I was at the cider mill today and a billionaire walked by me with a bag of donuts and a half-gallon of cider. I could have yelled, “Hey, Mr. Karmanos! Thanks a lot for hiking Fedorov’s salary so the Wings had to outbid your Hurricanes in order to win the Stanley Cup!”
But I didn’t. First of all, it would have been tacky. Secondly, to quote Sonny Corleone, “It’s strictly business.”
A week ago, one millionaire was celebrated in town. Today, the same guy’s probably the real reason that Congress can’t get along. And if it snows this winter, it’s his fault, too.
Detroit now has four sports stations. Dodging commercials and jumping from 1130 to 1270 AM, from 97.1 to 105.1 FM you hear the same topic. Certainly with only one baseball game played the day before in the ALCS, all the talk was on the Tigers-Red Sox game–more specifically on one man–suddenly one too-rich man.
Q. Why does Prince Fielder swing at the first pitch?
A. He can’t swing any earlier.
It’s funny how 18 swings in 7 at bats can make $22 million per year seem like a lot of money, especially if you ask the screaming gray-haired dude in my basement.
Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Tigers, Red Wings and Little Caesar’s Pizza empire opened the coffers less than two years ago, ten minutes after finding out that Victor Martinez was out for surgery for an entire season, and signed the son of a local hero, Cecil–the first person to hit over 50 homers since George Foster.
Prince Fielder was vastly overpaid, according to most earthlings, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t our money. And poor Mr. Ilitch wants that trophy before it’s too late. We understood. (And it still wasn’t our money–not directly.)
The next day, season ticket sales soared and Prince’s home runs that year fell-off from those produced in the shallow Brewers’ stadium, but he batted over .300 and had a great relationship with the fans. He smiled, was easy-going and really liked the game. Even through this year’s All-Star Break, the guy endeared the nation chugging into third base and sliding head-first.
But something changed. Torii Hunter let it slip that the star was slugging it out through marital problems. But the fans didn’t mind. Hey, everybody’s got problems. He wasn’t lashing out. He was trying hard. Just like he did when he was a kid.
We’re not going to turn on Prince, not the cute kid from the McDonald’s ad.
So when there’s only one game and four radio stations to wallow in the statistics of Prince Fielder’s struggles at the plate the guy’s not going to have a chance. I attended the divisional series game 3 against the pesky Oakland A’s and it was infuriating how many first-pitch swings the entire Tigers team was providing.
The “trivia girl” came up our aisle and was asking a guy a few rows ahead about the ’84 Champs. I wanted to grab the microphone and yell, “Work the count, for crying out loud, Prince!” But I didn’t want to risk losing the seats I was poaching with my standing-room tickets. You can be pretty frugal with something that doesn’t belong to you.
Add to the dreary pace the bonus commercials that Fox provides between innings and the sport starts to resemble the Masters. Too much down-time. Too much thinking about what isn’t happening. Too much talk about Boston-beards–the Fightin’ Amish.
You’ve got to fill that time with something. If the bits about beards gets old, we’ll discuss Fielder.
Saturday is the usual “Must-Win” game that occurs dramatically 50 or so times per year in professional sports. And if Fielder pops a couple over the non-Green Monster, perhaps all will be forgiven and he’ll be allowed to walk to his car from the cider mill without verbal abuse from some jerk holding a doughnut.