The city of Detroit has had it’s fair share of ups and downs. Throughout history, many of Detroit’s shining moments have been related to sports. Athletic events are one of the most popular attractions in the city, not to mention one of the largest sources of revenue. For spectators, professional athletic events in the city are thought of as very laid back, recreational activities. After attending games of both the Detroit Red Wings (National Hockey League), and the Detroit Tigers (Major League Baseball), I have been able to formulate similar opinions to those expressed by former MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti in his book Take Time for Paradise.
As the 3rd Period neared the end at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings trailed by a goal. There was a sense of frustration that could be felt in the crowd. The Red Wings had been outshooting the Hurricanes all night, and really dominating the play. The crowd had already gotten their money’s worth as the game was 5-4. The clock seemed to be moving rapidly, and the frustration grew immensely. As a hockey player myself, I know that being on the ice in a situation like that is even 10 times more frustrating.
Giamatti writes “Sports represent a shared vision of how we continue, as individual, team, or community, to experience a happiness or absence of care so intense, so rare, and so fleeting that we associate their experience with experience otherwise described as religious.”
The crowd began slowly trickling out of the Joe with just a minute left in the game, a normal occurrence when the home team is destined to lose. However tonight, that wasn’t exactly the case. With just 38 seconds left in the game, the Red Wings answered the bell, and Justin Abdelkader snuck one home. The crowd erupted, random strangers were offering up high-fives, and the energy of the building was incredible. This hockey community had come together, and the intense spectator experience was enhanced tremendously. The Red Wings would then go on to score in overtime, sparking celebration once again. Even though it was just a regular season game, there was emotion and excitement that would make anyones night. Giamatti obviously came from a background of baseball, yet his theories apply to all sports. His idea that sports encourage friendship and community are spot on. Very seldom do you attend a sporting event and not have conversation with the fans around you (unless they are rooting for the other team of course).
Comerica Park in late August is one of Detroiter’s favorite places to be. I was on hand to watch the Tigers and the Yankees, and really was looking forward to a relaxing yet competitive game. Baseball is known as a slower, less intense sport, which is a big part of why it is considered America’s pastime (See my previous post on “America’s Pastime”). Giamatti states “[Baseball] is for all the allure of speciously stress-free suburbs, for all the grinding of city life, cities endure. And when all those diverse energies are harnessed, and those choices, private and public, cohere, and all the bargains made in a million ways every day hold up, then a city flourishes and is the most stimulating center for life, and the most previous artifact, a culture can create.” He understands baseball for exactly what it is: an oasis from everyday life. Most people love baseball because of the lack of intensity and the calm atmosphere that comes with it. As a hockey player is doesn’t directly appeal to me, but I certainly understand the interest. The Tigers lost a tough one, 8-4 to the Yankees which was headlined by an 8 run-3rd inning from the Yankees. While the game didn’t feature much close competition, it certainly was a relaxing evening, and being outdoors doesn’t hurt the cause.
What we can take from Take Time for Paradise is the idea that everyone will have their own interests, but sports are one of the most popular things we will share interest in. The arena/stadium/court/field functions as an escape from thestruggles of everyday life, and for that short window of time, you are completely free. We tend to act as a close knit community, even amongst strangers, which is an incredible feature of sports – they bring people together. As a spectator, Detroit is one of the best places to be. With all the difficulty the city has faced, especially recently, we are still able to make time for our teams, and come together to support them. Whether it be Football Sunday in December, or a hot July day at Comerica, fans will be there to support the teams, and enjoy themselves along the way.