and the utter destruction of our franchise. This gets most of us every year. Not that we don't fuel the fire feverishly ourselves. I'm just as guilty as most... maybe more. I buy into things. I guess I'm just another mouth that's ready to ingest a full plate of something positive.
Just like last year, I have that feeling that things are different. Just like last year, the training camp handbook has been given to us as our daily reading assignment. And just like last year, we are all starting to buy into it. Is that a negative thing? I don't necessarily think so. But there is a lesson to learn here. I think the lesson I'll take away from this morning's bout of déjà vu is that I simply need to be aware of the training camp optimism game and how it's come back to bite so deeply in the past. Hopefully, I'll be able to step back and form my own opinions on expectations for this year and not be completely swallowed up by either the media hype or simple giddiness of the start of a new NFL season. Excitement for a new season and high expectations for the Lions are sometimes mutually exclusive. It's okay to feel genuine excitement and still maintain realistic expectations of this year's team. You have to realize that all 32 fanbases are feeling the same exact thing right now. All 32 media outlets are handing out their versions of the training camp handbook and millions are so hungry for the optimism they are simply swallowing before they chew. The result is going to be a lot of stomach-aches.
Again, don't read to deep into my mini-revelation here. I'll no doubt continue to take in as much of the feed that comes my way and in the end, my hope will probably far exceed the appropriate expectations I should have for this team. My charge to you the fan is that we continue to test and scrutinize the information that comes our way. That's why I would much rather read the information in a fan-blog over the one-sided articles written by paid journalists. Fans have more heart and more sensibility than the average, hardened media lackey (not including you in that mob, Sean). To feed into the hope and hype are not bad things. It's part of the fun of this time of year. But we need to put forth an effort to make our own assessments and keep ourselves from becoming misguided in our interpretation of how good this team really can be this year. Some may disagree and say that being a true fan requires blind faith and a perpetual assumption that your team is capable of winning a championship every year. I know we've had discussions along those lines here before. I say that being a good fan is about holding to undying loyalty while allowing for honest expectations and assessment of your beloved club. I think you can expect a team to play poorly and still be a devoted fan. If you feel I'm off-base with that evaluation, let me know.
Anyway, thought I'd share this with you today. I guess tomorrow morning I'll have to rededicate myself to the handbook and eat two helpings of journalistic nourishment to get my optimism meter to read "FULL" again. Dig in!