Studies have shown that 74 percent of people fear public speaking. Sixty-eight percentage fear death. So I guess it's better to be the one in the casket than the one standing in front of it today.
/pause for awkward laugh
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, Ecclesiastes tells us. Conceived in winter, born in spring, the 2013 Tigers lived their life in summer before their season was cut short in fall. We laughed; we cried; we got angry sometimes (but we always made up afterward); we were sometimes disappointed but always proud: We loved; and today despite sadness in our heart, we stand together here to celebrate the life of the 2013 Detroit Tigers.
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2013 was a season that will never be simple to explain. You could do that for some of other recent seasons. 2006: A great surprise with all the amazing ups and downs and fear and anxiety and joy that come from a surprise baseball team that kept on winning. Maybe it should have won the World Series, too, but even with the loss you couldn't help but look back fondly. 2007: A disappointment, a year that fell apart and brought reality into the fairy tale. 2008: A year that broke the backs of even the most ardent fans. 2009: A sad ending, but a bounceback season. ... And so on.
This was a season that no matter how hard we try will always feel like a letdown. This was a team whose offseason began with Torii Hunter courting them. Though not a popular pick to win the World Series, few doubted the Tigers could go all the way this year. As the season progressed, as the rotation came into its own; the lineup put runs on the board in gobs; the team looked unstoppable, and it was easy to believe they would have all the pieces in place for a successful postseason. Power hitting, timely hitting, power pitching. A World Series is never a given but felt like a distinct possibility. To fall short of that goal -- and to fall short the way the Tigers did -- will forever leave an emptiness to 2013 no matter how many positives you line up, no matter how much you talk about the new golden age of the Detroit Tigers. Winning regular-season games isn't enough any more. Winning a postseason series or two isn't enough any more. It's not spoiled to expect a World Series title; you can't be spoiled for wanting something that you haven't had for nearly 30 years.
But there were many good times, and this in many ways is the golden age for fans who do not collect social security. We were spoiled not just in riches, but in joy. We watched two pitchers throw Cy Young worthy seasons, and neither of them was former MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. We watched a team that threw more strikeouts than any team in the history of the sport. We watched Miguel Cabrera for five months threaten the history books by actually standing a chance at earning a triple crown in two consecutive years -- not only that, but before his injury he was putting together one of the best seasons by a right-handed batter ever.
We watched a team win its division title for a third straight year. That may not sound like much, given the expectations on this team, but consider this: The AL Central title was first won in 1995. The Tigers did not win it for 16 years, until 2011. Since then they have not relinquished it. Or consider this: The last time the Tigers were in the playoffs for three consecutive years was 1907-1909. Our parents, our grandparents, and for the younger ones, our great grandparents, did not witness a Tigers club do what this one accomplished.
And they did it while having more fun than I remember watching before. Some teams win but win in a way that seems joyless. Some teams win but win without personality. This 2013 team won, and it won with the joy of Little Leaguers and a cast of characters straight out of a movie. You couldn't help but get caught up in the fun they had together, the silly celebrations, putting on the suit, straightening the tie. You couldn't help but root for Torii Hunter's smile You couldn't help but be distracted by Cabrera goofing off in the dugout and on the field. You couldn't help but have fun with Brayan Pena tweeting about NERTS. All championships conjure up fond memories, but a 2013 title would have brought up memories a little fonder than most, because they were having just so much fun and so were we.
You can't help but remember when Anibal Sanchez rang up 17 strikeouts or who you were with when when Miguel Cabrera hit a walk-off home run, or the fun you had watching Torii Hunter carry Jim Leyland into the champagne-soaked clubhouse for a celebration dance or the excitement of hearing Dan Dickerson yell "swing and a miss, he GOT HIM." Sadness comes from the loss of joy, and today we're allowed to be disappointed because we have so much joy to remember.
So I think it's acceptable to carry that dichotomy: to be disappointed, to admit the team fell short of a goal that seemed attainable and that it truly needed to take its place in franchise history, to have just a tinge of regret and to carry the question of what might have been; yet to remember it fondly for bringing more joy than most, for its historic nature, for the opportunity to watch one of the finest pitchers and one of the finest hitters of a generation go to work. 2013 was a year to remember, for what was done and what was left undone.
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It's OK to have a tear in your eye, to mourn the loss of our summer friend. But I don't think the Tigers would want you to do that today. I think they'd want you to smile, to share a story, to laugh at a silly moment you had together, and to remember them fondly. It's OK to mourn the 2013 Tigers a bit today, but remember to celebrate the life that they lived.