Boston, despite 40 winning years in the past 47, thinks it has suffered. Detroit, with no title since 1984 and an economy the size of a Bosox marketing budget, may define the term.
The Tigers are the Red Sox without the sobbing poetry. Detroit means Elmore Leonard figuring out how his character can rob a liquor store and still get you to like him. Boston means being sold an official chartreuse Red Sox hat and a $200 seat atop a wall 400 feet from the plate because that’s what you’ve been told you should want to do since birth.
In Detroit, if you can build a car with your own hands, you can’t get a job. In Boston, if you can deconstruct an Ezra Pound canto that nobody cares about, you get tenure. Boston is James Taylor whining about a broken heart. Detroit is Rodriguez singing to his ex: “Thanks for your time, then you can thank me for mine and after that’s said, forget it.”
In Boston you scull on the Charles. In the Motor City, your skull bobs to the top of the Detroit River if the knot slips on the cinder block tied to your ankle.
Unless you’re from New England, it’s not tough to figure out whom to root for in this one. The Red Sox and their fans still want to be adorable underdogs. (Look, we lost 93 in 2012, but now we have beards and have become a band of brothers!) But it’s actually Detroit that hasn’t won a Series in nearly three decades and has been to the postseason only half as often as the Sawx since World War II. The Tigers deserve the empathy that Boston usually bogarts.
Yet Detroit doesn’t complain. Now that the Tigers are finally eminent again, losing the Series and the ALCS the past two seasons, they just emulate Manager Jim Leyland, suck back another coffin nail and tough it out. Let Boston have its affluence, its beauty, its recent champions in all four pro sports and its PhDs. Detroit still has . . . well . . . the Tigers.
This ALCS is only part of a larger postseason theme. If the playoffs so far give you a hard-to-finger sense that something special and unusual is happening, perhaps this is the common thread: Nine of the 10 teams — and all of the final four — were big league franchises in 1901. And seven had their current nicknames by World War I.
And none of ’em are Yankees.
How does it get better than that, especially when the four teams left are almost identical in talent and have all been familiar franchises since great-great grandma’s time: Cardinals (founded 1882), Dodgers (1884), Red Sox (1901) and Tigers (1901). In all those eons, only the Dodgers changed towns. Of the already knocked-out teams, the Braves (1876), Pirates (1882), Reds (1882), Indians (1901) and A’s (1901), only two changed cities.