I started a column about the Detroit Pistons about eight times before landing on this offering.
I have no relationship with the team anymore and every attempt rang hollow.
I watched the Pistons near-nightly between 2001-2007. My college was a mere exit from the Palace of Auburn Hills — once the cream of the NBA’s crop of arenas, now its oldest despite only having been built in 1988 — and I’d literally root through couch cushions and return pop cans and bottles to find the gas money and $10 for a cheap seat during the 2003-2004 championship season.
After that, I worked every angle I knew — members at the tony Oakland County country club I valeted at, friends and family — to beg and borrow tickets when the prices went up.
I remember scaring the hell out of my college girlfriend’s parents during the 2004 Malice at the Palace brawl — I’d been in the arena for a game two nights earlier for a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves — by screaming in their family room at a TV that pretty much only screened the Lord of the Rings films and the 700 Club.
This is all to illustrate to you that I considered myself a die-hard.
Then, little things began to chip away at a relationship that once saw me buying jerseys and hats and arranging my work schedule around their telecasts to having to look up the present roster and glassing over when old friends attempt to engage me in a conversation about the state of the team. In 2007, I moved to take a newspaper job on the West Coast.
I kept up with the teams that really meant something to me — which, at first, included the Pistons. But between 2006-2008 the Pistons began to trade, let go or fire some of the key parts of the teams I was so familiar with — the heart and soul combination of Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace and the stabilizing hand of head coach Flip Saunders, who never could get them over the hump and win another title.
The team hired Michael Curry to coach a slightly less than .500 ballclub in 2008-09 and my affair with them ended as they’ve spiraled into a tailspin of five consecutive last or next-to-last place finishes in the division and attendance figures in the bottom three of the NBA.
I thought my fandom for teams from the place I grew up knew no bounds.
I have a box full of Tigers tickets from their nearly historically awful 43-119 2003 season. I maintain a satellite radio account and too-expensive cable package to follow them from 2,000 miles away. I actively try to avoid the Lions — I hate ownership for never being functional and occasionally fellow fans for being optimistic and definitely for selling Ford Field out continuously despite being shat on by Henry Ford’s heirs for more than a half century. I wouldn’t pay another cent if I was a millionaire to watch the team suck wind for four quarters. Yet, I still catch up on nearly every contest and probably watch at least a quarter of them. I wear an Ndamukong Suh jersey to the sports bars if I go out on Sundays in the autumn.
In short, finding out I could tune out the Pistons so easily kind of hurt. I realized that my affections last as long as the team wins and no further. I suspect I’m not alone — my social media updates seldom, if ever, include news about the Pistons and my friends and I have probably discussed actual Detroit Pistons gameplay once in the last five years. I don’t talk about the team with my dad, grandpa or best friend — all of whom can watch them every night. I don’t think I’ve watched a Pistons game in the last five years.
Granted, the NBA does an exceedingly spectacular job of keeping terrible teams off national telecasts, but I wouldn’t piss on fire to put the Pistons out — you could run Neverending Story III and 200 channels of Cindy Crawford makeup pitches against the telecast and I’d opt to see what Falkor and the gang are up to.
Losing professional basketball holds zero appeal to me.
It brings me to contemplate my return to fandom if the Pistons won again. Do I want to do it over again — following a team day-in, day-out — only to know that I’ll pack up and ship out like an Okie when the going gets rough?
Do I have free reign to dabble in other franchises? Golden State is entertaining and local to me now. Or do I wash my hands of the league and make a pact with myself that I’ll enjoy a Pistons W if it scrolls across the screen but no further, because I definitely do not love this team or this league?
There was lots of Pistons news to peg this story to.
ESPN is about to debut a 30 for 30 documentary on the late 80s/early 90s Bad Boys era this Thursday. Joe Dumars — once a star with those teams and later a GM who for a short time walked on water in Detroit is parting ways with the franchise. Rumbles continue about a move back downtown from the suburbs.
Go ahead and pick one, because I’m deciding what to do at the bandwagon stop.