by | May 31, 1991 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

For some people, the Pistons losing their title wasn’t enough. They want them to suffer.

I base this on newspaper columns I have been reading from around the country. Goodness. Such venom! You would have thought the Pistons burned the flag, robbed little old ladies and stuck their tongues out at the pope.

I must have missed all that. What I saw in their final playoff game against Chicago was this: They threw a few stupid elbows. And in the end, most of them walked past the Bulls without shaking hands.

“No handshake! Disgusting!” said the critics.

Geez. First they complain about too much contact, then they complain about not enough.

Were this football or hockey, the response would be more sensible: “Big deal. Pass the chips.”

But for some reason, Monday’s basketball game was different. By the end, outraged journalists from around the country were typing as if “America the Beautiful” were humming in the background.

The Charlotte Observer wrote: “What the Bulls have done is nothing less than a public service. They stopped the Pistons, the most vile team in the NBA
. . . from winning another championship.”

The New York Times wrote: “If Chuck Daly holds to the same disgusting theories of physical intimidation and miserable sportsmanship . . . the Olympic Committee should rethink its choice.”

The Chicago Tribune wrote: “Dennis Rodman, the smirking vermin . . . Bill Laimbeer, the sucker-punching oaf . . . Isiah Thomas, the sneaky little puppeteer . . . “

USA Today wrote: “Basketball is safe again for women and children. God bless the red and black.”

Hmmm. Well. After careful review and much deliberation, I can only come to one conclusion:

These people are insane. Good apology, terrible insult

Or maybe they are jealous. After all, the poor writer from New York has been forced to watch the Knicks all these years. Understandably, he has forgotten how NBA basketball is really played.

And the guy from Charlotte? No offense. But if the Bulls really wanted to perform a “public service,” wouldn’t they first take the Charlotte Hornets and drop them down a sewer?

The critic from Chicago? He is clearly scared of his city’s sad tradition of Losing The Big One. Fact is, the only recent Chicago team to go all the way was the Bears — and they made the Pistons look like Bambi. I still recall Jim McMahon during Super Bowl week, urinating on Bourbon Street. Now there’s a guy Chicago can be proud of.

(As for the writer from USA Today? Leave him be. Working at that paper is punishment enough.)

Now. Let me say this: I do not condone what Dennis Rodman did to Scottie Pippen in Game 4, which was, basically, shove him to the floor. But come on. That is not the first shove in the history of basketball. Rodman was fined
$5,000, which he accepted. He also sent Pippen a letter of apology. In sports, this is the equivalent of war reparations.

But Pippen dismissed the letter, saying he didn’t think Dennis wrote it. He also said publicly he didn’t think Dennis could write it. That is a low insult to Rodman, maybe even worse than a shove. Yet when Pippen said it, reporters laughed.

That, they laugh at.

The Pistons, they sentence to hell. Fly in, fly out, then rip

This is typical of the national sports media, who fly into Detroit the morning of the game and fly out that evening, thinking, for some reason, that they are in danger every second they spend in Michigan. I promise you, most of these columnists saw only four Pistons games all year — the four vs. Chicago.

And obviously, they arrived with their minds made up: Detroit bad, Chicago good. Consider this handshake thing. When Michael Jordan verbally ripped the Pistons to shreds — “People I know will be glad when they’re not champions anymore” — the national media acted as if God had spoken. No criticism. No one saying, “Show some respect, Mike. They are the back-to-back champs.”

Yet when some — not all — Pistons chose not to shake Jordan’s hand, bam! They were crucified.

Now, once again, I personally believe the Pistons should have congratulated all the Bulls. What’s the big deal? Shake hands, say good luck, take the high road. Isiah Thomas, as captain, and Chuck Daly, as coach, should have known better.

But OK. They didn’t. Let’s not turn it into the Bay of Pigs. After all, when Detroit dethroned the Lakers two years ago at the Forum, it was the Pistons giving Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a standing ovation in the final seconds. Yet Kareem did not shake their hands. And no one complained. The TV folks talked sadly of “the end of a Laker era.”

No such sadness for the Pistons. Just joy.

It doesn’t seem fair. But then, when it comes to Detroit, the national media rarely is. They see what they want. They dump. They leave.

We can only hope that the Bulls and Pistons meet again next year in the playoffs. And that the critics return, once again, the morning of the game. This time, I promise we’ll be nicer. We’ll meet them at the airport with a big handshake.

And the seeing-eye dogs. Mitch Albom will do a special Father’s Day signing of “Live Albom II” tonight, 6-7:15 p.m. at Waldenbooks in Grosse Pointe; Saturday, 1-2 p.m., Waldenbooks SuperStore, Madison Heights; and 3:30-4:30 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Rochester Hills.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!