TO: THE REST OF THE WORLD FROM: DETROIT SPORTS FANS
We are not on a ledge.
We do not have our heads in the oven.
We are not taking the big sleep. We are not swallowing the gas pipe. Yes, we know the rest of the sports world feels sorry for us, seeing as our venerable Tigers, one of baseball’s oldest franchises, are about to lose more games in one season than any modern-era team has done before — even the laughable 1962 New York Mets.
But can we let you in on a little secret? We don’t care that much.
It’s not that we are insensitive. On the contrary. If you had watched grown men openly weeping when Michigan blew that punt to Oregon last weekend, you’d know we are a sensitive bunch.
And it’s not that we bottle up our feelings. If you had heard the wailing when Sergei Fedorov snubbed the Red Wings for the Ducks, you would know we do not bottle up our feelings. We emote. We express.
It’s just that we have no tears left to shed for the Tigers. They may be a new story to you, Mr. and Mrs. America, but we’ve been living with it for 10 years.
To be honest, telling us the Tigers are going to break the Mets’ record of 120 losses is a little like telling us the engine on our old clunker just died. Yeah. Well. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
Last winning season was 1993
Here is what you may not know, as you climb down from your satellite truck to set up your live shot to report on the “state of Motown as the Tigers make sad history.”
It has been sad for a long time. In fact, the last time the Tigers had a winning season was 1993. (Not that they won anything that year. They just had more victories than losses. Chuck Wepner could say that.)
Meanwhile, since that time, the Red Wings won three Stanley Cups, the Pistons got good again, Michigan State won the NCAA hoops tournament and Michigan won a slice of the national football championship.
Fans move on. Today, most Detroiters can’t even name two Tigers players. We do not embrace them as some lovable losers. They are not Casey, Choo Choo or Marvelous Marv of the ’62 Mets.
These Tigers are mostly the cheapest, the youngest or most un-tradeable. It’s hard to get into that.
But we’re not ashamed. We’re not “wincing” — as I read in one national newspaper. And when Alan Trammell says of his team, “We’re about out of gas,” we nod sympathetically and say, “Welcome to the club.”
Wallets opened for Wings instead
What’s that you say? How can we not be embarrassed? Well, the way we look at it, this is not our mess.
We didn’t stop coming to games. On the contrary, Tigers fans for many years kept coming to the ballpark in considerable numbers, even when the teams barely warranted a birthday party.
We didn’t make the trades. On the contrary, Tigers fans yelled and screamed every time another good player was let go for someone cheaper.
We didn’t ignore free agency. On the contrary, Tigers fans begged and pleaded with owner Mike Ilitch to open his wallet and buy some talent. And, truth be told, he did. He bought Derian Hatcher and Dominik Hasek.
Unfortunately, they play hockey, not baseball.
But the fans have done what they can. After a while, we just bagged the whole thing. Most Detroiters are numb. We are just not moved by baseball much anymore. And if you’re not moved, you’re not going to worry about an all-time losing season.
Besides, records are made to be broken.
And the Tigers may do it next year.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will sign copies of his new book, “The Five People You Meet In Heaven,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble in Royal Oak, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Borders in Utica, and at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Borders in Flint. Mitch will be on the
“Early Show” on CBS (Channel 62 in Detroit) at 8:36 a.m. today. For more about his book, go to www.albomfivepeople.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760) and “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.