Being a sports fan is tough. Being a Detroit sports fan is even tougher.
I have endured the journey for 19 long years now. Okay, perhaps a little less than that, but my parents did drape me in Detroit sports apparel since the day I was born about 19 years ago.
So, my knowledge doesn’t go too far back and my dad reminds me of this every time the Lions lose a game they should have won, “It’s the same old Lions, it never changes. Calvin Johnson is the new Barry Sanders.”
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I started thinking: What are the greatest Detroit sports moments I’m thankful for?
So, I compiled a list of the top 10 best Detroit sports moments from my memory (so about the past decade).
10. Mega Comeback
Calvin Johnson and Lions do make my list. Well, only because I felt bad for them- I grew up in the Joey Harrington era. And when I thought it couldn’t get worse, they had the dreadful 0-16 season. I actually watched football as a kid to see how the Lions could possibly lose each week.
But times are changing. It would only be fair to include the Lions in my countdown at least once. So, here they are. The comeback win over the Cowboys this season, the comeback win over the Raiders in 2011, and the comeback win over the Cowboys again in 2011 backup my argument to include the Lions in my countdown.
Restoring the roar! Hopefully, a winning era of football is finally coming back to Detroit.
9. Red Wings – Avalanche Brawl
The final showdown: Patrick Roy vs. Chris Osgood. It was the pinnacle finale for two rivals that hated each other. They created one of the best brawls hockey has even seen. The crowd waited for 53 minutes on the edge of their seats to see the next (and ultimately last) episode of this rivalry.
Hockeytown fans certainly got their money’s worth. The referees, on the other hand, didn’t.
8. Must See JV
Justin Verlander has racked up plenty of accolades for only being 30years old: AL MVP, AL Cy Young, AL Pitching Triple Crown, and 2 No-Hitters. To pick only one moment would be unfair to the flame throwing right hander. And his legacy is far from complete if the 2013 postseason was any indication. Verlander put together a stretch of 23 scoreless innings in playoffs. That’s unheard of. In fact, he is only one of five pitchers in MLB history to ever do that.
However, if Jim Joyce hadn’t ruined Armando Galarraga’s perfect game… JV doesn’t make my list.
7. Red Wings 23-Game Home Winning Streak
Here is another “milestone” moment as the Red Wings broke the NHL record for most consecutive wins at home. Joe Louis Arena was in a frenzy for 23 straight action packed games. The icing on the cake was watching the players saluting the home crowd after the recorded breaking 21st win.
That’s what Hockeytown USA is all about.
6. Miggy’s Triple Crown
Continuing on the theme of milestones, I couldn’t forget about Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 Triple Crown. It’s hard to believe he basically matched his Triple Crown numbers this season (2012: .330 AVG, 44 HR, 139 RBI / 2013: .348 AVG, 44 HR, 137 RBI) while battling injuries the last half of the year. It’s a privilege to watch him play on a nightly basis.
Cabrera is easily going to end up in Cooperstown when it’s all said and done.
5. Shanahan’s Empty-Net Goal to Win the 2002 Stanley Cup
It was one of the most dramatic empty-net goals you will ever see. As soon as the goal horn blasted, the celebration was on. The Wings didn’t even care there was still 45 seconds left on the clock. Brendan Shanahan leaped into Steve Yzerman’s arms and Dominik Hasek just started jumping up and down because there was no one left around him to celebrate with.
4. Tayshaun Prince’s Block
Tayshaun Prince changed the momentum of the entire 2004 Eastern Conference Finals by rejecting Reggie Miller at the bucket at the end of Game 2. Prince made up at least 8-9 steps as Miller casually laid the ball up by the rim. Miller, who was known for his last minute dramatics in the playoffs, was finally denied.
3. Mr. Big Shot’s Half-Court Shot
Tayshaun’s shining moment may have never happened if Chauncey Billups didn’t drain the improbably half-court shot to tie the game against the New Jersey Nets during Game 5 of the Conference Semi-Finals. By all accounts the game was over. The Nets were already thinking about closing out the Pistons in Game 6. But, the desperation shot went in and the Palace erupted. Although the Pistons went on to lose the game in triple overtime, the momentum gain from Mr. Big Shot’s big shot helped carried the Pistons to the 2004 NBA Championship.
2. The 2008 Stanley Cup Final
The 2008 Stanley Cup Final was a marathon. The Wings jumped out to a quick 2-0 series lead, but the Pittsburgh Penguins fought back to take Game 3. The Wings came from behind to take Game 4 and had a chance to win it all back in Detroit. That didn’t happen. They lost a triple overtime heart-breaker.
But instead of being down on themselves, the Wings regrouped and captured Lord Stanley in Game 6 on Pittsburgh’s home ice. It was one of the best back and forth Stanley Cup Finals ever.
1. Ordonez’s Walk-Off Sends Tigers to World Series
The Tigers went from the laughing stock of the Major Leagues to championship contenders in 4 years. That’s why I have Magglio Ordonez’s blast in Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS as my greatest Detroit’s moment I have ever witnessed. They were the underdogs. They weren’t even supposed to be there. The powerhouse New York Yankees should have eliminated them a round earlier in the ALDs.
But with one glorious swing of the bat they had proved all the doubters wrong. They were the American League Champions.
I’m thankful for all of these great Detroit sports moments I have witnessed. It’s what makes sports special.