These sports lessons are especially important given the state's financial, political, and cultural crisis. Detroit often touts itself as a tough, blue-collar city. Lately, it's quite the opposite. There isn't too much pulling up of bootstraps or quiet determination and effort. Instead, there's a whole lot of whining, a whole lot of failing, and plenty of people waiting for someone else to bail them out. This goes for the entire state, but it's particularly pronounced in Detroit, where the culture of learned helplessness has become so ingrained that it's practically a religion. But as religions go in Michigan, nothing can trump our fandom. It's time to renounce the religion of failure and visit a new church; meet your preachers, listen to their sermons:
Perseverance from Matthew Stafford: Finally the Lions have a face of the franchise, a reason to cheer. Matthew Stafford is a firey young quarterback who inspires even skeptics like me. After dislocating his shoulder and being removed from the game in week 11 against the Browns, Stafford demanded to go back in for the final play, imploring the coaches, "if you need me to throw the ball, I can throw the ball." I'm converted. Michigan verbally claims to share Stafford's grit and determination, but saying and doing are two very different things. Time for us to knuckle up - even though it hurts, even though it's dislocated - and get our asses back in the game. Watch Matthew Stafford "Wired" - it will give you goose bumps:
Loyalty from Tom Izzo: The blood of the Yooper runs thick as pasty gravy (yes, I dip my pasties in gravy... SHAME). Izzo could have taken the money, he (potentially) could have coached Lebron James. Instead, he remembered that he loved his state, and that his allegiance could not be broken, especially by Ohio. I salute you, Coach Izzo; your love of the Great Lakes State is second only to my own. On the issue of loyalty, I'm looking at you, Michiganians now living in Chicago - take off your wimpy Cubs hats and get back to Michigan. Look, traveling the world, gaining perspective, making something of yourself; these are important steps in life. But there's also something to be said for the Motherland. When the Mitten is in need, we all have a duty to answer the call:
Dignity from Ernie Harwell: Harwell taught us how to live with grace and dignity, and how to go out on top. I'll never be as beloved, but I hope in the end that I'm as appreciative and grateful, and that I go out on a high note. Cheers to you, Mr. Harwell. It's important to remember to take a deep breath, smile, reflect, soak in the sun, be thankful. Michigan has a lot to be thankful for, and the more we celebrate our ourselves, the more we succeed. Watch Mr. Harwell's farewell speech:
Class from Armando Galarraga (and Detroit fans): When the perfect game was taken from Galarraga I blew a gasket. There's no telling what I was capable of - rioting, homicide, torture - who knows? Then, Armando's quiet class, his seemingly instant emotional distance from the injustice put me at peace. Baseball exists to entertain us and inform us about the human condition; there is a space between the game and life. Galarraga recognized that space, and he inspired a city to cheer an umpire who might have otherwise been burned at the stake. The unrehearsed grace of Tigers fans as they cheered Jim Joyce the next day was nothing short of a miracle. Judge not, let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc. Armando, you are wise:
Humility from the Michigan Wolverines: The Michigan football team was knocked down a few pegs by the NCAA. It's difficult to tell whether Michigan fans have yet achieved any level of humility; maybe they won't, maybe U-M is soon to rise again. But therein lies the lesson: Humility is difficult to achieve, particularly when great success is the norm. The ivory tower of U-M football has had its head in the clouds for so long that the fans have forgotten what the view is like on Earth. This same lofty self-perception manifests itself in our day to day lives here in Michigan. For every city in the clouds - for every Ann Arbor, for every Birmingham, for every Traverse City - there's a small town that is struggling on the ground. It's important that we be proud of our success if we live in a city of privilege, but remember that we're all a part of the same team. Travel your state, support small towns, mingle with your fellow Michiganians. Every little bit helps.