Detroit is known as a blue collar, hard working, bring your lunch pail to work type city. We like to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty, and the whole city has always embraced our gritty nature. We use mustard packets, not Grey Poupon. We like grass stains and skinned knees more than hair gel and cologne. We drive American cars and trucks, not BMWs and Mercedes.
Our sports teams usually follow the hard working mold that the city embodies, often leading to successful yet unglamorous teams (Pistons anyone?). As the rest of the country cringes at the thought of another defensive battle between their team and a Detroit team, we can't wait to see another opponent turn the ball over after a 24 second violation or one of our defensemen sacrifice his body to block a shot on the ice.
Unfortunately, I have noticed a disturbing trend in Detroit sports lately. Offense, not defense, has become the focus of our teams, and it has not been paying off. Instead of slowly squeezing the life out of our opponents with suffocating defense, our teams across the board are simply trying to outscore the other team. Not only has it led to fewer wins and more losses, but they are also at risk of losing a fan base that is suffering economically more than any other area in the country because the fans can no longer relate to the teams' style of play.
It's not just one or two of our teams either. It's literally every sports team we have.
1.) The Detroit Red Wings- After winning the Stanley Cup last year and leading the league in defense by allowing a measly 2.18 goals against, the Wings went out and bought the premiere free agent on the market: Marian Hossa. He certainly has been a good addition and is 4th in the league in points.
On the other hand, as Hossa has improved the Detroit offense, our defense has really suffered. Our goals against average has increased over a full goal a game to 3.33, and we have dropped from first in the league in that category to the bottom half of the league. Just the other night, the Wings were up 5 to 2 in the 3rd period and ended up losing 7 to 6 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unacceptable.
The Wings' record still is obviously stellar at 10-2-3, but it's damn near impossible to win anything in the playoffs with a Swiss cheese defense.
2.) Detroit Pistons- Ever since Ben and Rasheed Wallace teamed up to take home a championship in 2004, team defense has been the Pistons' calling card. That is, until now.
The trade for Allen Iverson was a signal that Joe Dumars does not believe that defense can win championships anymore. It was an indication that in the NBA world, the easiest way to win is to run and run and run and just hope that at the end of the game your team has more points than your opponent.
This year, the Pistons are giving up 95.5 points per game, more than a 5 point increase from last year, and I've already seen players like Beno Udrih, Devin Harris, and Mikki Moore have big games against us. The ghost of Ben Wallace's past is rolling over in his grave at the sight of those names tearing up the Pistons' defense.
3.) Detroit Tigers- In 2006 when the Tigers went to the World Series, pitching and defense carried them. Their 3.84 team ERA led the league as the pitchers dominated while the hitters scored just enough runs to win.
During the past couple of offseasons, the Tigers have focused on adding offense at the expense of pitching and defense. The additions of Gary Sheffiled, Edgar Renteria, and Miguel Cabrera arguably added some punch to the lineup, but the other side of the coin has suffered.
This past year, the team ERA ballooned to 4.9, good for 3rd to last in the American League. Needless to say, the Tigers did not reach their goals in 2008 and are now left with no money to spend on pitchers and an aging lineup.
4.) Detroit Lions- Do I even have to say it? The Lions have the 2nd worst defense in the whole league and have drafted offensive players in the first round of the draft 8 out of the last 10 years. Really smart.
This trend away from defense throughout the Detroit sports world is disturbing . Not only is it risky in terms of winning since our success has been based on defense for so long, but it also risks losing a fan base that values hard work and sacrifice above anything else. What ultimately happens to Detroit sports as we move closer to what everyone else in sports is doing remains to be seen, but I, for one, am nervous about it.
This article can also be seen on Detroit4lyfe