DETROIT – How many times over the past five years have you taken a step back from watching Detroit sports and thought, “Can it get any worse than this?”
It probably crossed your mind each of the last five years as the Red Wings failed to qualify for the playoffs after doing so every season for 25 years. Remember when the Wings finished 23 -- twenty-three! -- points behind the second-worst team in the league and still didn’t get the first -- or second, or third -- overall draft pick? That was fun.
The Pistons haven’t been any better. They’re easily one of the worst franchises in the NBA since 2009, making two fleeting playoff appearances as the No. 8 seed only to get completely embarrassed in four games both times.
The worst part about the Pistons is even though they’re almost never competitive, they never have a top five pick, either.
We all know how bad the Tigers have been since 2016, and don’t even get me started on the Lions’ 60 years of borderline impressive ineptitude.
Despite being one of the few cities with all four major professional sports teams, Detroit has had basically nothing to get excited about for years.
That wasn’t the case for a few weeks at the start of baseball season, when the Tigers charged out to a 9-5 record and first-place in the AL Central Division. Nobody believed this was a first-place team, but with more than half the league set to make the playoffs, there was reason to be excited.
Spencer Turnbull and Gregory Soto were mowing guys down. C.J. Cron was launching dingers. JaCoby Jones was hitting homers and robbing homers and probably eating homers for breakfast.
Then the sporting world delivered a not-so-subtle reminder that, no, Detroit, your suffering is not over just yet.
First, Cron went out for the season. Then, Turnbull and Soto stopped getting outs. Jones finally moved up in the order and stopped hitting. It was like watching the most precarious house of cards during a magnitude 9 earthquake.
And now here we are, just 10 days after seeing the Tigers jump into first place. They’re in dead last after losing nine in a row. Four days in Chicago felt like an eternity as the White Sox belted home run after home run, spoiling the debuts of two top pitching prospects and sending Detroit spiraling once again into the depths of irrelevance.
Ten days ago fans were checking the standings. Now they’re monitoring the 2021 draft order.
Thursday was the most embarrassing of the nine losses. The Tigers looked like a practice squad trying to hit Lucas Giolito and lost 9-0 on a day when their best pitcher started on the mound.
Hours later, the Pistons -- who finished with the fifth-worst record in the league and had a realistic chance at the No. 1 draft pick -- fell to the seventh slot, the worst possible outcome. Everyone expected it to happen, but it was still a gut punch when it became official.
Sports lotteries are ridiculous in general, but they’ve been particularly devastating to Detroit.
While many fans across the country enjoy a unique 2020 pennant race or watch their NBA and NHL teams compete in the playoffs, Detroit’s basketball and hockey teams are sitting at home, not even qualifying for the league restarts.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are heading to Cleveland to face a team they’ve lost to 20 times in a row. TWENTY times in a row! The longest losing streak ever for an MLB team against a single opponent is 23, so the Tigers have a chance to make some really inspiring history this weekend.
Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and whichever other prospects the Tigers decide to call up before the end of the 2020 season are the only reason for Detroit fans to tune in now, other than the sheer love of the game.
Oh yeah, and the Lions will start soon. The ones that finished 3-12-1 last season and have one playoff win in the last 22,881 days.
Someday Detroit sports will reach the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. But Thursday was just the latest reminder that that day has yet to come.