This subject may not make me the most popular, but it needs to be addressed. Detroit has had a professional baseball team since at least 1901 and a professional hockey team since 1926, the Detroit Lions weren’t founded until 1929 and yet they are arguably the most popular team in the city.
Detroit has branded itself as “Hockeytown” since the mid-nineties and has long considered itself a baseball town, sadly, neither is true. Like the rest of the country, Detroit is a football town plain and simple.
Many of the thousands of Tigers fans that fill Comerica Park each year believe that they are quite knowledgeable about the sport, some are, but most simply repeat the drivel that comes across their radio on their drive to and from work. When the Tigers struggle these people look for a player to blame everything on (see Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn) instead of seeing what is actually wrong with the team.
Callers on sports radio and blog commenter’s will ramble for paragraphs about how (insert player name here) is the worst to ever play the position and how they are the sole problem with the team. If these people could watch a game and identify what pitch the pitcher threw and why it was hit then they can call themselves true baseball fans. The game isn’t about individual players, it is about much more than that; pitch selection and location, defensive alignments and late-inning substitutions.
There is no disputing that the people of Detroit love their baseball and more importantly their Tigers, but the city is not a baseball town. It is a city of loyal fans sprinkled over a vast majority of poorly informed band-wagon fans.
Just as Detroit is not a baseball town it is not a “Hockeytown,” as it has been billed. Until the Red Wings rose to relevance in the 90’s you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who could tell you the first thing about hockey. Sure the occasional hockey family or
Canadian over from Windsor could talk your ear off, but nine times out of ten if there was to be a debate about the benefits of the trap defense or the prevalence of the butterfly goalie it was being had in Montreal or Toronto, not Detroit.
Nothing has changed. There are a lot more people who wear Red Wings gear, but ever notice that no one talks about the team until the playoffs? Or how it’s not until just before free agency when everyone seems to know exactly what the Red Wings need?
Where are these “fans” during the season, because they sure aren’t talking hockey or supporting their Red Wings. Sure, it is a bit easier to talk hockey nowadays, but that is due to the recent success of the team. At Michigan State, it took a neighbor from Chicago and one from Nashville to be able to talk hockey, other than that it was like speaking a foreign language.
Comments to radio shows about how “trading four top prospects for Rick Nash is okay, because the Red Wings turned late round picks into Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, so they can do it again” go to show just how much Detroit is not a hockey town.
Now that you are sufficiently pissed off, here is something to buoy the sports fans in Detroit. Like the rest of the country, Detroit is and always has been a football town.
Go into any sports bar and just mention the name Matt Milen, you will be run out of the bar faster than you could believe. Detroiter’s love their football, even when the team was going 0-16 there were consistently fans in the stands, granted not enough to prevent a blackout, but they were there.
Fathers and sons have made it a tradition to abandon their extended families on Thanksgiving to attend an annual beat down of the Lions by whatever team happens to be in town that day. It doesn’t matter how bad the Lions are, Detroiter’s will always love their Lions and their football.
If the Tigers or Red Wings were as bad as the Lions would there be nearly as avid a following? Not a chance, anyone remember the “Dead Wings” or the Monaghan years? Detroit is a good baseball and hockey town, without a doubt, but it is and always will be a football town.