Last night I found myself skipping down 6th Street behind the Verizon Center with my brother’s stained white Detroit Tigers visor on my head in 20 degree weather. I was also sporting my long gray winter coat, a black turtleneck and gray pants, so I knew I looked ridiculous but reiterated (as much to myself as to anyone) that I needed to “represent.” That’s Detroit lingo for “cheer for my team.” I was headed to the Detroit Pistons basketball game with my sister-in-law in her bright red Tayshaun Prince jersey and my brother in his Detroit tee-shirt.
My brother and sister-in-law gave me the $85 tickets as a Christmas present. And this is where I admit that I’m a fair-weather fan. Although I grew up loving the Bad Boys of the late 1980s (Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman) and yes, I had a full-size poster of Dumars on my closet door when I was in 8th grade, I don’t watch the games unless I’m with relatives or friends from home. I cheer because of the hometown pride, the camaraderie, the feeling that I belong.
We sat in Section 107 and ate greasy fries and drank $7 beers and I yelled “D-troit bas-ket-ball” and a Washington Wizards fan looked at me, frowned and shook his head as if to say, “Don’t even start.” My sister-in-law said with a bit of glee, “We’re going to get in a fight!”
Behind me, a little black boy, probably three years old and about two-and-a-half feet tall, was cheering for the Wizards. “That’s right, defense,” he said in his Mickey Mouse voice with a slight lisp as he sat on his knees in the chair. (I told his father this boy should model he was so cute.) “That’s right, defense.”
Between quarters, a guy from our section was picked to engage in a challenge on the big screen, and if he won, our section would get Wizards jerseys. The game is irrelevant, but he won and a Verizon Center worker started chucking jerseys into the stands. I got beer spilled on me as I jumped for a jersey among flying arms, but I didn’t care. I caught one, and I passed it to the little boy. I didn’t see it, but his dad had already caught him one, so the dad gave me his. I ended up throwing that one to another Wizards fan.
Even though I wanted to “represent” and love routing for “my team,” (especially my crush Chauncey Billups) it’s all about the fun — and it’s just a game. Maybe I’m saying that because Detroit won its 10th consecutive game of the season in a blowout — 106 to 93. That’s right. Go Pistons.