In this passage, ellie ponders the intricacy of when, exactly, and how, as a fan, one goes about understanding when it's time to actually let a coach/manager/executive/et cetera go, with regard to sports.
Here's my question to you: When is it time to fire your coach? After one bad season? Two? Not winning a Superbowl? Do you fire Dungy if he doesn't win the Superbowl? Do you fire Edwards for having a season destroyed by injury?
Allow me to help with the fleshing out of just what to do, with regard to examples from the Detroit market.
It completely depends on the communicated expectation given to the public, either through franchise leadership, media, public word-of-mouth, or a combination in percentages of all three.
For example, in the Detroit market, the Pistons are an accepted trust level among fans to which Davidson the owner and Dumars the leader/architect are given public allowance to do what they feel they must, with little question.
The team they field is not just competitive, but it's also highly successful. When Dumars decided, in mid-surge (starting from the acquisition of Ben Wallace in 2000) that, at the end of the 02-03 season, it was time to fire Carlisle the coach, we generally accepted not only that but all of the deals on the player-level besides the Carlisle-can. We accepted this because we knew it was going somewhere, and we were hopeful of it reaching the top (championship) or close enough to it.
Also, it helped Dumars to have 'street-cred' in his reign. He had been an essential part of a team which had tasted championship in 1989 and 1990. In his history in Detroit, he was soft-spoken, but his actions were always purposeful. Nobody expected him to become an example of quality front-office leadership, following his run as a legend in the Pistons uniform, but we gave him the benefit of the doubt, especially since the surge started with no time wasted.
True to form, in the 2004 NBA Finals, Dumars's Pistons tasted the championship and earned it, 4-1, against the Los Angeles Lakers. At this point, the plan had completed. In the season following 03-04's champ title, we as fans gave that conglomerate even more trust because they had accomplished their mission earlier than expected. It was a huge plus. All the rest is the bonus round on this player foundation.
So, when Larry Brown's health and persona dominated the town and the team in 2004-2005, and it came within one quarter short of a back-to-back, we as fans trusted the front office to do whatever it wished by this time. The success far outweighed the failure.
It was once again as successful as possible, though some of us (including myself) believed that Brown had over-stepped his role by courting media attention in regard to other pursuits while harboring a serious injury which we suspected had affected his current team's preparation to play from night to night . . .
I suspect to this day that some days, when Larry Brown was ailing with his hip and bladder, that he would not be available to prepare his squad enough to play for that next night, and I think it escalated in seriousness of his injury during the playoff run. Some nights, the Pistons were all-cylinders-firing-perfectly. Other nights, sometimes the very next game against the exact same team, they were helpless and confused.
Such behavior was bi-polar, and it almost seemed as if it was tied to the general preparation, of which Brown was solely responsible. He had a stint of games in the regular season in 04-05 where he had to leave the team for his health (hospital), and in that stint, his largely incapable staff took on his duty. Of which, when Brown coaches a team, he's QBing most every play on offense and defense from the sidelines, kind of like how a manager in baseball communicates to batters and runners through the base line coach.
His control was so essential to the success, and he demanded not only that control, but he wanted and aspired to have duties similar to a GM in the future.
So, when it came time in summer 2005 to sit down with him, (of which all this came out after the fact), Brown and his agent communicated to Dumars/Davidson that there was a great probability, almost a certainty, that Brown would have to leave the team at some point in the near future, possibly later in the 2005-2006 regular season, for more work in the hospital.
In the regular season stretch in 04-05, Gar Heard, bless his heart, tried and failed with the rest of the staff to get anything done with the team. That team lost and lost some more. They were totally disorganized without Brown.
To which, when Davidson/Dumars heard this, they let him go. There was no way this scenario was going to work for this squad . . . it was better to go anywhere else than to deal with that again.
However, we trust the duo, owner/architect, because as fans, we see they hit their marks to perfection more than they do not.
In comparison, in sum, all of this with the Pistons is clearly not the same level of trust for other teams.
Money is tight, and allegiances are based on limitations of being a body of people which can barely afford a handful of games, let alone season tickets, plus all which they sell for merchandise, concessions, et cetera, ad nauseum.
When average folk spend money, they have so little of it in comparison. The pro sports created this level of financial incompatibility with the people, so the body of Detroiters as meager incomes and avid fans, in comparison, demand a plan that works and expect, in general, a team to get to the top every once in a while.
Of which, with the Lions, it has been a series of "5-year-plans" which all have failed, starting from the moment the Fords purchased the club in 1963.
They've tried everything, and it doesn't work. The people were satisfied with the Barry Sanders era, but it never reached very close to the top, and the fans were hoped with this next era (1999-2005) that, sometime in this set, they'd not only reach the playoffs, but maybe they'd win a game or two (after a handful of building years).
Well, it's built, but the house can't stand, and it's crumbling. Everything that could go wrong . . . did. Plus, to top it off, Millen expressed his own expectations of this team making the playoffs during this summer, to which everyone banked as reality. It had enough talent, that much is certain.
This has been the worst year of all the years, almost as bad as the first Mornhinweg year or two, but worse in the sense that this team is certain to be rebuilt once more with nothing accomplished.
It goes beyond the coach. It helps everyone to see that for over 40 years, this franchise has done nothing ultimately productive with its time.
All franchises are completely individual cases within the framework of sport-to-fan in an area.
One story which I did not share, a side-story to the Lions game yesterday, is as follows.
At one point, a true Bengals fan sat down on the steps next to one of my friends. I did not hear the complete conversation, but he chatted amicably with my friend. He was inquisitive of my friend of the Detroit atmosphere, of which he didn't know much of it, and he wanted to compare what was there for the fans of Cincinnati's local sports scene.
He knew of the championships that our town had experienced, and he tried to relate the information that Cincinnati does not have a professional basketball club. They do have baseball (Reds) and football (Bengals), and both pro clubs do not have quite as recent of a solid history. The Bengals season, of course, is a long sigh of comfort and relief after so many sub-.500 seasons from the last time they had meaningful football (late-80s-early-90s). The Reds, once a major player in the hunt for World Series action, haven't been competitive for some time.
It is nice, as a Cincinnati fan, to install this understanding in fellow fans, and I accept this viewpoint. I will caution, however, that any long period of fruitless production can be considered a breach of trust with the local fan base. A team needs to get to the playoffs every once in a while, and maybe, they can win a game or two. In American football, a playoff victory means a whole new level, so the expectations of winning at least one playoff game are about as equal as, say, winning at least one early series.
Of which, the Bengals have appeared in Super Bowls.
To which, the Lions have managed one playoff victory in the Super Bowl era.
20-58 over a series of years can make for some bitter fans.
Thankfully, there is much option among the teams with which to devote $upport.