YARNELL: A fair weather fan

I’d like to think I’m not a fair weather fan, but, when you get down to it, most of us are.

Especially here in Michigan.

Like so many of us who wear the old English “D” of the Detroit Tigers or the Honolulu Blue of the Detroit Lions, I’ve been and will continue to be a lifelong fan of our teams. This might be one of those years that come along every once in a while, a fair weather year, when I am a much bigger Tiger or Lion fan.

One of my first jobs was at Mount Union College in Ohio, and part of the job was to publicize the college’s sports teams. The basketball coach had all kinds of ideas on what I could do to boost attendance at his games. Try as we might, in my three years there nothing worked.

Then I moved on to Defiance College and I found out what the secret was. In one word. “Win.”

Unlike Mount Union’s team, Defiance’s was exciting, fun to watch, and they won way more than they lost. That brought in the students and community members we had longed for at Mount Union.

I think I’ve mentioned in my column before a speech I attended many years ago, given by ABC sportscaster Jim McKay at a journalism banquet in Toledo. He talked about the importance of sports, and how the teams and games are reflections of life. Up until that time, I figured that sports were strictly extra curricular. It was my high school football coach, after all, who told us many times that sports are the tail and the tail doesn’t wag the dog.

This from a high school football coach who was from the mold and during the era of Vince Lombardi. He even looked (and acted) like Lombardi. And like Lombardi’s teams, we won. And it was fun. The winning part, that is, not so much the being on the team, because that was a lot of very hard work.

Anyway, the McKay message was that sports show us how people react in pressure situations, let us see if they are going to get back up when they get knocked down, and so on. He said that unlike in life, in sports the rules are clear and when it’s over, you know who won and who lost.

Yes, in real life many times the rules aren’t all that clear and it’s nearly impossible to know what the score is. How do we know how we’re doing? Most of us hope it’s not by the balance of our bank accounts.

One of the things that led me to write this column is something I saw on Sunday, something I didn’t think I’d ever see. Crusty stick-to-the-facts Tigers manager Jim Leyland in tears. He was talking about the amazing loyalty of Tiger fans.

A column by the Free Press’s Drew Sharp that was in the News Advocate on Monday said, “Detroit now prepares for only its second taste of playoff baseball in the last 24 years. ‘It’s a great story,’ Leyland said. ‘People are spending their money. They’re out of work. They come to the park. It almost sounds corny. I really get emotional about it. I can’t believe how all those people come out to the park. They’re out of work and we get 40,000 at the park for a Thursday afternoon. Through tough times, sports are a good therapy for people.”’

Now, if, just maybe, the Lions can step up to the plate. What wonderful therapy that would be. A total escape from our the Detroit Lions reality we’ve become used to.

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Posted by Dave Yarnell

Dave was formerly the News Advocate features writer and retired in November 2013.

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