Life without Sports: A Reflection on what we are missing
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
So, all sporting events have been canceled. I typically rant and rave about sports or some sort of silliness, but this change has been weighing on my mind. Is this loss that devastating when looking at the full spectrum of this pandemic? No. However, I still feel the loss. Watching my teams has provided me, and I’m sure many others, a form of escapism, a bond with others, and occasionally, inspiration.
The most important element, I think, is the bond we all have over sports. On more than one occasion I have seen people wearing Cub’s gear and they will wink, nod, or speak a few kind words to each other because of that small connection. Sports fans have AT LEAST one person that they talk to a few times a week about what’s going on in the world of athletics. Heck, the bond doesn’t even have to be that big. Here in Tennessee, I’ll occasionally see someone sporting Maize and Blue and I’ll just say, “Go Blue.” Even when we are far from home, we can connect with home. Now, there are no games, athletes, or teams to discuss. We can’t even go outside to see someone decked in their favorite team’s gear. We can’t talk about any events happening right now. I am left with memories of seasons past.
The 2006 Tigers will always have a special place in my heart. Every fan has a story like this one. In the summer of 2006, my grandmother passed. It was the first death-related experience of my young life. Then, that fall I switched schools and left all my friends behind. I was a little lost and did not yet possess the emotional skills to maturely cope with the major changes in my life. One of the happiest memories I have from that time is watching the Tigers. Just a few years earlier they had been historically abysmal. They nearly set the record for losses in 2003. Then came the acquisition of Pudge Rodriguez. Things started to change. I remember getting the Detroit Free Press and reading it with my father and brother. Finding out about transactions one of our teams made during breakfast after mass on Sundays was a regular occurrence. Escapism? Check. Bond? Check. Inspiration? Check.
The Tigers had built a phenomenal team. Granderson, Polanco, Guillen, MAGGLIO, Pudge, Monroe, Inge, and Thames. Sean Casey came in to play first base later after Chris Shelton finally cooled off and stopped hitting everything out of the park. The pitching staff was incredible. Kenny Rogers, rookie phenom Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson headed the staff. Zach Miner replaced Mike Maroth after he sustained a season-ending injury. The bullpen was great too. Fernando Rodney was always my favorite. He typically pitched the 7th inning. Then Joel Zumaya pitched the 8th. I can still hear Jeff Daniels singing, “Zoom-zoom-Zumaya.” Then the roller coaster man himself, Todd Jones, would close out the game. Typically, he would load the bases and then get three straight outs. At least that’s how it remains in my memory.
Following this team closely helped me through a rough time. Everybody had Tiger fever that year. Everywhere I went it seemed that we were talking about the Tigers. “Who’s your Tiger?” I remember the commercials. Marcus Thames was always my guy. “Country Strong” Rod Allen would say. The team was inspiring in every way. The home run leaders on the team batted 7, 8, and 9. The end of the lineup guys were just hammering the ball. Pitch around Magglio. Go ahead. I remember going out in the backyard and trying to copy Guillen’s sidearm throwing style. Often the ball would go in a random direction (much to my brother’s annoyance). I remember listening to the Tiger’s game on the radio while doing yardwork. We couldn’t miss a game. In the summer of 2006, everything that wasn’t about dealing with life was about the Tigers.
That fall, the Tigers matched up with the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. The store-bought Yankees versus the home-made Tigers. We had built our team over several years and came face to face with the (too many superstars to take time to add them in) Yankees. After the Tigers lost game 1, I thought it was over. Then, we came roaring back. I remember watching the Tigers win game 2 with my brother and cousins behind a great game from young Verlander before we went off to a cross-country meet. A few days later, we were late for a Lumen Christi football playoff game because Kenny Rogers was leading the Tigers to a series-clinching victory over the Yankees. We were all standing with our coats on because we didn’t want to miss a second of the game. We stayed and watched the elation as the Tigers celebrated with the fans at Comerica Park. The picture of the room we watched the game in and where everyone was standing is still clear in my mind. In the next round, Magglio Ordonez hammered the Tigers into the World Series. I can still see Placido Polanco, wearing a- whatever that thing was-on his head, jumping up and down as he runs to home plate after Magglio hit the walk-off home run. Of course, the Tigers would end up losing in the World Series to the Cardinals. The only real memory I have of the World Series is every time they said Albert Pujols, my sister would laugh. All in all, it was a great season that I am grateful for.
That Tiger’s season helped me during a tough time. We are in a tough time now with no sports to help us. How can we replace that? I propose we share some memories of the past. Call someone and share a moment you remember from your joint favorite team/season/player/game. We, sports fans, have hundreds of tales to share. Reminisce about it and connect with others. I, myself, am willing to discuss the Pistons, Tigers, and (if you can scrape up a good memory about them) the Lions.