Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Game 5: A Volvo in the Motor City

"What kind of car are you driving for this trip?" This was just one of the plethora of questions Damon, Jeff, Owen, and I were asked in the months leading up to the trip.

"A Volvo," we would all reply casually. The reactions tended to be more or less identical:

"Oh good, that's a safe car," my mom said when I told them.

"Good. Reliable," my Aunt and Uncle nodded.

"Too bad it's not a Prius, but I guess it probably gets decent gas mileage," my friends offered approvingly.

Yesterday, on the fifth day of our trip at Comerica Park in Detroit, however, we were asked that question probably a dozen times, but the reaction was always the same.

"Oh, a foreign car."

By the third or fourth time we were asked, my response was Pavlovian, cringing at the thought of having to explain that the car that was taking us across the United States in this distinctly American adventure was in fact made in Scandinavia. I have always known that in traveling around the U.S., I would gain insight into the lives and concerns of people with whom my only real common ground is our passport, our language, and baseball. 

Driving into Detroit, there was no mistaking where we were. The periphery of Detroit is littered with auto manufacturing plants, many with empty parking lots that prompted us to wonder whether there was anyone inside. In the city, I was struck by how barren it seemed; everything was still.

The Detroit skyline
Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" campaign depicts Detroit as a city that has suffered, but as the narrator claims in the pilot commercial from the 2011 Super Bowl: "From the hottest fires come the hardest steel." On the one hand, I was astounded by the relative majesty of the goliath office buildings that paint the view of the city skyline from Comerica's upper deck. On the other, I can't help but think about the poverty the lingers on the other side of those buildings. Having said that, it seemed as though the brunt of the battering the citizens of Detroit have endured has not been to their wallets, but to their pride.

Gazing beyond the outfield walls at Comerica Park, fans can imagine the metropolis of economic activity that Detroit still has the potential to be. Perhaps American cars are making a comeback, or maybe Detroit will need to find a new industry in which to specialize. Either way, I have no doubt that in time, Detroit will recover. The recovery has yet to gain steam, and the vacant lots and boarded houses will serve as painful scars, but the resilience of the people of Detroit, much like that of their Tigers team, which came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees 6-5. My biggest fear for Detroit is that the city clings to the industrial inertia of trying to be the Motor City forever.

Jose Valverde, the Tigers' flamboyant closer, was a perfect 47-for-47 in save opportunities last season and cemented himself as the Tigers closer. This year has been another story, one which is littered with inconsistency. He stayed true to his astronomically high WHIP last night, nearly blowing the three-run lead he was handed in the ninth. Every spectator could see that Valverde's time has passed, but if we use his performance at last night's game as an allegory for the condition of the city, then we know that in the end there needs to be a happy ending.

Games Watched: 5
Games to Go: 25
Thuuz rating: 73
Stadium: Open outfield allows a great view of a relatively bustling pocket of Detroit; the scoreboard and electronic "Tigers" sign above it are definitely a sight to behold (see pictures below)
Fan Atmosphere: This matchup of first-place teams was the most highly anticipated on the trip thus far, and the fans' zeal did much to reflect that fact. The stadium was packed and the fan intensity was fairly high. On the way out I (proudly decked out in Yankee pinstripes) was told multiple times to "come back for more" in October, which is exactly what you need in a healthy rivalry.
Food: Fairly standard; the only real diversity of food options available were in the private club-only restaurant
Beer: Craft beer stands selling a variety of Bell's beer and a seasonal offering from Linenkugel's were a nice highlight
Quote of the day: "You still have to prove the objectivity of value" - Jeff, discussing with Craig the epistomological divide between Austrian economics and Keynesian economics
Tim Kurkjian Award for Thing We've Never Seen Before: After a strikeout and subsequent throwing 'round-the-horn, Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez beaned pitcher Boone Logan in the head after not realizing that Logan was thrown a new baseball from the home plate umpire.
Total miles travelled: 1,241
Miles to next game: 371

Read more for pictures of the day

In front of the stadium 
Panorama view
With a couple of new friends after the game
Awesome scoreboard