In a freak chance of fate, with the help of friends and financial aid dollars that were supposed to go toward paying off my rent, I got to attend game 4 of the Tigers-Yankees playoff. I really couldn’t believe it even as I walked up to the stadium. The giant Louisville Slugger bats signified the entranceway, and a stone cat protected the gate from above. I was there. At Comerica Park, a place nearly every person in Southeastern Michigan has memories of regardless of whether they like baseball or not.

But this was no ordinary game, and no ordinary opponent. This was the American League Division Series, and this opponent was none other than the New York Yankees, also known as The Bronx Bombers and The Evil Empire. The single-most winning team in all of baseball with 27 world championships compared to the Tigers’ measly four. What chance did we stand? This is the team of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Micky Mantle, Alexander Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and now, sadly, Curtis Granderson. However, this is no ordinary city with no ordinary sports fans. This is Detroit, and what the Tigers mean to us is more powerful than any words I can write down.

Anyone who is familiar with the entertainment industry should know the reputation of Detroit: We are known as one of the absolute best concert towns with some of the craziest sports fans out there. Who else throws octopi onto the ice at hockey games? Who else’s football team has never won the Super Bowl for as long as there has been a Super Bowl, yet sells out almost every game? Nobody. One of my friends at the Tigers game asked me why this was, and I didn’t even need to think twice. I turned to him and said, “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” And most residents in Michigan don’t have much to lose anymore. The graduation rate for Detroit Public Schools hovers around 60 percent. The unemployment rate for the state stands stagnant at 11 percent and was as high as 15 percent in July 2009. Almost every single family I knew growing up in Westland, Mich. (about 20 minutes outside of Detroit) worked for the Big Three automakers. We all know what happened to them, don’t we?

The University and the state of Michigan are two drastically different things. If you don’t know this yet, it’s about time you stepped outside the bubble of Ann Arbor and had a beer or two with a midnight shift line worker or a McDonald’s shift manager. I looked around at the stadium and felt one powerful thought echo in my head — these are my people. I heard the conversations around me bring me back to a time when I wasn’t attending an elite university — a time when I myself was working at a fast food restaurant and trying to keep my tank of gas off empty.

I listened to the conversation around me: “Man, I had to cut out of work two hours early to be here, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” “I hear you brother. The transmission on my Jeep gave out on the way here. It’s stranded on 96 as we speak — took a $60 cab ride to see the game!” A man sitting next to me was wearing an Ernie Harwell “EH” patch sewn into his ratty cap stamped with the old English letter ‘D’ and I commented on how great Ernie was for the team. He replied, “This was my dad’s hat. We used to have season tickets back at old Tigers Stadium. Get this bro, he died the same day they closed the doors. Last thing I heard him say was, ‘What a shame.’” Yes, I was at home.

The bottom line is yes, we lost the game, but this isn’t the first time Detroit was on the losing end of things. That game was about more than baseball. It was about loyalty. About the small taking on the large. About hope. In the bottom of the ninth and down nine runs, as all hope seemed lost, the man next to me stared ahead — his friends already gone — and spoke to himself barely loud enough for me to hear the words that personify the spirit of Detroit, “We will stay to the bitter end.” Truer words have never been spoken.

Alexander Hepperle is an LSA sophomore.

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