I tell people that I grew up in Detroit.
Technically, this is true. I was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan, a city listed as part of the Metropolitan Detroit area. Google “Metropolitan Detroit” and you’ll see what I mean. The conversation always becomes interesting when people ask what part of Detroit I’m from and I mention a city 30 minutes away. If this conversation takes place near someone who is from the actual city, they always smirk.
For years the Detroit Pistons basketball team made its home in Pontiac. The arena was the Pontiac Silverdome and I could almost see it from my neighborhood. The Silverdome was also the home of the Detroit Lions for several years. In the late 80s the Pistons would move from Pontiac to the city of Auburn Hills roughly 10 minutes away to play in a new building called The Palace.
With the Pistons playing so close home it was almost impossible to avoid being a fan. I had lived through the Bad Boy Era and cheered their champion run in 2004. So a few days ago when Pistons player Rip Hamilton had his jersey retired at the Palace I almost shed a tear.
You can watch clips from the retirement ceremony:
I had to ask myself why I was so emotional and I had to be honest. I had resonated with Rip and the other Pistons so much because they allowed me to live vicariously through them. Most inner city kids like me had hoop dreams of being great basketball players. Most inner city kids like me would never, ever be good enough. So we watched Rip (and others like him) in college and celebrated him in the NBA. When the Pistons hoisted the championship trophy in 2004 I along with others from Pontiac (and Detroit) felt like we had one too. Even though we had never played.
This is the nature of being a fan.
Most of the athletes we celebrate will never know our names or acknowledge that we exist. That doesn’t keep us from staying up late to watch their games, memorizing their stats, or buying emblems of our support. We defend their characters and fight for their honor. We buy their shoes and choose them in video games. We become their biggest cheerleaders as they live out our dreams.
Sports isn’t the only culprit. Consider your favorite….
Or social media influencer.
The people who are making a noticeable difference in the world are quite captivating. I’ve been guilty on several occasions of spending so much time consuming their stuff (music, presentations, books, speeches, sermons, videos, etc.) that I have no time or energy or desire left to develop something of my own. An old proverb offers “Your gifts will make room for you and bring you before great men” but the proverb can only be true if your gifts are applied.
They retired Rip Hamilton’s jersey for his contributions to the team and his efforts for the city. They retired Rip Hamilton’s jersey because of his application of his athletic gifts. They don’t retire jerseys for long time fans because long time fans only wear the jerseys of other people.
Be careful of sacrificing your gifts and opportunities to make a difference on the altar of only celebrating the accomplishments of others.