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The Lowdown on Motown

Another Prescription

By Andy Doctoroff

You Boston sports fans are pretty spoiled.

Take it from me. I'm from Detroit--the nation's professional sports morgue.

So the Pats goofed a little more than they should have and finished the year with a 2-14 record? Every team must experience some sort of learning session now and then. Why not now? There's always next year, and just think of all the room for improvement.

That, Patriot haters, is the official Detroit perspective on a losing team. We Michiganders usually have to use it at least four times annually--whenever our guys put away their skates, basketballs, helmets and mitts for the year.

But you Bostonians have lots to root for. Most importantly, when you root, the results are usually pretty good. The Celtics--guided by the play of the Bird--won their 14th World Championship banner last season. This year, there very well could be a 15th.

The Bruins. How about the Bruins? They have--year after year--won their share of games. Now, they're coasting in first place and are a viable force in the National Hockey League.

The Celtics and the Bruins in one single winter. Not bad at all, Boston.

Despite grim predictions, the Red Sox are always causing commotion in baseball's American League East, the toughest division. Even though the Sox haven't won a series since 1916, the club has--in the past decade--acquired one of baseball's finest records. That means they win a lot more than they lose.

The point is that Boston is a lucky sports town, one that can afford to expect its teams to put it all together and win. And Boston would realize how fortunate it is if it took a peek at lowly Detroit.

Detroit. Detroit. Detroit. Ow...that hurts.

The situation there is sorry. There really is a vague mental pain when I think of the Pistons, Lions, Red Wings and Tigers. What a humble foursome. But I do think of them. A lot.

I must be a masochist.

Since fifth grade, I have spent my hard-earned paper route money towards Piston, Lion and Tiger tickets. Time and time again, I suffered by viewing their athletic fiascos. Still, I went and watched.

Let's start with the sputtering Pistons. This organization has been a member of the National Basketball Association for 35 years, and in that time, not once has it won its division. Only four times has it won more games in a season than it lost. What were the mathematical odds of that? The past two years have been particularly disastrous, with the team winning only 16 and 21 contests in its 82-game seasons.

Stars like Paul Mokeski, Andre Wakefield, Tony Fuller and Roy Hamilton have graced the basketball court recently, but it wasn't always that way. A few years back, the Pistons were loaded with talent--the likes of Bob-A-Dob Lanier, M.L. Carr, Chris Ford, Eric Money, Kevin Porter, Ralph Simpson, John Shumate and Marvin "Bad News" Barnes. Even then the team went practically nowhere, getting eliminated from the early rounds of the NBA playoffs--a competition which any ordinary team can make.

But wait...there's much more.

The Red Wings. What a joke. In the 1950s the Wings were the dominant team in the National Hockey League. They won and they won and they won. But for the past several seasons they've been laughing stocks of the NHL. Each year 16 out of the 21 teams in the League qualify for post season competition. But do the Wings? Fat chance from Motown.

All Detroit wants is a winner. Obviously the Pistons and Red Wings are lost causes. They are the pits. They stink. So when it appears that the Lions or Tigers are emitting a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs--playoffs that mean something--the city goes nuts. There is Motown Madness. Detroit Delirium.

Fans' hopes dramatically elevate but soon unavoidably deflate. Till the past couple of seasons, the Lions and the Tigers have been as pitiful as the Pistons and Wings.

Then things seemed to be changing. The Tigers' farm-grown talent had produced nothing but mediocrity since 1973, but the likes of Alan Trammel, Lou Whitaker, Steve Kemp, Jack Morris and Lance Parrish thrust Detroit's love team near the playoffs. The Lions--guided by the poise of Billy "Silver Streak" Sims, Eric Hipple, Doug English, Al "Bubba" Baker and Freddie Scott--appeared to reach a similar plateau.

Three times in the past year, either the Lions or the Tigers came within one game of success. But they clutched. They choked. Last fall, the Tigers had to win two out of three against Milwaukee in the season final series. The Tigers were victorious only once. But Detroit didn't win anything.

Three weeks ago, the Lions could have made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, but they, too, fell flat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Detroit--the land of unemployment and economic depression--suffered once more.

Talk about deprived...

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