As I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Pistons Bad Boys era, I couldn't help but wonder why the director fell into the typical “Detroit trap” of showing rundown buildings and the riots of 1967.
And then I quickly realized ,this is who we were and who we are now, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I listened to Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn talk of embracing the image his team had. Instead of running from certain labels, maybe we should own it like the Bad Boys did.
I loved the insight and story-telling of the documentary, but one thing struck me, that I have been harping on for over a decade now, is "why does everyone focus on the Pistons walking off the floor against the Bulls in the 1991 Eastern Conference Finals?" That's what most people outside of Detroit remember, unfortunately. They recall the "disgraceful march off the Palace floor," and yet those same people conveniently forget how Boston did the exact same thing to the Pistons in 1988 at the Silverdome.
Two wrongs don't make a right, but it is why we here in Detroit hold such a grudge, and why we own such a large chip on our shoulder. It's because what is good for other teams and players and cities, doesn't pertain to our guys in our city.
The reason I had trouble with the walk-off was because I feared that is what this team would be remembered for most, rather than its skill, unselfishness and talent. The reason I loved the walk-off was because of the disrespect Michael Jordan and the Bulls showed toward the Pistons throughout their tenure. Walking out before the clock struck zero was their way of saying "up your's. You want to disrespect us, then why should we show any type of honor toward you?"
Had you ever seen or heard of an ex-champion being so disrespected? No, and maybe (not making excuses), just maybe, that’s why the Pistons said, "screw you Mikey," and walked out. It was an attitude that made them great and hated, but one that left them extremely vulnerable to criticism, much like the fan base and city they represented.
Because of that mantra, the Pistons of 1989, along with the Tigers of 1968 and the Red Wings of 1997, are one of the most beloved teams this city has ever had. They showed us how important family and sacrifice is. They showed it's important to have a friend's back, and why sticking up for yourself is vital. And maybe more than anything else, they showed us winning a championship is hard work.
Detroit is hard work. And this team overcame a ton of adversity, just like this city.
The Tigers brought a city together after the upheaval a year before, and the Red Wings won the Cup with guys who made sacrifices to their game, like Yzerman and Fedorov, for the betterment of the group.
Besides galvanizing a fan base and a city, those three teams symbolized Detroit and the people who brag to be natives.
Bravo, Bad Boys. We are proud to have been fans of yours, and proud that you represented our city.
[PODCAST] Bad Boys Recap
Shep talks about the Bad Boys 30 for 30 documentary that aired on Thursday night, what they left out of the film and how this team represented the city of Detroit and the fans.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.