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Thursday, September 04, 2003

The. Worst. Ever.

That's the gun muzzle the Detroit Tigers, and by extension, Detroiters, are staring at. Yes, the last three games have been cheering, and the Tigers have actually played above .500 ball over the last 10 games. Today, they won their first series since July. Now the stories will read "the Tigers must win 6 of the next 23 games to avoid breaking the loss record of the '62 Mets." It's not exactly guaranteed money that they'll actually be able to amass a 6-17 record over the rest of the month. In fact, serious doubt is in order. After all, that's a .261 winning percentage--a pathetic clip until you consider the fact this team's winning percentage is currently .266.

I'll repeat that: .266. Remember, this team struggled to win six games in August, pratfalling against such mediocrities as Anaheim and Texas.

Then consider the schedule: 17 of those games are against teams in playoff contention--the Royals, Twins and frigging Yankees. The first two are fighting tooth and nail for the division, and the startling refusal of the Red Sox to return to August Swoon form ensures that the frigging Yankees won't field their September call-ups against the Tigs.

Odds of beating history?

Well, "grim" is a word.

"But," you say, "it's a chance for Detroit to play the spoiler!"

I reply: "Time for your Haldol."

What it is is a chance for Detroit to become a national laughingstock of epic proportions. Even now, the media contingents have started to gather, hovering like vultures eagerly waiting for the wildebeest to expire, preparing lots of ESPN-ready mocking catchphrases. The urge to fire a tall finger salute at them and the late night hosts is becoming overpowering.

We don't deserve it. The city doesn't deserve it. Even the coaching staff and (some of) the current players don't deserve it. This franchise is over a century old. It has launched many legends into the baseball pantheon: Cobb, Cochrane, Greenberg, Kell, Gehringer, Newhouser, Kaline, Morris, Trammell and Harwell. It has won the last three World Series in which it has played, including one of the greatest battles in 1968.

Yes, it's a game. Nobody dies. No world-turning events hinge on this or any Tigers baseball season. Some sporting events do transcend mere competition, but we don't have that here: It's not Jesse Owens in Berlin, Louis vs. Schmeling or even the U.S. hockey team knocking off the Soviets. But that does not make it meaningless, especially to a battered blue-collar city that lives and dies with its sports teams.

The. Worst. Ever. The city, the region, the state--none of us--need to be associated with that phrase, even secondhand.

Just win 6 more games. We don't need the grief.

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