Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thanks 'Stones

Unlike the past several years, sports fans (and unwitting significant others of sports fans) will not have the privilege to cheer for our Detroit Pistons until the very end of spring. For the past decade+, the Pistons have been a successful force in professional basketball. They have won a championship, barely lost in the finals the following year (Bowen!!!!), and have consistently gone deep into the playoffs. They proudly represented Detroit's "every man" work ethic and maintained a streak of consistent basketball dominance. Dominance doesn't necessarily mean "best team in basketball", but they were a part of basketball's ruling elite for consecutive years. This group of core individuals really defined and stayed true to the concept of team, and the fans gave their Pistons an abundant supply of support (and money).

Without going into the specifics of when, over the last year or so, our team fell off of its leadership perch. The team aged, a key player was traded, coaches changed many times over, and many of the guys on the team seemed to turn into a group of grumbling and complaining old men shaking their fists at the basketball authorities and unkindly asking them to "get off their lawn." You know things were getting hard when the team thought they were playing basketball on a lawn.

This weekend, the end came swiftly when the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Pistons out of the playoffs in the first round. For the few minutes I caught of several of the games, it didn't seem like the Pistons cared. The Cavaliers would drive to the hoop, take a brief respite in the key for tea, and then finish off the scoring drive without any interference from the Pistons. It was like our boys couldn't be bothered to participate. It was sad and difficult to watch after so much success, strength, and swagger, but the end was bound to come, and we could see it coming for the past couple years.

With the series being so difficult to watch and the unceremonious ending, I haven't been surprised by the negative onslaught toward the Pistons from fans and media. It was ugly and people are right to feel disappointed, but you shouldn't allow this year to tarnish the years of fun, excitement, and success the Pistons provided to Michigan sports fans. Perhaps people are angry because the Pistons downfall seems to mirror the current struggles of much of Michigan, and every single loss hits a little bit too close to home.

I would love the Pistons to return to the highs of years past sooner rather than later, but I also hope team ownership, management, and all of the players feel the pride they imparted to me and others as we were able to throw ourselves into the Pistons every spring during the playoff run. The end, as with every end, is difficult to take, but the rest was so damn fun.

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