Sunday, October 15, 2006

Detroit & Auburn Tigers Delight Michigan Sports Fans

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2006 is the year of the dog. The year of the tiger will not arrive until 2010. However, October has clearly been the month of the Tiger for sports fans in Michigan. Tigers from Detroit and Auburn have brought great joy to the state over the past two weekends.

Last Saturday, the Detroit Tigers captured their first postseason series victory since 1984, stunning the favored New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. Simply appearing in the playoffs was a tremendous accomplishment for the franchise, three years removed from an abysmal 43-119 season. In 2003, the idea of the Tigers beating the Bronx Bombers in a playoff series was laughable. However, the post-game celebration in Comerica Park showed an image that seemed even more ridiculous to music fans: a successful pairing of Kenny Rogers and Motown.

The celebration was even better for Detroit yesterday. Magglio Ordonez slammed a walk-off home run to cap a 6-3 victory and a four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s in the American League Championship Series. The euphoria that ensued was ironic in light of the recipient of the ALCS MVP award: Placido Polanco, whose first name is Spanish for “calm.” However, skipper Jim Leyland is an even bigger reason the World Series will be opening in Detroit next Saturday. The name Leyland is translated as “chain-smoker who manages his tail off.”

In addition to the nearby Tigers on the diamond, fans in Ann Arbor have also benefited from the gridiron Tigers from Auburn the past two Saturdays. Last week, the second-ranked Tigers did Michigan a favor by falling flat against Arkansas, 27-10. However, yesterday they rebounded to take down new #2 Florida, 27-17. The second spot in the rankings has proven to be very unlucky, as Notre Dame and Texas also fell from that perch in September. This college football season would be perfect for Dr. Evil, who consistently disrespected Number 2.

Thanks to the Auburn Tigers’ results the past two weeks, Michigan controls its own destiny for a spot in the BCS national championship game. The Wolverines are likely to be third in the initial BCS rankings, but they will have the opportunity to jump ahead of #1 Ohio State when the teams meet November 18 in Columbus. Despite the absence of injured star Mario Manningham, Lloyd Carr’s unit stayed undefeated with Saturday’s 17-10 road victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions. The game represented a familiar sight for sports fans in Michigan: a football game lost by the Lions.

The downtrodden NFL franchise in Detroit has noticed the positive effect of Tigers on local sports fans. The Lions are hoping to sign a beloved Tiger who hails from Michigan. However, management is reportedly far from an agreement with Battle Creek native Tony the Tiger. The cereal icon apparently remains skeptical about the team’s commitment to winning, remarking, “They’re grrreatly disappointing!”

The sports world’s most famous Tiger is not in action this weekend. However, in a few years Tiger Woods is expected to provide another reason for Michigan sports fans to celebrate. It is only a matter of time before Woods wins his 19th major championship to surpass the record of Jack Nicklaus. Tiger will therefore accomplish exactly what the Wolverines hope to do in The Horseshoe next month: knock the Ohio State Buckeyes from the top.