Detroit needs a Tow

If you haven't heard, there was a funny situation that unfolded with Michael Brockers and the Jared Goff trade. When Goff was traded to the Lions for Matt Stafford, Brockers came out and said Stafford is "a level up from" Goff. Harsh words for his former QB, but hey who cares he doesn't have to play with him anymore. Then this happened.

Yikes. To be a fly on the wall for that first locker-room interaction. This whole thing got me to thinking about the city of Detroit and what a fall from glory it has experienced, especially from a sports perspective. Is it the worst sports city in America today? Let's do a diagnostic.


We all know about the economic downfall the city has gone through. From a booming auto manufacturing town and one of the wealthiest cities in the country from the 40s-70s, to the shell of itself it has become today. At one point the city nearly won its bids to host a Summer Olympics, coming in 2nd in 1964 and 68. The economic downfall might have started in the 1970s, but the sports downfall took a bit longer to happen. A city that was once home to the Bad Boy Pistons and known as Hockeytown USA, is now having a hard time finding its way out of the basement. Let's see where each team finds themselves today.


Pistons


The Detroit Eagles were the original basketball team in the city of Detroit before the team was disbanded due to WWII. Detroit would see the return of professional basketball when the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons moved to Detroit in 1957. The team was horrendous from 1957-1980. They would boast strong individual talents, but the teams could never put it together. After going 21-61 in the 80-81 season, the cities fortunes would change with the drafting of a young PG from Indiana named Isiah Thomas. In 1983 they hired Chuck Daly to coach the team, and the Bad Boy era was born. The Pistons returned to the playoffs in 1984 losing to the Boston Celtics. In 85 they added Joe Dumars and Rick Mahorn. After losing in the playoffs in 86 the team needed more defensive help. Enter the final pieces of the Bad Boy era in John Salley, Dennis Rodman, and Adrian Dantley. In 1987, the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. After pushing the defending champions to a 2–2 tie, the Pistons were on the verge of winning Game 5 at the Boston Garden. I think you know what happens next with the infamous Isiah Thomas inbounding fiasco.

The Pistons would never recover from that in the series, losing in 7.

Via wikipedia:

The Pistons made first trip to the Finals in 1988 which saw them facing the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After taking a 3–2 series lead back to Los Angeles, Detroit appeared poised to win their first NBA title in Game 6. In that game, Isiah Thomas scored an NBA Finals record 25 points in the third quarter while playing on a severely sprained ankle. However, the Lakers won the game, 103–102, on a pair of last-second free throws by Abdul-Jabbar following a controversial foul called on Bill Laimbeer, referred to by many as a "phantom foul". With Thomas unable to compete at full strength, the Pistons narrowly fell in Game 7, 108–105.
Prior to the 1988–89 season, the Pistons moved to Auburn Hills to play at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the first NBA arena financed entirely with private funds. The 1989 Pistons completed the building of their roster by trading Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre, a trade that Pistons fans criticized heavily initially, but later praised. The team won 63 games, shattering their one-year-old franchise record, and steamrolled through the playoffs and into an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers. This time, the Pistons came out victorious in a four-game sweep to win their first NBA championship. Joe Dumars was named NBA Finals MVP.
The Pistons successfully defended their title in 1990, despite losing Rick Mahorn to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the expansion draft. After winning 59 games and a third straight division title, the Pistons cruised through the first two rounds of the playoffs before playing a tough Eastern Conference Finals series against Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Chicago Bulls. Facing each other for the third straight season, the Pistons and Bulls split the first six games before the Pistons finished the series with a decisive 93–74 victory in Game 7. Advancing to their third consecutive NBA Finals, the Pistons faced the Portland Trail Blazers. After splitting the first two games at The Palace, the Pistons went to Portland, where they had not won a game since 1974, to play Games 3, 4 and 5. The Pistons won all three games in Portland, becoming the first NBA team to sweep the middle three games on the road. The decisive game came down to the final second. Trailing 90–83 with two minutes remaining, the Pistons rallied to tie the game, then took a 92–90 lead when Vinnie Johnson sank a 15-foot jumper with 00.7 seconds left in the game; this shot earned Johnson a new nickname in Detroit, "007", to go with his original, "The Microwave". Isiah Thomas was named NBA Finals MVP.
The Pistons' championship run came to an end in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals, as they were swept by the eventual NBA champion Chicago Bulls in four games.

You may remember that series because the Pistons infamously walked by the Bulls bench as the game was ending and refused to shake any hands or congratulate the Bulls on their win. In many cases this would be the last championship run a team sees for decades. The Pistons would be lucky enough to win another championship in 2004, led by Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace. The Pistons dominated the Lakers in the Finals, a Lakers team featuring the likes of Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone. The Pistons would return to the Finals in 2005, losing to Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. This would be the beginning of the end for the Pistons as the 2006 season saw the infamous 'Malice at the Palace' incident.

The team would go on to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals each year from 2006-2008. Since 2008 the team has only had one season with a winning record. They are smack dab in the middle of another rebuild after going 20-46 in last years shortened season. They currently sit at 11-29 this year. Only the Timberwolves have a worse record this season. A hard fall from glory for a franchise that was a consistent title contender from the late 80s-2008. ESPN's 30 for 30 on the Bad Boys is one of the best documentaries I've ever watched, I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it yet.


Red Wings


Founded in 1926 as the Detroit Cougars, the Red Wings are one of the Original 6 in the NHL. In 1931 they were the Detroit Falcons before officially becoming the Red Wings in 1932. The organization has won 11 Stanley Cups, most out of all American hockey clubs and 3rd most in NHL history. As I mentioned above they have been so successful they are referred to as Hockeytown. The stretches of success this organization has managed to achieve is nothing short of extraordinary. According to wikipedia:

Between the 1931–32 and 1965–66 seasons, the Red Wings missed the playoffs only four times. Between the 1966–67 and 1982–83 seasons, the Red Wings made the playoffs only two times. However, thereafter, from 1983–84 to 2015–16, they made the playoffs 30 times in 32 seasons, including 25-straight from 1990–91 to 2015–16 (not counting the cancelled 2004–05 season), in 2006 this became the longest active streak of postseason appearances in all of North American professional sports and finished tied for the third longest streak in NHL history. Since 1983–84, the Red Wings have tallied six regular season first-place finishes and have won the Stanley Cup four times (1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008), all within an eleven year span.

This organization has trotted out greats the likes of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Pavel Datsyuk, and the list goes on and on. They sported the "Russian 5" and the "Euro Twins". This franchise is not only one of the most successful in NHL history, it is one of the most successful franchises in American history. The only more successful franchises are the likes of the Celtics, Lakers, and Yankees. Like the Pistons they saw sustained success from the late 80s-2010s, and they won championships in the 2000s.


However, since 2016 it hasn't been a pretty scene to watch. Their record has gotten worse each season since 2016 and they've missed the playoffs every season. You could say it's the second coming of the "Dead Wings" era that we saw from the 1966-1982 seasons. After going 17-49-5 last season and starting this year 9-17-4, it's safe to say that this franchise is in the middle of a rebuild just like the Pistons. Only the Sabres have less points than Detroit's 22 this season. Their 39 points last season were by far the lowest in the league. The next closest team had 62 points. Dylan Larkin was named captain of the team this season, and is the only household name on the roster today. It's going to be a long climb back to glory for this franchise.


Lions

(AP photo)


What is there to say other than this franchise stinks. The Portsmouth Spartans moved to Detroit in 1934 and renamed themselves the Lions in unison with the Detroit Tigers baseball club. Wikipedia:

The Lions enjoyed their greatest successes before the Super Bowl era, winning four NFL Championship Games between 1935 and 1957. Since their 1957 championship, the team has won only a single playoff game in 1992 and never advanced beyond the NFC Championship Game. They are the oldest NFL team to not appear in the Super Bowl, as well as the only franchise operational for the entirety of the Super Bowl era and the only NFC team not to appear.

One playoff win since 1957?!? How is that even a real stat? A franchise that has had players like Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Mathew Stafford couldn't win more than 1 playoff game in 64 years? I don't even know who to blame for this. The only consistent part of this franchise over that 64 year period has been its ownership by the Ford family. This year will be no different as Sheila Ford Hamp has taken over ownership duties from her mother Martha Firestone Ford. The money in this family man. Mathew Stafford is gone now for Jared Goff and new head coach Dan Campbell doesn't have the best track record. Honestly I'm not sure it would matter. This organization is cursed. Tom Brady wouldn't win more than 4 games on this team. Since that playoff win in 92 the Lions have made the playoffs 8 times, all Wildcard losses. The team is so bad players like Barry and Calvin decided to end their hall of fame careers early rather than suffer through another season with this franchise. The only reason this team was close to .500 for the better part of the last decade is because Matt Stafford was Ironman at QB. Their 5-11 record last year was 7th worst in the league. May God have mercy on all the Lions fans still out there. They will need it.


Tigers


Wikipedia:

Since their establishment as a major league franchise in 1901, the Tigers have won four World Series championships (1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984), 11 AL pennants (1907, 1908, 1909, 1934, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1968, 1984, 2006, 2012), and four AL Central division championships (2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014). They also won division titles in 1972, 1984, and 1987 as a member of the AL East.

The Tigers success has been very spread out and they have really fallen off since their early 2010 teams. Verlander left years ago and Miggy is a shell of his former self. The team hasn't had a winning record in the past 4 seasons, and their 23-35 record in the shortened season last year was the 3rd worst in all of baseball. They were 47-114 in 2019 which was by far the worst in all of baseball. Slight improvement last year, but this team is still one of the worst in the league and stuck in the middle of a rebuild as well.


Back to our question is Detroit the worst sports city in America right now? The answer in my opinion is yes by far. What was once a thriving sports town, especially from the late 80s-2010s for the Pistons and Red Wings is now full of a bunch of basement dwellers. The Pistons, Red Wings, and Tigers are all in the bottom 3 of their leagues, and the Lions have been failures since 1957. The 2020s is looking to be a dreadful decade for the city of Detroit. I don't know how their fans are surviving right now, but I respect the hell out of them for it.