If you haven’t, give Mitch Albom’s essay titled ‘The Courage Of Detroit‘ a read. It was published in this week’s Sports Illustrated and putting aside what you think of Albom, if you are from this area it’s a must read.

One paragraph caught my eye, and I don’t want to take away from the message of the story.     Albom was taking about the Detroit jokes about rioting, etc., and spun up this:

Same goes for the favorite Detroit cliché of so many pundits: the image of a burning police car in 1984, after the Tigers won the World Series. Yes, some folks went stupid that night, and an eighth-grade dropout nicknamed Bubba held up a Tigers pennant in front of that burning vehicle, and — snap-snap — that was the only photo anyone seemed to need.

Never mind that in the years since, many cities have done as badly or worse after championships — Boston and Chicago come to mind — and weren’t labeled for it. Never mind that through three NBA titles, four Stanley Cups, Michigan’s national championships in college basketball and football, and even another World Series, nothing of that nature has occurred again in Detroit.

You might notice that while he mentioned Michigan’s 1989 hoops and 1997 football championships, he neglected to mention Michigan State’s 2000 basketball title.   Possible reasons why:

  • My first thought was that he didn’t note the Spartan championship because there have been rioting incidents in East Lansing, notably after to losing to Duke in the 1999 Final Four (although I don’t think there was anything like that after the 2000 win).
  • The other thought is that Albom brought in the examples of Michigan’s titles due to Ann Arbor’s proximity to Detroit (45ish minutes, and even closer to Ford’s HQ in Dearborn) versus East Lansing which is a good 80 minutes away.  It seems subtle but in Michigan, no one considers EL part of Detroit while I think most would describe A2’s locale as “just outside” Motown. Added to this, most Detroiters probably associate themselves with the Wolverines due to the proximity and the traditional athletic success.
  • Or, perhaps Mitch is still bitter at all the critics who to this day blast him for describing a scene in the crowd at the Spartan’s 2005 Final Four which didn’t actually exist.

If I had to guess – Albom used the promixity thing to avoid mentioning the MSU title, which would damage his point.


  1. I think you’re making more of it than it is. I’m not a Michigan native (born and raised in Atlanta), but before I arrived on campus, everyone described the location as just west of Detroit. EL was described as out in cow country. Proximity ftw.

  2. Andrew, thanks. I realize by writing this post I’m making an issue of this, but I really just thought it was an interesting omission – not necessarily a swipe at MSU or anything like that. The piece is a pretty big deal in these parts and I thought leaving MSU off that championship roll was, if nothing else, noteworthy.

  3. I think there are two good reasons to not mention the Spartans, both of which because it undermines his point about the futility of sports in Detroit.

    1. MSU just had their best football season in two decades. Bringing that up doesn’t fit the theme the way that bringing up Michigan’s worst season in 40 years does.

    2. MSU won a national title within the last decade. 2000 isn’t that long ago, and on top of that, MSU looks to have a solid final four team this year.

    On top of that, I think you’re right about Detroit pulling for Michigan more than MSU. Outside of the greater Lansing area, people in Michigan that have no personal ties to either school tend to root for Michigan.

  4. Um, when Michigan won its national championship in basketball in ’89, I seem to recall South U. getting trashed not only the night of the championship game, but the night they beat the “Flying Illini”. I was a freshman at Michigan that year, and I remember a lot of the chaos. I think the difference between that night and Sparty’s riots is that we won our game(s), which still doesn’t justify the stupidity either way.

  5. In all fairness, I was off of South U. after the Chris Webber timeout game. A bunch of knuckleheads emptied out of the bars chanting, “we’re #2” and started throwing beer bottles at mounted police. Needless to say, the cops didn’t hesitate to launch teargas.

    The majority of the people arrested were not even students. arrrrghhh!

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with little brother getting left out. When Moo U. learns to compete for a Rose Bowl birth more than once 20 years, maybe they won’t be a footnote. Maybe when Moo U. fans learn how to win (for example, t-shirts printed up after you finally beat your rival in how long?), that ahem, school’s athletic program will get taken more seriously.