The first song of any album or playlist is supposed to set the tone. Depending on the overall theme of the record, it’s meant to kick into high energy, grab you by the collar, tease you with something vaguely intriguing or pull at your emotional heartstrings.
The first song in an album is drastically important because in the days of streaming music and YouTube videos, people hop around more than ever. You’ve got to make that first impression and dig your nails into the listener if you hope to get them to stick around for an entire album.
But that added pressure often leads to overthinking things. For the musician, they may try too hard and put out something that doesn’t feel authentic. For the listener, it means attributing extra meaning that may not even be there.
Sunday was Dan Campbell’s opening track. His first opportunity to turn his infectious personality into the only thing that will ultimately matter to the city of Detroit: wins and losses. He opened with a shredding guitar riff, going for it on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter.
HELL YEAH. THIS TEAM IS GOING TO BE AGGRESSIVE. WE’RE GOING TO SCORE 40 POINTS A GAME AND HOLY SHIT THE DEFENSE FORCED A TURNOVER ON ITS VERY FIRST PLAY
Quench my thirst with gasoline
Lions vs. 49ers Week 1 Song of the Game: “Fuel” by Metallica
Campbell is a Metallica fan, making this a simple choice to kick off his era. The opening track of Metallica’s 1997 album “Reload”, Fuel is about whatever sort of high-energy adrenaline-pumping activity you choose. Is it about drugs? Is it about cars? Is it about thrill-seeking? The answer is yes.
Detroit Lions fans are natural thrill-seekers. We toss caution into the wind every season. We convince ourselves this is the year, this is our coach, this is our quarterback. It doesn’t matter if there’s little evidence to support that, we put our emotions on the line and jump off a cliff, expecting there to be a pillowy landing at the bottom even though every previous plummet involves a jaggedy, rocky landing.
Adrenaline crash and crack my head
Nitro junkie, paint me dead
And, of course, with any adrenaline rush comes a crash. That moment came when Jared Goff, hoping to successfully run his first two-minute drill in a Lions uniform, threw a pick-six and sent the game quickly spiraling out of a control. A defense running on empty didn’t help the case, and the Lions headed to the locker room to the familiar chorus of boos.
For most stories, that’s where it ends. A harrowing tale of how drugs and thrill-seeking results in lower lows than the highest highs. A story we’re all too familiar with in Detroit.
Fuel is pumping engines
Burning hard, loose, and clean
And I burn, churning my direction
But that’s not where the story ended.
As the majority of Lions fans at Ford Field were walking the streets of Detroit trying to find their car, the players were finally settling into the game. The defense forced its first punt. Jared Goff was finally pushing the ball downfield—and succeeding. An onside kick and defensive forced fumble later, and suddenly the Lions fans—who were likely outnumbered 4-to-1 at this point—had life. Detroit was 25 yards away from tying up a ballgame.
Give me fire (on I burn, on and on)
The Lions would only gain 1 more yard before turning the ball over on downs and losing the game. But the Lions had fought. They had shown grit. They had embodied the Dan Campbell method, and all of those words that had made headlines had worked. This is a team with a different identity, a different attitude, and one that is going to catch a lot of teams if they let their guard down, even for a second. Campbell's initial track kicked our teeth in and we’re happily wearing a bloody smile.
But here’s the thing: I don’t like Metallica.
There was a time I did. In my angsty teenage years when loud music was my act of defiance. But it doesn’t do it for me anymore. Call me old and boring, but guitar riffs and screaming don’t pump me up the way they used to.
And while I really, really like Dan Campbell as a person and think he’s a great leader of men, I’m not exactly ready to declare the culture of this team completely different and the direction of the franchise finally on point.
I understand the eagerness. We’re all desperately searching for meaning in this season opener. Even the faintest sign that Campbell is the right guy could make the Kool-Aid trip last the rest of the year. So, naturally, the Lions’ furious comeback is the thing we cling to.
Unfortunately, I feel I’ve outgrown that, too. The whole “this team never gives up” mantra is something we’ve heard plenty of times before. During the Jim Caldwell era, the Lions were rarely blown out, taking the best teams in the NFL to the edge. We often took pride of their moxie, even if they would ultimately lose. Hell, even in the early days under Matt Patricia this team was praised for their no-nonsense attitude that helped them climb out of a 1-3 hole to get to 3-3, including wins over the mighty Packers and Patriots.
So my aging, cynical self is preaching patience here. There were certainly some things I really liked about the team. The aggressive mentality, the creative offensive play calling, and a run game that actually may be on the verge of being established. But it’s hard for me to overlook the overwhelming negatives, too: the struggling secondary, the timid quarterback, the invisible front seven.
I’m not here to tell you that you’re being delusional or asking you to stop looking for positive signs that Dan Campbell is the messiah. For the love of god, you’ve earned a break from misery and cynicism. I’m just going to be over here wondering if this was a loud, empty opening track or a true promise of things to come.
You can find the 2021 playlist here (or below):