It appears that Dan Campbell did not take in all of the lessons from the early COVID pandemic classic, The Tiger King. What made the documentary a seminal pop culture moment is that there was nothing else to watch in late March 2020, and characters who were so boorish, and ostentatious that they made the then crude President of the United States, Donald Trump, appear tepid by comparison. However, in the midst of all of the lunacy in that project, we were supposed to learn that big cats are not meant to be pets, not even for a team called the Detroit Lions.
Campbell went on the Pardon My Take podcast back in 2021 when he first took the job as head coach of the Lions and said that he wanted a pet lion on the sidelines with him. On Monday, he was on the same podcast, and admitted that he took some steps towards getting that lion.
“I would say that [Lions team owner] Sheila [Ford] had no problem with it,” Campbell said on the podcast. “But the league apparently frowns on those types of things.”
Dan, do you know who else frowns upon keeping big cats as personal pets? The United States of America. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law in December 2022 that largely eliminates private ownership of those animals. Only large places with experts such as zoos and universities are permitted to house big cats. Those who purchased these types of animals before the law passed are no longer permitted to put them on public display.
This bill passed by unanimous consent in the United States Senate. Unanimous and United States Senate are oxymoronic terms. Those 100 people normally cannot agree on anything except that the safety and well-being of the American people is something that has to be constantly bargained for by two political parties, as opposed to public servants elected to represent the will of the people in the states which they reside. A unanimous passing of this bill means that somehow there is an instance in which Tommy Tuberville has found himself on the right side of history.
I am largely a fan of Campbell’s antics whether it’s him doing up-downs alongside the players during training camp, or him drinking enough caffeine in the morning to power a scoreboard. Sure he rumbles through press conferences and up and down the sidelines like the most current evolution of pure football meathead, but he’s entertaining. Also, it’s not like Campbell endlessly berates his players with a poor Vince Lombardi impersonation, he is simply an intense person. An intensity his team has responded to, because in 2022 the Lions finished with a record above .500 for the first time since 2017.
Fortunately, there are powers professionally above Campbell so that he can be prevented from a seemingly “Dan being Dan’’ moment turning into a legal situation. LSU no longer brings “Mike the Tiger” into Tiger Stadium because caging an animal and parading it in front of hundreds of thousands of people has nothing to do with the study or preservation of a species.
Detroit Lions organization, use your surname as a metaphor for dominance, and leadership. Rev up the crowd at Ford Field with the recorded roar of a Lion. Detroit sports fans have only one team with legitimate playoff expectations, so the Lions should certainly present the intensity of the animal, and the coach to fans in a way that can elicit a response in kind.
Just remember that the phrase “too far” exists for a reason. In the case of big cats, The Tiger King and the United States have made it clear that those massive creatures are not to be used as ornaments, no matter how badass they look.