State of the Detroit Tiger fandom


The beginning of the year often sees politicians delivering the State of the….whatever. The President, and governors and mayors from around the country will deliver speeches on what they see as the current conditions of the nation, state or city, and spout hopes for the upcoming year.

I will never pretend to be President of the  Tigers’ fans. I echo the words of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, when he said: “I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Eh, who am I kidding, if nominated for the President of the Tigers’ fans, I’d accept in a heartbeat! Let’s start the write-in efforts now!

My first order of business in this mythical office, which I just created out of thin air, is to get the word out to the sporting world that the fans of the Detroit Tigers are out there. All one has to do is simply look around and take notice.

I often lament ESPN’s myopic coverage of all sports, particularly baseball, where the Yankees and Red Sox set the table for any and all coverage. It troubles me, as a sports’ fan, that the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” spends an inordinate amount of time covering teams on the East Coast and the Los Angeles Lakers.

A friend who knows my stance on ESPN, and my love for the Tigers, recently sent me a panicked message on Facebook saying that she was listening to ESPN Radio on the day Torii Hunter signed. She was troubled when the host described his surprise in that the owner of the Tigers had signed another player to a fat contract because, “the Tigers do not have a large fanbase” to be able to support that payroll.

Them is fightin’ words!

Three million fans passing through Comerica Park’s turnstiles in 2012 tell a different story. Sure, it’s easy to have a nice fanbase when a team is winning–after all, many of us remember the last decade of Tiger Stadium with thousands and thousands of empty seats. That transitioned to COPA’s early years, however it seemed in those years the team wasn’t trying very hard to field a competitive team. Mike Ilitch always said that if the fans came, he’d pay the money, and he has definitely lived up to his word recently–and, in turn, so have the fans. Even the years since 2006 in which the Tigers were not in contention in the final month (2007, 2008, 2010), they still had very good attendance.

Just like the cars that will be proudly made in Michigan until the sun burns out, there will be Tigers’ fans in the region forever. To get a truly accurate gauge of Tiger fandom, step outside the state.

The Detroit Free Press runs a fun feature on its website called “The D around the world.” It shows pictures of the Olde English D everywhere from the Grand Canyon to the Maine shoreline, from Paris to Egypt, and beyond.

The Olde English D is proudly displayed in the place I call home these days: St. Cloud, Florida. Since I write for this site, it should not be shocking that I would support my team in the heart of Florida, however everywhere we go throughout the area–Tigers’ fans are well represented.

It has gotten to be a game for my six-year old daughter: “Daddy, look! That guy has a Tigers’ hat on too!”

I may be biased and I can’t back it up with hard numbers, but from the jerseys, hats, car decals, flags and other items that are seen in Central Florida, I honestly believe that the Tigers may be the third or fourth most represented team in the region. Yankees items are seen often, Red Sox and Cubs are also seen, but it is hard to argue that the Tigers round out that cluster of teams–even outpacing the region’s home team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Jim Leyland is both loved and reviled by Tigers’ fans. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Tigers’ fans are an interesting group. They will love and support many players endlessly, but others–Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Jose Valverde–often get stuck in the doghouse which snowballs into some fans becoming simply unreasonable in their dislike for a certain player. Jim Leyland is both the most reviled manager in baseball history and the most adored. The fanbase may not agree with each other on players and managers–and Gene Lamont, but they always stick together–even after a humiliating and disappointing World Series defeat. It is no coincidence that this attitude is the same for the city the team represents. People in, or who are from, the Detroit area can take their shots at the region all they want, however when anyone else does it–well–Them is fightin’ words!

My hope for this upcoming season for fans is patience. As I previously discussed, expect some bumps from the team in April. In other words, if the team is not sitting at 35-5 after 40 games, don’t think of the season as an epic failure. Many wrote 2012 off as a disappointing season until the final couple of weeks. In baseball, nothing is out of the realm of possibility until that dreaded “E” shows up in the standings.

To my fellow fans, I would remind you that 2003 was merely a decade ago. Later this year, in the middle of seeing Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hit back-to-back jacks, and watching Justin Verlander flirt with yet another no-hitter, take a step back and realize how good we have it at this very moment. Enjoy it. Then promptly get back to cursing out the new third base coach, Tom Brookens.

So, in conclusion my fellow Tigers’ fans, the state of Tiger fandom is just fine. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either fooling themselves or working for the quote, unquote “Worldwide Leader.”