The state of Michigan has a curious relationship with its professional sports stars. We've had our share of greats, but our loyalty to them has only a partial correlation to their raw athletic talent.
Many of our favorites are guys who are great team players with great work ethics. Big stars are good, and big achievements are important, but if you're humble and do your job and succeed Michigan will love you. The 2004 Pistons are a great example of this--no stars, but beloved by everybody.
We love Steve Yzerman. Not just because he was a brilliant player, but because he was the captain and he played hurt and he changed his game for the god of the team.
We love Al Kaline. Not the greatest player of his time, but a great player who stuck with the Tigers for his entire career and led them to a title.
We love Barry Sanders, who was saddled with bad teams but was transcendant as a runner and always humble.
Last night, the Tigers horribly choked away a series win in the ninth inning. After winning the first two games at home, Oakland had seized the momentum going into game 5 at home. It was awful, it was dispiriting, it was a nightmare.
It would be unbearable, but for the one man every Michigander knew could stop the bleeding: Justin Verlander.
On the road. Game five. Nine innings. No runs. Justin takes his place in the pantheon of all-time Michigan sports greats.
Verlander is legend.