Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, August 14, 2006

When losing is good?

When friends or siblings who don't follow baseball that closely are leaving messages on my voicemail, asking why the Tigers suddenly suck, what does that tell you?

Is it an indication of just how well the Tigers have been playing when five straight losses - something of a given over a 162-game season - raise an eyebrow? At Mack Avenue Tigers, Kurt reminds us that these things happen.

In the other three big sports (i.e., the ones most of us have paid attention to over the past half-decade or so), a five-game losing streak can adversely affect the trajectory of a season. Does this show how foreign a territory Detroit sports fans find themselves in right now? With his hand held over the panic button, Big Al says yes.

Of course, as Billfer points out, when a 10-game lead is cut in half in a week, it's a bit jarring. Concern is the natural reflex. Yet he also reasonably concurs that this is the bad stretch that other teams have faced. Right now, unfortunately, it's the Tigers' turn.

So those who write about the Tigers - be it for the newspapers or blogosphere - appear calm. Trepidatious, certainly, but of an even disposition.

Why is it, then, that I feel like most of us are Kevin Bacon in Animal House, trying vainly to hold his ground against an onslaught of frenzied, fleeing bystanders?

Time will tell if we end up flattened on the sidewalk like he was.

But here's what I'd say (besides "Remain calm! All is well!") to the Detroit sports nation: The Tigers need this.

As Danny Knobler wrote yesterday, before four consecutive losses became five, "The test is on." Perhaps with the exception of their slide in mid-April (the one which earned The Wrath of Leyland), the Tigers haven't faced much adversity this season. Every time they've been confronted with "a real team," they've come out sparkling. And maybe this was starting to look a little bit easy.

Remember the last Detroit team this happened to? Or has basketball season been erased from your memory already? How about hockey season? That, too?

The Pistons and Red Wings both blazed to the best records in their respective leagues, outdistancing the competition by so far that the last quarter of the regular season was rendered near-meaningless, becoming nothing more than an exercise in what we thought was delayed gratification. But while both of these teams were going through the motions, waiting for the games that mattered to begin, they became lackadaisical and sloppy. They had the time to read and hear about how great they were, especially when that's all there really was to talk about and respond to.

And what happened once "winning time" came around? Two teams that looked almost unbeatable realized that you can't just flip a switch and start playing well again.

Need one more example? Three words: The Indianapolis Colts. How'd that work out last year?

We hear this all the time before the NCAA basketball tournament, too. Inevitably, someone will say that one of the top teams - Duke, MSU, Kansas, etc. - would be helped by losing a game before going into the tournament. Why? Because it wakes a team up. It makes them start listening to their coach again. It reminds them that they're not, in fact, unbeatable.

And that's why this could actually be good for the Tigers. They need to sharpen their focus again, especially on defense. They need to remember what helped them win all those games up until this point. They need to listen to their manager again, instead of just nodding when he says things he's been saying all season long.

Of course, if they get swept in Boston, and return home with a lackluster showing against the Rangers, I'll be tugging on Big Al's shirt, wondering when I get to push the panic button...



  • At August 14, 2006 5:28 PM, Blogger Big Al said…

    I bow to your Google-fu, Ian. I've looked for the Kevin Bacon "All is well" pic in the past with no luck. It's a perfect fit for the current Tiger fan angst.

    As to the panic button, don't worry. Much like Professor Fate in "The Great Race," you'll be the guy to whom I'll say "Push the button, Max...I mean, Ian." If the BoSox sweep, that is...

  • At August 15, 2006 9:55 AM, Blogger the sports dude said…

    I don't panic because as crazy as this season has been no one, I mean no one, saw this coming. To me it can only be a TRUE disappointment, or a panic situation, if everyone expected this and then it fell apart... like the Pistons. That was panic, that was disappointment, this is unexpected and I really am not even remotely close to panic mode at all. If they make the playoffs great, if not it was still a season for the ages and finally a sign that the Tigers are ready to knock the stupid Red Wings off their throne and return this town to Tiger Town and not this ficticious Hockeytown that is a joke. All I know the future is bright and I couldn't be happier!

    Besides, in about two weeks my attention turns to Ann Arbor, who needs the tabbies!?!?


  • At August 15, 2006 9:57 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Welcome back, Sports Dude!

    And Big Al, I chalk my "Google Fu" up to hard work, and taking it one blog at a time.


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