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When the Detroit Tigers Play the Boston Red Sox

The unlikely playoff match-up has high stakes for one Boston-bred Detroit fan

Stephanie Butnick
October 11, 2013
Paws, the mascot of the Detroit Tigers(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Paws, the mascot of the Detroit Tigers(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

This summer, Steve Calechman described his somewhat perplexing existence as a Boston-bred sports fan who roots only for Detroit teams. It started, as most good stories do, with Hank Greenberg, who famously played for the Detroit Tigers in the 1930s and 1940s.

Calechman’s father, who was 8 years old when Greenberg won his first MVP award, was captivated by the Jewish sports legend, ultimately becoming a Detroit fan for life—and passing on his Motor City fervor to his son:

As long as he was pulling for the Tigers, my dad decided to adopt all the teams from Detroit, which was fine when it was just his life. When I came along, though, his challenge became convincing someone else that rooting for a home team 700 miles away was a reasonable path. My father was of his generation, a man of actions more than words, so he never gave a mesmerizing speech on the subject. He just got to me early, and without any pushback I joined him as a fan of the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, and even the Lions.

This already complicated situation will get a bit more intense for Calechman tomorrow, when the Tigers and the Red Sox face off in the American League Championship Series—the first playoff series between the two teams. Which goes to show that if you want to keep a good thing going, don’t publish it on the Internet. Calechman told Tablet, “It’s the first time the two teams have ever met in the playoffs, and my potential joy/heartbreak quotient has just shot up into the 270th percentile.”

Meanwhile, for more on Greenberg’s towering legacy, check out our podcast with Mark Kurlansky, who wrote the recent Greenberg biography, Hank Greenberg: The Hero Who Didn’t Want to Be One. For a tormented Red Sox fan asking questions like, “Does God exist? If so, how can he let one team suffer so much?” read Sara Ivry’s Yom Kippur dispatch from before the curse was broken.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.