Going to bat for endangered species
Here's a short sentence you didn't expect to see for awhile:
But it's not those tigers, even though the capital-T Tigers are involved in a big way.
It's real tigers. The ones in the wild, with the big teeth. The endangered ones.
In maybe the biggest upset since the baseball Tigers lost three-straight playoff games to the Baltimore Orioles, Congress has re-authorized the sale of the Save Vanishing Species stamp.
That's the one with the face of an Amur tiger cub on it. The one that has already raised $2,570,965 to help save majestic creatures like tigers, elephants, rhinos and gorillas.
The one that would have gone extinct if not for Metro Detroiters like Karie Ross and Dan Lesperance.
Krishna Roy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service also disperses some credit to The Detroit News, though that seems like a stretch.
All we did was point out here four months ago what a colossal waste it would be to shred the last 74 million tiger stamps rather than use them to undo some of the damage humans have foisted upon species far less troublesome than we are.
Roy sent the column around, Ross worked the phones and churned out letters, Lesperance held the fort against destruction, and common sense prevailed — an increasing rarity whenever politics is involved.
Ross unleashes a genteel roar
It was Ross who roared the loudest, if always in a genteel way.
She's a former ESPN sportscaster who's married to Detroit Tigers president and CEO Dave Dombrowski.
"I'm still in mourning a little bit over the Tigers," she says, but she's jubilant over the tigers.
"I was absolutely shocked," she concedes, when a unanimous U.S. Senate and a not particularly contentious House supported the stamp last month.
President Barack Obama quickly signed the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, and the stamp reappeared in postal branches last week for a four-year run.
The key word in that windy title is semipostal.
A semipostal stamp is simply a regular stamp with a surcharge. The difference between the price, in this case 60 cents, and the cost of first-class postage, now 49 cents, is forwarded to specific nonprofits.
The first U.S. semipostal has raised $79 million for breast cancer research since 1998. The Save Vanishing Species version was sold from September 2011 through the end of 2013, when its authorization expired.
The postal service announced that it was annihilating the leftovers. Let's not be hasty, said Lesperance, the retail manager for the Detroit District.
He sounded a few alarms. Roy and the wildlife service got involved. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, dialed the deputy postmaster general.
Ross started lobbying. Early converts included Democratic senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.
But the legislative jungle was dark and tangled.
Tigers elevate tiger campaign
Grimm was a friend to the cause, but he's under federal indictment for fraud, tax evasion and perjury, which lessens his influence considerably.
Ross made another early friend of a congressman who's fond of tigers and the Tigers, but he's from back east, and he opted to stay in the shadows. There was grumbling that the money raised goes overseas, though of course, that's where the rhinos and elephants are.
Meanwhile, it's an election year, which means House members are home campaigning and the legislative session is short and densely packed.
Ross kept swinging. Along with Dombrowski and pitcher Max Scherzer, a former University of Missouri Tiger, she had spoken at a press conference the previous season on a Tigers road trip to Washington, D.C.
The groundswell grew.
"They tell us," she says, "that the recognition of the Tigers being behind the stamp helped elevate its status."
Tigers may not be as American as apple pie, but baseball is. Everything fell into place, and the wildlife triumphed.
Next time you see a tiger or an elephant on its hind legs, it might just be acting like a tiger or an elephant. Or it might be doing the wave.