2009: Attention-Grabbing And Unusual


Quicker than Barry Sanders cutting back against a helpless defender . . . faster than a speeding bullet called Superman streaking through the sky . . . and with the swiftness of a Cheetah after an antelope on the African Serengeti, the much anticipated year 2009 has come and gone.

The year was attention=grabbing for me because America’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, completed his first full year as commander and chief. Detroit, the automobile capital of the world, experienced an otherworldly meltdown. America’s financial and housing markets struggled mightily to recover from the Bush years. On the positive side, Motown was in a year long celebration of its 50th anniversary that created excitement around the world.

As Detroit tried to negotiate the negative economic times gripping the world, the sporting community continued to entertain and provide a discharge and expulsion from the tedium of everyday life demands and difficulties which dominate too many lives.

Providing the Motor City with its biggest discharge from its ever looming economic woes was the Michigan State University Men’s Basketball team.

Detroit hosted its first-ever NCAA Final Four at Ford Field and it went out and established Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship Game (72,922) and total attendance records.

The Spartans electrified the entire state as they set sail on an incredible basketball journey that saw MSU beat NCAA powerhouses Kansas, Louisville and Connecticut en route to a championship match with North Carolina.
The Spartans lost convincingly in the title game, but their magical run to get to the title game was an attention-grabbing moment.

In the very first Final Four in Detroit, a local university makes it to the title game. What great theater for the college tournament; however, MSU could not close the deal as it lost to the Tar Heels. No matter, the energy Michigan State infused into the entire state, especially Detroit, was measurable and heartfelt.

It was unusual to see the St. Louis Cardinals ascend to a Super Bowl. But there they were in the “Big Game” in Tampa Bay lined up against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Cardinals got out of the NFL box that has only a handful of teams in it that have never been to a Super Bowl. The Lions are still in the never been good enough non-Super Bowl box.

The “Big Game” however produced an attention-getting memorable contest as the Steelers last-second victory gave them a NFL record sixth Super Bowl title. Also, Mike Tomlin became the second African-American coach — Tony Dungy was the first — to lead his team to a NFL title.

Meanwhile, our NFL entry, the Detroit Lions, in spite of front office and coaching changes, still proved to be one of the worst team in the league. The Lions went into infamy when they went 0-16 in 2008, and came back in 2009 to win only two games. The pain does not end for area professional football aficionados as the Lions simply cannot find their way to competitiveness in the NFL.

While the Lions remained inept, the Tigers, in my mind, sent the baseball fans on a joyous ride that ended before getting to its final destination. This letdown produced a situation of looking at a glass half empty or half full.

The Tigers were picked to finish near the bottom of the American League, but they ascended to a tie for Central Division title and lost a heartbreaking contest to Minnesota in a one-game playoff. Since the Tigers led its division all season, the loss was looked at as a collapse by many. But I tend to think of it as an overachievement, especially with all the injuries to the pitching staff.

Well, the Tigers hierarchy did not agree with me as they sent center fielder Curtis Granderson, 28, and pitcher Edwin Jackson, 26, packing. I feel like it was a bonehead reactionary move.

In the NBA wars our Detroit Pistons, one of the best franchises in the league over the past seven years, descended toward the bottom rung of the NBA.

As a result, Pistons president Joe Dumars fired Michael Curry and hired John Kuester as head coach. Rasheed Wallace was let go and, incredibly, Ben Wallace was brought back, as was old guard Chucky Atkins. So much for the so-called youth movement.

As the 2009-10 season unfolds, it appears the Pistons magnificent run of six consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Final will be a distant memory for some time to come.

The state’s two biggest football university schools, Michigan and Michigan State, produced less than noteworthy seasons. MSU did make it to a bowl game with a less than stellar 6-6 record.

The year 2009 was unusual in that Tiger Woods was voted the Athlete of the Decade, but ended up being the media slappy of the decade, for his adulterous affairs with a number of women.

In the PSL, Central and King won football titles, Western won the baseball crown, Mumford Boys and Renaissance Girls won track titles and Pershing won a state basketball title.

Gone were some interesting sports figures, including NBA star and jazzman Wayman Tisdale, NFL and congressman Jack Kemp, NFL player Chris Henry, Piston owner Bill Davison and Bad Boys coach Chuck Daley who all went to the big playground in the sky.

Attention-getting and unusual was 2009.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

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