Exported From Detroit: Why Sports Fans Worldwide Love the Motor City


What your about to read is an original excerpt written by Mike Stec, or as some of you on the Twitter sphere may know him as @mike_is_bored. We here at Detroit Jock City would like to thank Mike for allowing us to share his great article on Detroit sports fans worldwide as a guest piece on our site. We hope you enjoy is as much as we did!

Before we begin, a little bit about the author:

Mike Stec was an aspiring journalist whose dreams were crushed. He now limits his hot takes to 140-character bursts on Twitter and one terrible song parody that he snuck onto Bless You Boys. Mike is a lifelong movie and trivia buff who came to baseball in adulthood and never looked back. He has one son who he bets would love baseball if he’d just put down the damn video games for a minute. A 1996 graduate of Woodhaven High School, Mike currently resides in the Downriver area and probably always will.

Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Exported From Detroit: Why Sports Fans Worldwide Love the Motor City

As native Detroiters, we sometimes take our fandom for granted.  We grew up listening to Ernie, and then Dan and Jim.  We make a day out of going downtown for Tigers games.  We root, root, root for the home team, possibly for geographical reasons, but mainly because when we learned baseball, we learned Tigers baseball.

Then we watch away games, and we see the familiar blue-and-orange in the stands.  We hear cheers in every stadium for our Tigers, not just in one-day-drive parks in Cleveland or Chicago but in Los Angeles, Texas, Tampa Bay.  This could be for one of two reasons: Tigers fans travel well (which they do), and those who have left Detroit never lost their love for their hometown team.  And national cable TV broadcasts and especially the internet have made the world smaller for sports fans, in America at any rate.  But venture out of the country, and even the continent, and you might be surprised to find that Tigers fans truly are everywhere.

Canada is certainly no stranger to American baseball. They field the Toronto Blue Jays, and until recently the storied Montreal Expos. But Canada is a very large country, so you’re likely to find Tigers fans scattered among the maple leaf flag-waving faithful. Author and Tigers fan Ashley MacLennan, 31, resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city more known for the NHL’s Jets than for any association to American baseball. Ashley grew up watching the Blue Jays take home two World Series trophies but her interest wavered after the MLB went on strike in 1994. She was reintroduced to baseball by a former boyfriend from Windsor, just across the river from Detroit, and has followed the Tigers faithfully from afar ever since. Ashley has been lucky enough to travel to see her Tigers play in several cities across the US, and plans as many die-hard fans do to visit every MLB stadium.

Travelling to see your favorite team play is easy if you live as close as Canada, but can be quite an effort if you’re coming from as far away as, say, Australia. Ask Nick Bauer, 22, who has made the trip across the Pacific three times to see his beloved Lions and Pistons play. A fan of all things Detroit, Nick first came to admire the surging Pistons in 2000, and adopted the Lions as his team when he began to take interest in football two years later. In addition to his annual trips to the US, Nick never misses a Lions game, which means waking up at 3 am to watch.

The global reach of the NBA had also found its way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the home of student and Detroit sports fan Nawaf Aljuhani, 25. Nawaf grew up a soccer fan but started following the Pistons during their 2004 playoff run, and like Nick soon gravitated toward Detroit’s other teams.

It was the Red Wings that drew in Anders “Andy” Ajer, 26, a student from Oslo, Norway. NHL games began to be broadcast in Norway in the mid-90s, and Andy was drawn to the Red Wings because of talented players like Yzerman and Lidstrom, growing to love the team more during their impressive late-90s playoff runs. Baseball came later, during a visit to the Dominican Republic where as a non-Spanish speaker all he could find on TV to watch was baseball. Andy found a series of Tigers-Yankees games and found himself rooting for the city he was already loyal to, and has followed the team ever since.

These are just four fans, all from different parts of the world, sharing a common love of teams hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Regardless of how they discovered them many years ago, it is the internet that brings them together today. Though some international TV stations do carry some American sports, online services such as MLB.TV and even torrenting sites have made things easier and much more affordable for fans around the world to follow their favorite teams (except, as Ashley stated, when her teams are playing the blacked-out Blue Jays.) The proliferation of social media has also played a key role in keeping international fans connected. Active Twitter user Nawaf says “It provided me with a chance to interact with… fellow fans who understand what I’m watching.” Ashley also states that interacting with fellow Tigers fans makes her feel “connected to the scene” and “less crazy”. Andy calls his overall internet experience “brilliant” and although he’s occasionally discouraged by infighting among fans, his interactions have been “mostly great”.

Whatever it is that brings someone thousands of miles away into the fold, it’s not difficult to see what keeps them there. Detroit’s teams, like the city itself, are rich in tradition and success. Fans are die-hard, passionate evangelists, loving and standing by their teams (and their city) through good times and bad. And no matter how bad things get, they always have the hope that better times are yet to come and there will soon be reason to celebrate again. These are universal themes, felt by the people of Detroit and the fans of their teams wherever in the world they may be. It would be impossible for anyone anywhere not to take notice and appreciate that themselves.

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