On Thursday, the Tigers play for the playoff lives against the Yankees, and it is trading deadline acquisition Doug Fister that will take the mound for the Tigers. Fister, who got hammered to the tune of 6 runs in 4.2 innings in what was officially game one, will look to bounce back and pitch like he did down the stretch for the Tigers.
Unless you were in hibernation as a Tigers fan, or recently have hopped on the Tigers bandwagon, you would know that Doug Fister has been excellent in a Tigers uniform. Since the trade that brought him over from the Mariners, Fister went 8-1 with the Tigers and sported an ERA of just 1.79. With that kind of record down the stretch, there is plenty of confidence in Fister, his rough first “start” in the playoffs looking more like an aberration than anything.
In a “what have you done for me lately” business, all that matters is what Fister does on Thursday, and in Detroit, where fans are loyal beyond compare, Doug Fister has a chance to become another one of it’s beloved athletes.
These are the opportunities that are presented themselves by game fives or game sevens. The chance to be a folk hero, a legend in the city, and to have thousands of your jerseys bought the next day by adoring fans. Maybe even get recognized in restaurants, or getting some beers bought for you in a local bar.
For those of you that live in Detroit, you know what I am talking about. Loyalty. Hell, there are people that still love Curtis Granderson, even after what he did to Detroit last night with those two catches. It’s because of what he did for Detroit while he was here. It’s because of what he did for the city.
We in Detroit know how to treat our sports heroes. Steve Yzerman of the Red Wings, Joe Dumars of the Pistons, Barry Sanders of the Lions, and a whole slew of 84′ Tigers have the run of this town if they would like. Nobody has forgotten the performance of Isiah Thomas in the 6th game of the 1988 NBA finals, scoring 25 points in the 3rd quarter, and they lost that series. While longevity with their respective Detroit sports teams is a common theme for the aforementioned names, it’s not about the length of time, it’s about Detroit sports fans accepting you as one of their own.
Take Chauncey Billups for example. Billups was in Detroit as a member of the Pistons for just 6 years, but he led a team through excellence, and his ability to make the big shot. His nickname even became “Mr. Big Shot”. After Billups was traded to Denver, he came back to a standing ovation from Detroit Pistons fans who never forgot his contributions to Detroit.
You don’t even have to be a great player to be revered by Detroit fans. It’s about coming up big in big moments, or finding a way to contribute something to the team regardless of talent level. Its about perseverance through adversity and pledging your allegiance to Detroit, regardless of its shortcomings.
Darren McCarty of the Red Wings was known more for a fight than with excellence on the ice, but it doesn’t matter. It was that one moment, standing up for your teammate and showing Detroit that he had fight in him that made him a legend. And scoring one fantastic goal in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This is Doug Fister’s opportunity at the big shot, or to prove to Detroiters that he is ready for the fight. A game 5 start against the hated Yankees. This is David vs. Goliath, at least in a lot of baseball fans minds across America. The cities are themselves a contrast in perception. One is seen as a thriving center of business, and one is seen as a dilapidated metropolis that has seen its better days. Detroit wants to be known for its hard work, its resilience. Fister bouncing back from a rough first outing would be fitting, and Detroit fans won’t forget it.
Doug Fister has already contributed mightily to the Tigers success down the stretch, sending him on his way to becoming a fan favorite already (MCB’s own Mickey Brignall has a huge mancrush on him). That’s the difference between Detroit fans and New York or Boston. If Fister doesn’t win the game Thursday, he will still have a shot to be revered by Tigers fans in Detroit. After all, the Tigers probably wouldn’t even be in this spot if it wasn’t for Fister’s performance down the stretch.
With Detroit on your side Doug Fister, there is no way you can lose.
Folk hero status awaits.