Opening Day in Detroit – Celebration of baseball or excuse for drunk and disorderliness away from home?

Thursday is bowling night for me.  Last night, I arrived early as I normally do.  The television screens hanging between the computer screens showing our bowlers and scores were tuned in to the Detroit Tigers baseball game.  It was a rebroadcast of the game played earlier in the day, where the Tigers hosted the Blue Jays and won 11-1.  Taking glancing views of it something caught my eye.

Where were all the people?

The lower level stands were sparsely populated, and though the box score indicated almost 29,000 in attendance, that seemed highly unlikely.  2,900 would have been a more believable number to the naked eye.

But then I remembered that a week ago, 45,051 packed the Tigers’ home stadium for Opening Day.

I acknowledge that I am a sports fan.  I’ll block out time to go to a Detroit City FC match or drive to Columbus, Ohio for an MLS Columbus Crew game.  I belonged to team booster clubs, and felt that places like The Palace in Auburn Hills, Crew Stadium, Highbury and the Montreal Forum were holy grounds.

But Opening Day in Detroit reminds me that the best part of sports is the fans…and the worst part of sports is the fans.

The best of sports fandom for Tigers’ Opening Day were the 45,000 fans that purchased tickets and viewed the game rooting on their team as well as the fans who watched the game from their homes, from local taverns or even from bars in Detroit.  They have a passion and care for the game and the results, and the team.  The Tiger’s home stadium is a hallowed ground to them.

The worst part of sports fandom for Tigers’ Opening Day were those “fans” that use it as an excuse to party and trash the City of Detroit.  Littered streets, jaywalking drunks, and use of the sidewalks and building walls as public urinals leaves the City and its residents to clean up this boozy landfill.  They even destroy historic homes.

When I brought this issue up on my Facebook page, an ex-friend (he “unfriended” me at the conclusion of our conversation), argued that the problems were the result of a minority of people, that it happens everywhere like U of M and Detroit Lions games, and that yes, people should be more discrete in their urinating.  I wanted clarity as to what he meant by being more discrete.  The use of public rest rooms, right?  No.  This white suburban law enforcement officer said that most of the parties do not have adequate restroom options and that people should “relieve themselves” discretely.

In other words, public urination by those who go to Detroit to party during Opening Day – not even taking in the game, but going from party to party and getting drunk – was appropriate if done discretely.  I didn’t get a chance to ask him if a homeless person – on a day other than Opening Day – could also be allowed to discretely urinate in public, or would this law enforcement officer arrest the homeless person on a criminal charge that would put him or her on the sex offender registry.  Nor did I inquire whether he was experienced and could explain exactly how to discretely urinate in public.  I was too shocked and disgusted by his sense of privilege and entitlement and he had unfriended me by then.

I mention “privilege” because the unfortunate fact is the demographics of our area is deeply segregated.  Using US Census Data, the residents of the City of Detroit are 82.7% African American.  Detroit is within Wayne County, and the White residential population within Wayne County, not including Detroit, is roughly 87.3%; Macomb County is 85.2% White, and Oakland County is 77.7% White.

Phreddy Wischusen wrote an op-ed that was published the day before Opening Day in the Michigan Chronicle, detailing experiences he’s had on previous Opening Days.

It’s as if Opening Day is really suburban Groundhog’s Day. The one day a year where white suburbanites pop their heads out of their comfortable suburban burrows and look around to see if Detroit has “come back.” Then after spending a day in venues that cater to them, owned and managed by their peers, partying with other people that look just like them, live next to them and think just like them, they puke in the streets, puke in the alleys, puke in the bars and copulate with each other in puke-filled alleys, bars, bathrooms and cars. Then they look at their own vomit everywhere, at the garbage they’ve left, at the mess they’ve just made and they shake their heads and tell one another that it was the __________s who “ruined” the city. They drunkenly drive home, and it’s another year of winter for our region — attitudes frozen where they were in 1943, 1967 and last Opening Day. 

Wischusen is not some radical African American Detroit resident.  He is a middle class white man whose trust fund paid for his college.  He details exposure to racism by white people who express their racist thoughts with him because they feel he, being white, is in agreement with them.  I can relate, as I have had that experience all too often myself – not specifically on Opening Day because I am not a baseball fan – but in other settings.

Again, I’m a sports fan.  I understand celebrating the opening of your favorite sports team’s season.  I love enthusiastic sports fans, like the Northern Guard Supporters and Motor City Supporters at Detroit City FC matches.  I admire the creative and absurd like Crazy Claude – the trumpeter – and those strange guys dressing up in full body spandex suits.  And sitting amongst the Timbers Army in Portland is on my bucket list.

I absolutely do not get the people who go to a city where an event is happening solely as an excuse to party.  These people are not Tigers fans or sports fans.  And in the case of Detroit and Opening Day, they are a part of the problem.

I’ve never been a drinker, so I don’t understand the need to drink so much alcohol on Opening Day in Detroit you use Facebook as a means to find a ride home because you’re too drunk to drive; to cause destruction; and/or to “discretely” urinate in public, under the excuse of it being “Opening Day.”

Opening Day is for baseball and the fans who watch it and follow it.  Like the few real fans who showed up and watched the non-Opening Day game against the Blue Jays.

Sources:
“Hey, Tigers Fans: Show Respect and Stop Behaving Like Redneck Townies on Opening Day” by Jeff Wattrick, Deadline Detroit, April 6, 2013 (viewed April 12, 2013)

“Unruly Tigers fans suspected of setting fire to historic Brush Park home on Opening Day” by Steve Neavling, Motor City Muckraker, April 9, 2013 (viewed April 12, 2013).

“OPENING DAY:  Open your mind before you open your mouth!” by Phreddy Wischusen, The Michigan Chronicle, April 4, 2013 (viewed April 12, 2013).

United States Census

 

Photo by Michael Kitchen
Photo by Michael Kitchen

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