Do the Pistons matter up here?


Does anyone care about the Detroit Pistons around here? I’ve wondered that ever since my first winter in the Upper Peninsula and until a few months ago, I had yet to meet a Pistons fan. Or at least one that would admit to it.

It’s always seemed odd to me. I knew that when I moved up here that hockey was huge and that there would be lots of Detroit Red Wings fans.

I figured there would be more Detroit Lions fans up here since it’s Michigan, but I was way off base as there are significantly more Green Bay Packers fans.

Weirdly enough, in the last two places I’ve lived in, the most popular franchise isn’t even in the same state.

The Detroit Tigers are the main baseball team, but there are a few Milwaukee Brewers fans and a lot more Chicago Cubs fans than I thought, so that made me feel at home.

The U.P. seems to be split between University of Michigan and Michigan State fans and I’ve yet to see one that would root for the other one in the postseason. Passions run deep up here behind the friendly demeanor of Yoopers.

However, Pistons fans are virtually nonexistent. I’ve seen more Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls fans up here than Pistons fans.

How is that possible? I can somewhat grasp the love of the Packers due to their proximity to the U.P., but the Bulls? Is it nostalgia for the Michael Jordan era, or what?

I thought maybe I was missing something. Were people wearing Pistons gear that I couldn’t see? I stopped at MC Sports earlier this year before it closed and I couldn’t find any Pistons’ merchandise. Not a single thing.

There were no shirts, no hats, no pennants, no anything. I know stores stock stuff that will sell, but I thought I’d find something emblazoned with the Pistons logo. Maybe something simple like a keychain? Nope. So there went my hidden clothing theory.

For a fleeting moment, I thought maybe people don’t like basketball, but that idea went away when I covered my first high school game and then saw the Spartans play on TV in a bar during the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe it’s because of the NBA. Of the four major sports leagues, the NBA is arguably the most polarizing. Despite what people might say on social media, the grand majority of the country still watches the NFL.

The NHL and Major League Baseball might not have the powerhouse quality that football has, but I haven’t met someone who says that they refuse to watch it.

The NBA is different, though. I know family members and friends who won’t watch at all. Not because of politics or things like that, but because of how the game is played.

Defense isn’t exactly emphasized in the NBA, and if you like watching that, you’d probably be happier watching U of M or MSU.

Also, the league is basically comprised of “super teams” right now where three or more superstars join together to win multiple championships. It happened with the Miami Heat and now the Golden State Warriors. If you hate that concept, the NBA isn’t for you. At least for right now.

I thought that theory had some weight to it, but it turned out not as much as I thought. The big basketball fans up here that I now watch both the NBA and college ball, so they don’t have strong feelings about the pro league. They aren’t fans of the super-team concept, but they won’t stop watching the NBA because of it. So my second theory fell flat as well.

ESPN-UP radio host Blake Froling has also been stumped by this. If you watch Detroit games on TV, Little Caesars Arena is almost empty and we started to wonder if anybody in the entire state cared about the Pistons, let alone in the U.P.

So we posed the question on the air Thursday if anybody cares about the Pistons, and thankfully someone called in. That person — whose name I can’t remember so if you’re reading this, my apologies — said it might be due to the Pistons’ lack of sustained success.

This was the last theory I’d been considering before I wrote this. Detroit had a heyday back in the late 1980s-early 1990s with back-to-back titles and then another stretch in the early to mid-2000s winning a championship in 2004 and reaching the NBA Finals in 2005.

Other than that, though, this franchise hasn’t done much and I think that might be the main reason for the lack of fandom up here.

If the Pistons had continued their dominance with more titles like the Red Wings had done or had the recognizable superstars that the Tigers have had, maybe they’d have a stronger footprint up here or in the rest of the state.

If that is truly the case, I understand. Growing up in Minnesota, I used to love the Timberwolves. They were the cool team at my school, even more so than the Vikings at some point, but they haven’t done anything since Kevin Garnett left and people have stopped caring.

I never reached that point, but my fan focus switched to the Twins and the Wild after that. At least those teams made the playoffs occasionally.

I’m thinking that the Pistons’ lack of a fan base up here is due to inconsistency, but I’m still not entirely convinced about that one.

Maybe the reason for the lack of Pistons fans will remain a mystery to me, but I’m not going to stop trying to figure it out.

So Detroit fans, if you’re out there, make your voices heard. Don’t let the Pistons’ failures leave you stuck alone.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.