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This spring, Detroit sports fans won't have much to look forward to

John U. Bacon

This is the Season of Our Discontent. Or it would be, if you attached your happiness to Detroit’s professional sports teams.

Let’s start with the Pistons.

When Bill Davidson bought the team in 1974, the Pistons were bad and getting worse. But Davidson patiently rebuilt the team with the right leaders, and won two NBA titles. Then he hired new leaders, and did it all again, and won another NBA title in 2004. Along the way, they won nine division titles.

But ever since Davidson died in 2009, the Pistons’ highest finish in their conference was eighth place. Eighth place! Ownership matters.

Self-made billionaire Tom Gores bought the team in 2011, and is already on his fourth coach, Stan Van Gundy, who had great runs in Miami and Orlando before struggling this year in Detroit. It’s not clear if Van Gundy will be asked back next season. It’s less clear if it will matter.

The team spent a small fortune for Blake Griffin, a bona fide star with a long history of injuries. The problem with frequently injured players is that they tend to get injured frequently. When your car starts breaking down, it never stops breaking down.

This team hasn’t gone anywhere since Davidson died, and it won’t go anywhere next year, either. For whatever reason, Tom Gores seems to have no idea what he’s doing with a pro sports franchise.

Then there’s the Red Wings.

We’re about to find out if Ilitch’s son, Chris, can fill his father’s shoes. He just announced the team’s long-time general manager, Ken Holland, will be coming back. Holland deserves credit for creating a two-decade dynasty, including four Stanley Cups. But Holland also deserves some blame for the team’s current state, which is probably why he only got a two-year extension.

It’s hard to say how much blame Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill deserves, because he hasn’t had much to work with. But it’s clear he doesn’t deserve any credit, either, since the team has gone nowhere under his leadership.

The Wings weren’t fun to watch this year, and they won’t be next year, either.

And that brings us the Tigers, who are also owned by the Ilitches.

After president and general manager Dave Dombrowski rebuilt the Tigers into a World Series team, they got rid of him. The Boston Red Sox snapped him up, and he promptly took their fifth place team to two straight division titles. Good thing the Tigers got rid of a slug like that.

The Tigers replaced Dombrowski with Al Avila, who simply isn’t very good. There’s no reason to watch the Tigers this year, and the Tigers know it. That’s why they came up with the cockamammy scheme to change the revered Olde English D on their uniforms to give you a reason to buy new jerseys, because they know the team won’t give you any reason to buy anything.

So, who is most likely to miss the playoffs again next year: the Pistons, the Red Wings, or the Tigers? The answer is: YES. They’ll all miss the playoffs, and probably the year after that, too. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Which means Detroit’s best chance to make the playoffs this year will be… the Lions. Yes, the Lions. I can’t believe I said that, either.

Hard times are these, my friends. But instead of cursing the darkness, I recommend taking up gardening. You’re bound to have a better season.

John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
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