Gifting game: What our sporting figures would want under the tree this year
What do you buy for the person who has everything?
Well, that’s not exactly the case for the Michigan sports scene these days.
But as we unwrap our gifts, here are some Christmas wishes for some of Michigan’s top sports personalities, many of whom could use some of our charity:
The freedom to start spending some money on free agent talent again, hopefully starting next offseason.
The chance to coach Filip Zadina someday and truly show his strength in player development. Blashill hasn’t quite fully earned his chance to come back with the Red Wings next season, but the competitiveness shown this year means he’s close. The young guys are coming along and Blashill should get a chance with Zadina, who could get a late-season cameo or be in Detroit for good next year.
A ticket to Detroit as the first glimpse of the rotation of the future. Tigers fans have been patient and need to continue to be. But we need a taste, and the MLB debut of Burrows this season is the type of excitement needed to start signaling change could be coming in real ways.
A season of health. Look, we know Triple Crown Miggy isn’t coming back. But we’d like to see a few stretches of the dominant bat that heated up so many summers in downtown Detroit.
A playoff win. Not even a series. Just a win. After a decade of futility, we’re realistic in our expectations, as long as the Pistons start improving again.
A trade destination that will allow him to hit on big stages again in important baseball games. And for the Tigers, a return package that will help bring those games back to Detroit as soon as possible.
Chris Creighton, Tim Lester and Jim McElwain
Bowl games are nice, and McElwain will be tasked with taking Central Michigan back to one in his first season, joining Eastern’s Creighton and Western’s Lester. But the state’s directional schools should consistently play at Ford Field for a MAC Championship. Western’s 2016 win was the first appearance for the trio since 2009.
A new number. If he’s a full-time fullback now for the Lions, he should ditch No. 66 and get something below 50.
Some offense. Whether it’s health, a staff shakeup or a major change in offensive tactics, the Spartans have to find a way to move the chains and put points on the board.
More finds like his son, Antoine, on the recruiting trail to bring the Detroit Titans men’s basketball team back to its glory days.
A third All-Star appearance. A strong start to 2019 could do it for Drummond. A flurry of team wins could also justify having two Pistons make the team, assuming Griffin is already a near-lock.
To get No. 91 up in the rafters at Little Caesars Arena. He truly deserves it.
Ferris State football
A chance for coach Tony Annese’s Bulldogs for a Division II national championship next season. After saying the 49-47 loss to Valdosta (Ga.) State was his fault, Annese deserves a shot at redemption.
A career year. The most important development for the Tigers this season is the ace finding his form. If Fulmer can stay healthy and approach the heights he had in 2016, he could yet earn a solid return on the trade market.
Enough talent for a few stretches of good baseball next summer, giving him a chance to show he’s more than just an affable steward for the Tigers, temporarily shepherding them to bigger things.
Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores and the Fords
To pool their vast resources and build an outdoor soccer-specific stadium to bring MLS to Detroit. Without the public footing any of the bill.
For pairs Zachary Donohue and Madison Hubbell of Okemos, and Madison Chock of Novi and Evan Bates of Northville, to turn in medal-winning ice dancing performances in their home state at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships next month in Detroit.
A Michigan gift basket of treats, like Traverse City cherries, Pinconning cheese and some of the state’s bevy of craft beer options. Griffin has said all the right things about his new home since being traded here in January. He’s given us his best so we should give him some of ours.
Another run in the NCAA Tournament for the Central Michigan women’s basketball team. The former Michigan coach has built a nice program in Mount Pleasant and made the Sweet 16 last year. Presley Hudson, a senior from Wayland, is one of the best mid-major players in the country.
It was a pretty good December, as Harbaugh had Daxton Hill pull the reverse flip, Urban Meyer retired, and Shea Patterson returned. So, more khakis will be just fine.
Some Christmas Snacks, of course. What a nice pickup by Bob Quinn as the new foundation of the Lions’ defense.
A rocking chair for the retired Farmington Hills Harrison coaching icon. Job well done, Coach.
More of the same draft day luck that unexpectedly netted Zadina and Joe Veleno in 2018.
The chance to play in the playoffs again. It’s probably not happening in Detroit this season, so maybe a trade is in order. Or, if he stays with the Red Wings this summer, hopefully the rebuild speeds up so the 34-year-old can be part of the other side of it.
Tom Izzo and John Beilein
It’s same as every year now for these elite coaches, as the bar is that high. A national championship, which would be the first for Beilein and second for Izzo to bookend his 2000 title.
A new number. No. 1 is retired when Jackson is done with it, as Chauncey Billups wore it when he proudly led the “Goin’ To Work” era. Since then, somehow the franchise let Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and now Jackson have disappointing Detroit tenures with No. 1 on their chest.
After games at Xavier, Georgia and Michigan State, an easier road in Horizon League play.
A big game in the Redbox Bowl on New Year’s Eve to set up for a bounce-back senior season in East Lansing. Or, if he’s not healthy, Lewerke should take the rest of the season off and get right.
After a strong start to the Michigan State women’s basketball season, how about a deep run in the NCAA Tournament for the coach?
To win on Nov. 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor. Finally.
To stop the annual exodus of top boys basketball players from the state.
Detroit City FC’s proud supporters deserve continued success in its first year as a pro team, contending for the inaugural Founders Cup in the National Premier Soccer League.
The cliche is for first-year coaches to learn from year one, but Patricia would be better off taking this season and tossing it in the garbage. Next year he must prove he’s no slouch.
Another running game nearly as efficient as last season’s despite the departure of senior Karan Higdon. Patterson should be primed for a big season with pass-catching options all over the place, but could use help on the ground.
A roster spot with a winning franchise after the Lions will likely set him free this offseason. The veteran safety, 32, has done dutiful work in the defensive backfield and still could help a team.
For sports fans looking for exercise, income and a hobby (that’s right, you): A whistle. High school sports badly need refs and you could use the dough. Get in the game.
A new offensive coordinator who uses his strengths. Lions fans are tired of short passes by a quarterback with one of the league’s strongest arms.
State college hockey programs
After Michigan lost with 5.2 seconds left in the semifinals against Notre Dame in last season’s Frozen Four, maybe a state squad like Western Michigan, Michigan Tech or Lake Superior State could make its own run.
Consensus in a talented Pistons’ front office to make the right moves at the trade deadline. Whether it’s sensibly adding a piece for a playoff push or trading a free agent-to-be like Ish Smith or Reggie Bullock for future help, Stefanski has to make sure all hands are on deck.
Not Lincoln Logs, but definitely more blocks. Teske’s rim protection has been a catalyst for a dominating Michigan defense. More stuffs from Teske could mean another magical March run.
A new TV broadcast crew that can match the connection we had with Mario and Rod. In Michigan, it’s almost as important of a job as Ernie Harwell had back in the golden age of radio.
A personal invitation to Detroit to play in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic in June at Detroit Golf Club. The PGA’s return to Michigan is nice, but Tiger is still half the draw for casual golf fans.
To Detroit sports fans
To start to see the beginning of a climb out of the dumpster that has been Detroit sports for the past few years.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.