A few nights ago, there was a sporting event called the Super Bowl where some unsavory types played football in front of a hundred thousand screaming babies, and a hundred million screaming babies on giant televisions in their reverse-mortgaged homes. In the middle of that groundbreaking game (the results of which have already been forgotten), Chrysler ran a weirdly effective ad alluding to the post-industrial wasteland that their home city has become, starring a distasteful and occasionally remarkable performer past his prime: sort of like Detroit itself.
What made the ad so effective was the combination of the dark atmosphere expressed through the photography, the wincingly familiar musical theme (that rapper’s greatest hit… from almost a decade ago!), and the deliberate attempt at foreignness conveyed through its tagline. Indeed, the suffering of one of America’s finest cities has passed through our hearts in such a small volume that “Imported from Detroit” sounds almost literal. Because whenever we hear about it, Detroit seems like an endless procession of indicators of America’s decline, it is difficult for it to not seem almost foreign, third world, whatever. It is remarkable that a major corporation was willing to admit to this facet of despair in their marketing.
Unlike the city they inhabit, the Pistons of Auburn Hills haven’t entirely collapsed, which makes today’s Grand Announcement regarding their underdog status in a game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers even more perplexing. To a sporting world that probably at most asked, “What the fuck? They’re not THAT bad, are they?” upon reading this in their RSS reader, I must reply: No. They are not that bad.
The Pistons this season are a combination of surly, capable veterans (Rip Hamilton, Tracy McGrady), sprouting tweeners (Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko), and an interesting, but ultimately average center who is played too much (Greg Monroe). This could aptly describe several mediocre teams throughout the league: Indiana, Charlotte, Philadelphia in particular, all of whom are playoff contenders.
But because of last year’s wasteful signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, this team’s rotations are crammed into a weird rotational clusterfuck where the highest minute average belongs to Tayshaun Prince (35 MPG), and their normal box score shows eleven players getting between fifteen to thirty minutes per game. Without Gordon and Villanueva, the Pistons would be bottoming out in a form hopefully similar to Detroit itself, but the remaining players would also be getting minutes equivalent to their talent and potential.
On the other hand... the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Unfortunately, even if they lose to the most pathetic team in the history of basketball tonight, they won’t be there yet. The failure of upper management to start trading pieces of this team away (and maybe... fire their horrible coach!) shows that they're unwilling to make the moves that could help bring the Pistons back to relevancy in this league again. Hey, they could look at the industry from which they take their namesake: maybe a stupid ad campaign will do the trick (after they fire everybody and trade everybody)!