The Lions will hire a new coach. He’ll bring a hot up-and-coming name in to run the defense and maybe the offense too. You’ll say you’re not sipping the Kool-Aid, but you’ll keep an eye on it. March turns to April and the Kool-Aid turns a little bit more blue.
The Lions draft a stud in the first round. They trade down in the second and rack up an extra third rounder. You’re excited about the haul. “Just a little bit of powder in the pitcher,” you lie to yourself. They grab two day two or three names you’ve fallen in love with through the draft process. You pour a little more powder in the Kool-Aid. It’s getting more potent.
It’s July. Reports out of camp are tremendous. The first-round pick is shining and the third-rounder is already getting first-team reps. Stir the Kool-Aid. Just once or twice around the pitcher.
We’re all vaccinated now and they open camp up to the fans. You can’t help yourself. It’s August 6 and you’re sitting in the scorching sun at 11:30 a.m. on a Friday to assess your favorite team. Stafford is healthy after a long offseason. The offensive line is doing great today—you don’t care that they’re just doing walkthroughs in a joint practice against the Colts, you’re convinced they’re doing great. You try to rationalize with yourself. “It’s just training camp,” you tell yourself, until you watch the rookie wide receiver grab an insane touchdown catch against the team’s best corner. Stir.
You walk back to your car with the new receiver’s jersey draped upon you, your excitement more powerful than any August heat. You turn on 97.1, now the Lions’ official station, expecting to hear a rational analysis, but no. The cat is out of the bag and the radio host has heard the reports of stellar performances at training camp today. He can’t believe it, but you know he must. Even Mike Valenti is excited. Stir.
It’s the end of August. The Lions went 3-1 in the preseason. You tell yourself that means they have great depth. “Injuries won’t ruin us this year, this GM brought in some really good veteran backups.” Stir.
It’s Sunday, September 5. You’re with your buddies, watching your first game of NFL football together since before the pandemic. You know this team inside and out. You’ve heard the reports out of Allen Park. The defense is stout. Stafford is looking sharp. The rookies are overperforming. You’re amped and your buddies are amped and your timeline is amped. It’s time for your team to shine, baby. You let yourself have just a sip of Kool-Aid.
You open Twitter. You’re wading through a river of elation as you read everyone else’s season predictions. A tweet near the top catches your eye. It’s your favorite Lions writer, @HamzaPOD. “Last call for season predictions! Don’t drink too much Kool-Aid, friends.” You look down at your glass and you’ve finished a whole cup. You figure one won’t hurt.
You open the replies. Others are just as gone off the Kool-Aid as you. “13-4.” (Remember, we’re likely headed for a 17-game season.) “14-3. This team is unstoppable.” “10-7, they’ll sneak in the playoffs as the seven seed.” You roll your eyes at the pessimist. He’s wrong and you know it. You chug some Kool-Aid on his behalf.
You hit the reply button and type out your prediction, determined for others to know that you’re level-headed but optimistic. “11-6. I like what I’ve seen from the rookies but need to see a few games to trust this team beyond that.” You turn off your phone and in the black screen you see your mouth, covered in blue, another glass empty.
As you look up, the sideline reporter is just finishing talking about how Matthew Stafford is already feeling good in the new offensive scheme. The kicking team lines up. “Here we go, boys,” you say as the referee blows his whistle to put the ball into play. The pour yourself one more glass of Kool-Aid, but the pitcher empties its last drips as your cup reaches half way. “This is our year,” you say. Jack Fox’s kickoff sails through the back of the end zone.