Beard: Here are my New Year's positive vibes for Detroit's sports teams
It’s a tough time to be a Detroit sports fan.
Much like the midtown and downtown areas of the city, the professional teams are going through their respective renaissance rebuilds — and, well, waiting for that feels like waiting for the road construction on I-75 and I-275 to finish.
As we get ready to turn the calendar to 2023, it’s a good time for reflection on the past 12 months, but also to search for positivity in the new year. Maybe it’s doing yoga or starting a meditation routine that has me thinking more about good thoughts and less about lamenting the hometown sports teams' situations.
However you choose to bring in the new year — whether you're one to sing "Auld Lang Syne" with a beverage, or with a plate of collard greens and black-eyed peas or just revel at home with family and friends — here are some well-wishes for local sports teams for 2023:
Pistons get some clarity — and luck
More than anything, the young Pistons just need a few things to go their way. A season-ending injury to Cade Cunningham is a temporary setback for their rebuild, but this wasn’t going to be a year in the playoffs — or the play-in — anyway.
To make things simple, the wish is for clarity for general manager Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey. This season has turned into a developmental year for the young, core players. Casey and Weaver will have to sort through the roster and figure out who’s in the long-term plan. Early signs are showing that list includes rookies Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey — and that could also include former first-round pick Killian Hayes, who seems to be finding his way.
Why not make it a 2-for-1 wish? Maybe the Pistons could get another dose of lottery luck and end up with the No. 1 overall pick again, where they'd select 6-foot-15 phenom Victor Wembanyama. The franchise historically hasn’t had much luck with international imports, but the soon-to-be 19-year-old could change all that.
Let's revisit this conversation next December, when the outlook should be much different.
Lions get an important game
With their midseason surge, the Lions resuscitated a moribund season and brought hope to a playoff-starved city that routinely and robotically had turned its college football teams for solace at this time of year.
The conservative wish is for the regular-season finale against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field to make a difference. It would be asking a lot for the Lions to get to that game and to triumph over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. But 2023 might not just be the year of achieving what's possible — but also a few things that seem impossible.
One thing at a time.
These aren’t the same old Lions — at least not this year — and playing a game for all the marbles in the finale would create some electricity around the state and give them some swagger heading into next year. Oh, and that draft pick from the Rams, let’s get that into the top five, if we're being greedy.
Tigers' Harris puts on a hardhat
The Tigers are yet another team in a rebuild, but they look to have found their architect in new team president Scott Harris. It’s going to take a while for him to reshape the roster the way he wants it — he’s already overhauled the coaching staff — but patience is key.
The injury monster wreaked havoc with the pitching staff last season, so just turning the corner will be a step in the right direction for next season. Harris seems to have a blueprint that he wants to instill and wishing for patience from fans would be a worthy addition to the list.
Finally, Miguel Cabrera should have a rousing sendoff in his last season. He’s had some ups and downs in his tenure with the Tigers — and despite that, there have been as many, if not more, Cabrera jerseys in the stands than any other player.
Some of the vitriol against Cabrera seems to come from his contract. Put that on the previous front office — Cabrera didn't make that offer to himself.
Red Wings get back to normal
Much like the other teams, just getting to the playoffs would be a big win for the Wings. These aren’t your parents’ Red Wings teams, whose spot in the postseason was a foregone conclusion before the season started. They’ll have to scrape and claw to get there this year, but general manager Steve Yzerman and coach Derek Lalonde look to be leading the team out of their rare dark period.
They could be getting Jakub Vrana and Robby Fabbri back on the ice, which could help, but there's much more work to return their winning ways. The wish is for good health and a spot in the postseason, even if just for the experience.
Similar to the Pistons, this is something of a sorting-out season for the roster, and making the playoffs will give some of the young players valuable experience to carry over into next season.
Michigan goes for the title
How about a national title? Sure. The Wolverines have had an amazing season, and capping things off with a win in the Fiesta Bowl over TCU and a championship would be the first title that a team around here has won in a while.
Let's make this a 2-for-1 special, though.
First, get Michigan its own national title — not a shared one like in 1997. It doesn't really matter whether it's against the defending-champion Georgia Bulldogs or in a game for the ages versus rival Ohio State — but the title wish comes with an important stipulation.
Tied to the wish is that Michigan fans — both alums and those who chose — maintain humility throughout the year. Of course, that's asking a lot for some Wolverines faithful, but if that doesn't happen, we'd have to use another wish for Michigan State fans to endure their insufferable friends and colleagues who would crow about it all day, every day.
Maybe they can be the leaders (in humility) and the best after all.
Michigan State bounces back
While the other teams are going through their turnarounds, the Spartans are in a similar situation. They struggled through a tough football season, with their rival getting most of the headlines, and the wheels falling off midseason. The tunnel incident at Michigan Stadium didn't help things, but the wish is having a reset for coach Mel Tucker and a chance to move beyond the ugly incident would be a good thing for everyone.
The in-state rivalry is always more fun when both teams are good, and whatever Michigan does in the College Football Playoff could quietly eat away at Spartans fans' patience.
Maybe a wish for a good run in the NCAA Tournament for Tom Izzo, with a team that doesn't carry the same identity as some of his other teams, but they've shown flashes early in the season.