AGENTS OF CHANGE

Holly Bio Pic By:  Holly Horning

This has been a very busy season for the Tigers, especially since the beginning of January.

Say, whaaat?

Oh, did you think I was referring to Hot Stove season? Oh, no, no, no – I meant to say that the Redemption, Reminder and Reassurance season has started in earnest. If you didn’t catch the original blog, read it here:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/tis-the-season/

Al Avila has been working overtime in the papers and on radio and tv to reassure fans about the lack of trades and the gaping hole in centerfield. The usual suspects are cranking out their “stay calm” articles regularly now.

Jordan Zimmermann is fine. Alex Avila was the best option for backup catcher. And there is absolutely no coincidence that his father is the GM of the team. Drew VerHagen is completely recovered. All the players who performed very well last year will repeat their work again in 2017. And Mr. I is still fully in charge.

In fact, everything about the team is just peachy according to the majority of writers. No need to be worried. Oh, and just whip out that credit card of yours and get your ticket packages – while you still can.

Hmm, you get the idea. Expect more to come. And pull out your waders.

But a chink in the armor appeared when one writer for a local Detroit newspaper dared to publish a piece on the sad state of all of Detroit’s professional sports teams, especially their lack of recent playoff and championship years. And now you can’t find it anymore on the paper’s site. Not the first time we’ve seen semi-critical pieces get pulled within 24 hours of being published.

And in a similar vein, another writer, widely recognized as one of the best, is nowhere to be found, at least when it concerns the Tigers, because he writes what he sees. Allegedly, someone fond of wearing blue and orange animal-stripes wasn’t thrilled with him covering the team.

To add to this, more than a couple of our readers have relayed personal stories of the understanding that comes with being a sportswriter in this region.

This is what happens when reporters need income and clubhouse access, newspapers need advertising dollars and sports teams need solid attendance to help offset their humungous payrolls.

Lest you think this is normal in any big city, think again. I live within a wide swath of the East Coast where sports fans’ patience is almost non-existent and journalists live to criticize everything about their hometown sports teams. There is more skewering here than praise.

And you know what? It’s a very effective system for giving fans what they want and expect much more quickly.

When you have a local media who is not hesitant to criticize owners, GMs, managers and players, there is nowhere for that team to hide. They are being made accountable publicly and spurred to make the necessary changes on a more timely basis.

I’ve seen it here in DC with all the professional sports teams. One team in particular that was scrutinized in every aspect. Only when the owner saw his 15+ year waiting list for season tickets completely disappear and seats go empty, was he inspired to make changes. No one in this town is immune. Even the mascots.

And the same goes for NY, too. Even the mighty Yankees suffered when family troubles forced two brothers to take over the team and try to run it differently than their father. The papers were merciless and within a short time, significant changes were made that brought fans back.

Personally, I never understood why one of Detroit’s sports teams continued to attract fans despite decades of mediocrity,1 playoff win in 25 years and the sport’s longest drought.

And another team that hasn’t won a World Series in 32 years and has the second longest drought in their division after the Cleveland Indians.

Would things play differently if the media felt free to write what they wanted? Would teams be more proactive in working harder towards that winning formula if more fans voted with their wallets?

Probably. Revenue is always the final determining factor for whether changes get made or not. But not all fans are like you, dear readers. There are more fans who see sports as entertainment filler and don’t dig beneath the surface. Fans who are happy seeing games and not really caring about the quality of the product. But maybe they should.

When you put restrictions on your media, and when many fans are unable to readily access information that explains what is going on, you end up with a fan base that more or less happily accepts mediocrity. And pays for it, too.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when fans routinely wonder why all their teams always seem to fall short year after year. The real question to ask is whether the local culture and business relationships will change anytime soon. Until they do, don’t expect the teams to rethink their goals with any sense of urgency.

19 thoughts on “AGENTS OF CHANGE

  1. I don’t need a writer to ” tell it like it is ” . Knowledgeable sports fans no what’s going on but it’s just entertainment. Not life or death . Wrigley field was full most of the time even though they went 118 years between titles. Those are true fans . Support your team win or lose .

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    • I read that article, Holly, and felt the same way. Losing teams in all 4 corners. I’m tired of it and am so glad we can come here and not read the same drivel shoveled from the paid media. Detroit needs a championship!

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  2. Holly, do you mean ______ from the ____ when you refer to the one who calls it as he sees it? After a long hiatus, he just wrote an article for the Tigers today! It was about Alex Avila catching a huge swordfish. It must have made the news because it’s a rare sight indeed to see Alex actually catch something and not drop it.

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    • Hi, Bill – Unfortunately, it is our policy not to print the names of writers but yes, you are correct in your identification. I guess he couldn’t ruffle feathers by writing about fishing. 🙂 Thanks for the much-needed humor and also for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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  3. Hi Holly- love your photos and today’s piece. Their only winning teams are owned by two old pizza guys. It’s all a reflection of the local culture. Expect the same results. And when the old pizza guys are gone expect the same results. It ain’t rocket science it’s common sense.

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    • “Reflection of the local culture.” I guess I don’t get your drift. The Tigers almost won a championship, the Wings won for years and the Pistons won championships. The Lions have no excuses. The culture of the owners? The culture of the fans? That is my question.

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      • Hi, Kathy – Yes, a good idea to clarify. It’s all about the lack of championships (quantity as well as frequency) overall for 4-team sports cities. As for the “local culture”, a culture is generally a compilation of all the factors that influence what you get – so yes, owners, fans, media and assorted other factors all impact the end results. Thanks for the question! – Holly

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  4. Like you all, the Tigers are my thing. I will always care and invest time on them. That will likely never change. I am thankful to have seen the likes of Cabrera. However, given the current state of the Tigers organization my baseball funds will not follow as closely. Gates will be down this year.

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    • Amen and well said! Like a commenter above who stated “support your team win or lose,” I agree with that. However, that doesn’t mean I have to shell out hundreds of dollars to go to a few games a year. I won’t do that anymore. My money will be better invested elsewhere. Sorry Tigers ticket sales reps.

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  5. Of course all is rosy and peachy, it has to be. With the cold and clouds, the average baseball fan needs something to hold on to. I remember the Winters of 02 and 03 and the articles written at that time as well. They were positive as well. Remember the end result in the standings?

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  6. 1) Holly, you can forget about ever getting a Tigers’ press pass. LOL 2) Do you believe Alex was brought back due to the father/son relationship? I don’t recall that blog if there was one. Me, I think it made as much sense as any other catcher available.

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    • Hi, Herb – My remark about Alex returning was not a personal one, It was solely in reference to what many fans are thinking and the Tigers’ strategy to combat perception. But personally, I think it’s a little bit of both (availability and relationship) that came into the mix. Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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  7. Well thought out and presented piece, Holly! It has gone beyond the writers who compose their kumbaya pieces to appease the powers-that-be. In my attempts to enlighten the posters on the comment boards about Totally Tigers, my comments “seem” to be monitored and deleted.

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  8. Right on Holly! Today’s “fans/”sports culture mystifies me. The” entertainment” factor glares when folks stroll in during the 2/3 inning and often depart in the 8th. Trips to the concession stands sometimes last an inning or two. These “fans”wouldn’t have a clue as to what a ” Texas Leaguer” or “suicide squeeze” is.

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  9. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for honesty & balanced reporting. Those of us who love the game will always be team stalwarts..2003 anyone? Contrived coverage diminishes credibility & is a disservice to the fans.

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  10. I mainly am interested in the Detroit sports columns for the comments section. I barely read the actual articles. The comments are a gas to read. I have eyes. I don’t need some company- line writer tell me what I just saw. Its best to just ignore them and go to TT!

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  11. Cathy- Holly gerously gives me Lee way on my over wordy comments. Sometimes she has to really edit my comments. Go with her answer to your question about my statement about local culture acceptance of underachievement. Thanks.

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