by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

We interrupt you, America, to bring this rumbling from the Midwest:

Pistons. Wings. Pistons. Wings.


The words create a growing frenzy, like a sparrow’s heartbeat, like a Baptist

church service, like the music from “Jaws.” They are on the lips of every auto worker in Dearborn, every lawyer in Birmingham, every elevator-rider in every office building in downtown Detroit.

Pistons. Wings. Pistons. Wings.


Is there another city in America with two teams in the playoffs? No, I must say there is not. Is there another city in America hosting four playoff games the next four nights — all within 50 minutes on I-75? And that’s allowing for traffic?

No, I must say there is not.

Is there another city taking on the South and the North at the same time? Another city that can, in one glorious moment, claim hockey’s Rocky and Adrian, too?

Dantley, that is.

No, I must say.

There is not.

Can I ask you something? In all seriousness. Can I have your tickets? Ho! That’s a joke. A Detroit joke. We make those kinds of jokes here now.

Thank you very much.

I am talking here about an NHL team that has spun the heads right off its critics. The Red Wings? Last year’s lowliest franchise? In the semifinals against Edmonton?

“How’d they get there?” come the whispers. “Mirrors? They’re using mirrors?”

No mirrors.


I am talking here about an NBA team that tied a franchise record for regular-season victories, swept through the first round of the playoffs, and went down to the Omni and stole Game 1 right off Atlanta’s plate.

“These are the Pistons?” come the whispers. “Rick Mahorn? That can’t be Rick Mahorn! He’s . . . slim! Trick photography? It’s trick photography?”

No trick photography.


I am talking here about playoff mania. Two teams that are alive at five, and may win in seven. Two teams. Two sports. Two playoffs. Playing two different countries.

Hear me Denver, Portland, Hartford, Quebec. Here is what I am saying. Read these lips.

Pistons. Wings. Pistons. Wings.


Where is that Sports Illustrated reporter? And the guys from Time and Newsweek? Have they eyes but cannot see? Have they ears but cannot hear? When comes the story on the hottest sports city in America?



Face it. Chase it. We have a hockey team that believes in miracles, we have a basketball team that performs miracles, we have a baseball team that . . .

We have a baseball team.

Where is that reporter?

Here is his scoop — the latest on the nuclear family. Father and daughter wear Adidas and practice free throws; mother and son carry sticks and wear red shirts that reach their ankles. Every morning, there is a rush for the newspaper, every evening there is a fight for the television set.

“Have we won another one?” they ask. “Have we surprised anyone tonight? What night is it? Basketball night? Hockey night? Pistons? Wings? Gimme that remote control.”

Is this fun? This is a romp in the opera house. Someone left the stage lights on and the stage door unlocked. And suddenly, the stagehands, who were supposed to set things up for the Bostons and New Yorks and Los Angeleses, have taken to the boards and are tap-dancing their way into everyone’s hearts.

“Who’s that up there in the NHL semifinals? Who’s that up in the NBA’s highest echelon? Who are those guys?”




What’s that? You say calm down? You say no big deal? Of course. You are from sophisticated places such as Washington, D.C., home of the Capitals, whom I can’t seem to locate right at the moment, and from Dallas, home of the Mavericks, whom I also can’t find, and from Chicago, home of the Bulls and the Blackhawks, although I can’t recall seeing them recently either, and you say what’s the fuss? You say you’d rather be reading a good book. You say we in Detroit ought to control our emotions like the well-groomed, ever-so-poised denizens of such polished metropolitan areas as—

Hold it! Hold it.

What’s that noise? That . . . rumbling . . . noise . . .

Pistons. Wings. Pistons. Wings.


Now. You were saying?

Forget what you were saying. Here is what we are saying. All is not well. We do have a problem. Here is our problem: What do we do on the nights without a playoff game?

Ho! Another Detroit joke.

Thank you very much.

See ya. On we go. The wildest weekend in years. Four playoff games? What next? Soon there may be express shuttles between venues. The Silverdome to Joe Louis Arena, 25 minutes or your money back. The office pool will bet on which arrives first, the Stanley Cup or the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Where does this end? Will there be a flood of new books on the market this fall? “How We Did it” by Isiah Thomas and Steve Yzerman. “Who, Me?” by Bill Laimbeer and Harold Snepsts. “Don’t Call Me Genius . . . Too Often” by Jacques Demers and Chuck Daly?

Where does this end? Who knows? Even with the best possible ending, it will have to end. So what? Do you want to hear that now? I do not want to hear that now. Get out of here.

This is what I want to hear now.


Two teams. Two series. Four days of playoffs. Right here. Detroit.

Wednesday, I had a call from a friend in New York. Did we say New York? The city where the Knicks once dominated with arrogance? Where the Islanders are considered the only team in hockey? That New York? The New York? Big Apple, Bright Lights, We-Are-The-World New York? Yes. That is the place. And here is what I said to my New York friend:

“What’s doing?”

And he said: “Nothing.”

And I said: “Awwwwwww.”

Pistons. Wings. Pistons. Wings.


* WHAT: Pistons vs. Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 of Eastern Conference semifinal, 7:30 p.m. at the Silverdome.
* TV/RADIO: WTBS cable (blacked out in Detroit area); WWJ 950- AM, WPAG 1050-AM, WTAC 600-AM. Saturday
* WHAT: Red Wings vs. Edmonton Oilers in Game 3 of Campbell Conference final, 8 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena.
* TV/RADIO: Channel 50 and Channel 9 (ESPN telecast blacked out in Detroit area); WMTG 1310-AM; WJR 760-AM will join in progress after Tigers game. Sunday
* WHAT: Pistons vs. Hawks in Game 4 of Eastern Conference semifinal, 1 p.m. at the Silverdome.
* TV/RADIO: CBS (blacked out on Channel 2 in Detroit if game not sellout); WWJ 950-AM, WPAG 1050-AM, WTAC 600-AM. Monday
* WHAT: Red Wings vs. Oilers in Game 4 of Campbell Conference final, 8 p.m. at Joe Louis Arena.
* TV/RADIO: Channel 50 and Channel 9 (ESPN telecast blacked out in Detroit area); WMTG 1310-AM; WJR 760-AM will join in progress after Tigers game.

CUTLINE Shawn Burr celebrates a Red Wings goal in Game 1 of the opening series against Chicago.


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