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Paper Lions, Tiger Kings, and Biting Kneecaps. Oh My!

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Does anyone know what hue of blue the Detroit Lions wear? I'm asking because it looks nice.

Nike, who has been the official supplier of NFL uniforms since 2012, calls the Lions blue, Battle Blue on their website. The Lions fans I've spoken to call it Honolulu Blue. We all know the Chargers hue as Powder Blue.

If graded on the curve of military branding I would give the slight edge to the Lions here. Powder Blue doesn't sound like a color you would associate with ferocity, aggression, or hawkish strategy, but Powder Blue remains iconic—whereas I'd wager straw-polling on the streets of Detroit would reveal that the locals don't have a clue what the Lions call their blue.

The Chargers and the Lions share more than just a beautiful blue home jersey color. They are both in the third year of their most recent coaching regimes. In an interesting "Sliding Doors" moment the Lions hired former tight end Dan Campbell three days after the Chargers hired Staley in January, 2021. The Chargers did not interview Campbell, who was not exactly a hot commodity at the time.

Staley, a wunderkind from the Vic Fangio coaching tree, was a month removed from installing a cutting-edge scheme during the Zoom classroom days of the pandemic before presiding over the top defense in the NFL. You remember the pandemic? That global event that sent everyone deemed an unessential worker home to work remotely from their couches?

A quick refresher: NFL general managers and scouts held the first remote draft as conter-programming to Netflix's "Tiger King." The Detroit brass must have spent a little too much time breaking down Carol Baskin's alibis instead of watching college football tape. How else do you explain drafting cornerback Jeff Okudah at number three when Justin Herbert was available?

Okudah might wind up being a trivia question someday if any of the quarterback class wins championships or winds up in Canton, Ohio. Who was the cornerback taken third overall when Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert were available?

Even Herbert's most vocal detractors wouldn't waste a second before rushing to turn in their draft cards if the shoe was on the other foot and the 2020 Draft was redone today. How many names come off of the board before Herbert? One? Two? Anymore than that is simply disingenuous—as is most of the Herbert slander deep down. They did it for the LOLs.

Before HBO’s Hard Knocks, Sports Illustrated paid Harvard-educated writer George Plimpton to do stunt journalism; sparring with Joe Lewis, pitching in an All Star game, and trying out for the Detroit Lions as a quarterback from Canada.

The insight and the access produced a great book. The book produced a puckish film—part documentary, part frat house comedy, and part delusional fantasy.

Alan Alda plays Plimpton, but mostly he seems to be playing himself. If you have ever heard or seen George from archival interviews then you know that casting Alda is already tilting the scales away from realism.

Thankfully the football footage is real— shot from the ground like Michael Mann is shooting coverage for Oliver Stone. With no budget to fake an NFL preseason game the production just shot footage from a real one (most likely with the cooperation from Ed Sabol’s NFL Films production house).

Seeing NFL players (most of the Lions are played by themselves) prepare for a game in 1967 before the NFL-AFL merger is notable, if only because of its uniqueness. Like I said, the teams just did not grant access to locker rooms and practice facilities like this.

Its a shame that the Lions players are not as dexterous as Plimpton. Acting on-screen, out of their arena, just does not seem fair and some of these line readings are just as embarrassing as getting your feet stepped on by the center as you pull away from the line of scrimmage.

In the film, Alda's experiment culminates in a series of real snaps taken from the writer in a preseason game—as Plimpton did in real life. Though Hollywood, if given the chance, loves to fudge historical facts to give audiences closure, it does not do Plimpton any favors here. Which is exactly the point.

Plimpton, who can barely manage the quarterback-center exchange, took the Lions backwards on his four snaps from under center before the team punted. As he was coming off of the field dejected he notes that some of the fans are cheering him. Though puzzled, and perhaps dazed, afterwards frames it with a transcendent self-awareness that exemplifies what made him such an acclaimed author.

I thought about the applause afterward—some of it, perhaps, in appreciation of the lunacy of my participation, but it occurred to me that most of it, even subconsciously, was in relief that I had done as badly as I had. It verified the assumption that the ordinary citizen could not survive in the brutal world of professional football...The proper order of things would have been upset. The outsider did not belong, and there was satisfaction in that being proved.


Speaking of belonging. . .Back in Hollywood you could make the case that Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco made the correct hiring decision based on the other coaching candidates that the Chargers interviewed.

Rumors—always subject to degrees of reliability—are only rumors, after all. But, rumors at the time claimed that the team was strongly considering Jason Garrett to replace Anthony Lynn before being wowed by Rams Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley. The other candidates from that coaching cycle (with the exception of Garrett) eventually landed top spots in other cites: Arthur Smith in Atlanta (18-25), Brain Daboll in New York with the Giants (11-14-1), Robert Saleh with the Jets (15-27), and Matt Eberflus in Chicago (6-21).

When he was hired Campbell gained a tiny measure of fame; going viral at his press conference for the type of team he intended to build. “We’re going to kick you in the teeth, all right?” Campbell told reporters. “And when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you. And when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off, all right? And then we’re going to stand up. And then it’s going to take us two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up, we’re going to take your other kneecap. … Before long, we’re going to be the last one standing.”

Campbell's Lions started 0-10-1 before finally winning a game in December on their way to a 3-13-1 season. The media laughed. The fans (outside of Detroit) laughed.

No one is laughing now. Campbell brings his first place Lions squad in rested off of a bye with a 6-2 record and is currently one of the favorites to win the NFL Coach of the Year award. Staley's team is on a two game winning streak (4-4) but you won't find anyone putting money down on him to win that award. His name is still being bandied about by oddsmakers , just not in a good way.

So Campbell is one of the best coaches in the game and Staley is counting time until he packs up his office?

That's what the sportsbooks think.

If both men started their coaching careers in the same year then you would probably think that Campbell is running circles around Staley. You might think that the Lions players would run through a brick wall—or bite off some kneecaps!—for Campbell, while Staley's players hate him. You might even think that Campbell has a better coaching record where in matters; in the wins column.

Campbell brings an overall record of 17-28-1 into Sunday's game against Staley's 23-19 mark. Weird, isn't it?

Whatever happens on the field, if I was Staley I know what I'd do when he meets Campbell at midfield to exchange a post-game handshake: I'd watch my kneecaps.


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Lions vs. Chargers Predictions

Bolt Bros Podcast

Kyle Sawyer (Season Record 5-3)

The "Broracle" reads the runes!

URUZ. The Chargers have been building their strength in the previous weeks and it has payed dividends. For the first time as long as I can remember the injury report is basically zero!

OTHILA. Being at home this week could not come at a better time for the team. Having a solid two game winning streak will encourage the Bolt Fam to show up and enjoy the game.

HAGALAZ. This team is forming into the team that we all believe they should be. They are a sight to behold, and a storm is brewing.

Chargers 23 - Lions 20


Rivers Lake Yacht Club

Señor Snappy (Season Record 2-3)

The Lions can be really good. Their offensive line plays dirty. Their defense is fast and skillful up front. Their punter Jack Fox is excellent.

The Chargers are mostly healthy, except for Mike Williams, Josh Palmer and Corey Linsley. The offensive line has not looked good since Will Clapp has taken over on center.

Detroit’s aggressive defense is vulnerable to misdirection and QB runs—it would be a great time for Kellen Moore to dial up some creative run formations and get the screen game going.

The Chargers are figuring out how to win, and are coming in hot. The Lions are coming off a bye, preceded by a decent—but not especially impressive—showing against the Raiders. They haven’t played well on the west coast in over 10 years.

All that said, this will be an “any given Sunday” game. Both teams are talented, motivated, disciplined, and healthy. This game likely is decided by a random, ball-bounced-the-right-way play. It should be low scoring.

Lions 13 - Chargers 9



K​ea Humilde (Season Record 4-4)

Still on a high from attending the Chargers game against the Jets! Something I wrote in detail about and will publish next week here on the page. Shameless plug!

The Bolts devoured their New York pies last Monday night, so what’s going to stop them from going deep (dish) in Detroit? Kellen Moore has the oven set and ready to go with chef Herbert working with the finest ingredients: hot and ready to sack, Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, Keenan can’t-drop-the-ball Allen and Derius Davis’ insane speed to add a little spice.

The Lions’ palates may not be used to such delectable plays and fine ingredients, so we’ll be the first to give them a taste (test). Bon appetit!

Chargers 28 - Lions 17


Señor Salty

Mark White (Season Record 6-2)

The Sofi crowd split is going to be indecipherable so get those photos in when you can Chargers fans. The CBS camera crew won't have to do any yoga moves to make it look like the seats are filled with backers of the "home team." Powder blue? Military blue? Battle blue? Who's counting anyways?

The Chargers pass rush is turning into the rhythm that gives opponents the blues.

Chargers 28 - Lions 21


The Greek Uncles in Chicago

A​bram Sexson and Panos Mamalis (Season Record 3-5)

Hercules and his Ten Labors endures as one of antiquity’s epic myths. His first feat was killing the Lion of Nemea barehanded by blocking one entrance to the cave, trapping the beast and entering the other to rip it apart.

The Lion had terrorized the town of Nemea much like the Lions of Detroit have tormented many of the weaker teams in the league with their newfound prowess. While Hercules could have sieged the lion by blocking both exits to the cave and starving it, he chose to fight it so his labor would be steeped in glory.

You might see the Chargers as the town of Nemea in this allegory, because the statistics indicate that the Lions offense should run and throw all over the Bolt's defense. The Greek Uncles from Chicago believe that the Chargers have found something over the last few weeks.

A man small in stature but a hero in the hearts of men: Austin Ekeler will lead the Chargers to glorious victory just like our Papou Taki led the 1934 concrete workers' strike in Elefsina. Chargers 27 - Lions 24


Thunder Down Under Podcast

Alister Lloyd (Season Record 0-0)

Running on early downs is a recipe for disaster so Kellen Moore shouldn't be shy about going to the quick game and give looks to Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler.

The Lions move the ball well between the 20-yard lines but are ranked 24th in red zone touchdown percentage. A season ago, they were fourth. On the other side of the ball the Lions rank 27th in red zone defense. The Chargers bring the 4th ranked red zone offense so that might be enough of an edge in a game between two teams who are aggressive inside the 10-yard line.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff is not pressured often but when he is his eyes tend to drop and his passes go awry. He threw a pick six to Marcus Peters of the Raiders in his last outing.

Chargers 27 - Lions 21


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Nov 12, 2023
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“They don’t cream them like they used to.” - Plimpton

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