You wake up one day, and everyone hates you.

So it goes, apparently, for the Pistons, who, I am told, are now unofficially the “bad guys” of the NBA. People suddenly are comparing them with the Los Angeles Raiders. They say a game against the Pistons is like a blind date with Freddy Krueger. One TBS broadcaster even introduces them as
“the team people love to hate.”

Geez. Where did all this come from? Bad boys? The Raiders? Next thing you know, we’ll have to wear eyepatches to the Silverdome and carry knives between our teeth.

Now, I have spent a lot of time in the Pistons’ locker room. And I never have had to carry a weapon. A footstool, maybe. Never a weapon. They seem like OK guys to me.

But, hey. Maybe I’m missing something. So I called Bob Neal, the TBS announcer, who said that yes, he has been calling Detroit “the team people love to hate” on national broadcasts since late last season.

“It’s the image they have around the country now,” he said. “I think people relate to Detroit as a tough, blue-collar, hardball town — and now Detroit basketball fits the mold literally.

“You got players like Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. When Laimbeer comes to town, there are signs saying “LAME-beer.” In Atlanta, a guy dresses up in a villain’s mustache and wears Laimbeer’s number, and when he stands up, everyone boos. . . .

“Maybe it’s the fights they’ve been involved in, or some of the things they’ve said. But no question about it. People just don’t like the Pistons. .
. . They are the team you love to hate.”

Hmm.

Well, now. I am shocked. Nasty accusations

I don’t know where all this started, but it is my duty, as a Detroiter, to set the record straight. Like this fighting stuff. Come on. I think fans are just overreacting to a few Chicago and Boston players who hit the Pistons’ elbows with their jaws.

Lighten up, folks. You’ve got it all wrong. This is a pussycat team. Take Mahorn. A nice guy. True, he was once known as McFilthy (or was it McNasty?) back in Washington. And sure, he’s had a scuffle or two in his career. Like the other night in Chicago, for which he got suspended. That was a good one. Actually, I remember this one time a guy came down the lane and Rickey really popped him, I mean a nice shot, you know, and . . .

Forget Mahorn. Bad example.

Laimbeer. A sweetheart. I know some people think he’s a boor and a crybaby, just because he behaves like a boor and a crybaby. But what kind of reason is that? Here is a guy who . . . well, OK, there was the Larry Bird thing, and the thing in Atlanta, and he did once admit if he were somebody else he’d think he was a bleep, too. But that’s just Bill being hones–

Adrian Dantley. Tell me you don’t like Adrian Dantley. Just bec . . . aw, come on, that stuff in Utah is old news, and . . . what? No, that’s not a scowl. He always looks like that. Aloof? Heck. He’s not aloof. You just don’t understand him. Tell ’em, Adrian. Tell ’em you’re not aloof.

. . . Adrian?

He’s tired. We’ll get back to him. Isiah? Purely biblical

OK. Everybody loves Isiah Thomas. Tell me that they don’t. What do you mean, they don’t? Well, yeah, he doesn’t laugh as easily as he used to. And he did label the Silverdome “my house” last season, and he did say if the Pistons are the LA Raiders, then we can call him “Snake.” So what? It’s a term of endearment. Come here, Snake. Way to go, Snake. It’s a . . .

Uh, let’s move on. How about the young guys? Dennis Rodman. He’s . . . never mind. We all know what he said in Boston. Don’t even bring it up. How about John Salley? What? Just because he calls hinmself “Spider”? Just because he wears an Arab headdress after games? Hey. A lot of guys from Brooklyn wear those.

Gee whiz. Such high standards.

Let’s face it. The Pistons are simply victims of circumstance. They happen to be in the lane when one of those pesky little guards comes through looking to dance with somebody. And nasty reporters keep sticking microphones in front of their faces instead of just talking to coach Chuck Daly — who is funnier, and a snappier dresser, too.

Personally, I think the opposing fans hate the Pistons for one reason.

They’re good.

But, heck. We understand. After all, as Mr. Neal says, we in Detroit are a tough, blue-collar, hardball kind of people.

You’re all forgiven.

And that’s that. No more of this bad-boys silliness. Take it from me, a guy who has looked these Pistons deep in the armpits. They are kind, gentle, sensitive athletes. And you can believe that because I said so — and I am a kind, gentle, sensitive sports writer.

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