Sunday, May 22, 2016

Our seventh anniversary: The Detroit sports landscape----then and now

On Sunday, May 22, The Knee Jerks will be celebrating our seventh anniversary of what might be the longest-running Detroit sports podcast....ever.

Our lineup of guests will be, as it always is for our anniversary shows, a laundry list of some of our favorite podcast visitors.

  • Linda Murray Hofmans of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation
  • Adam Biggers, college sports reporter extraordinaire
  • Ray Scott, former Pistons player and coach
  • Dave Mesrey, who'll talk about the 40th anniversary of Mark Fidrych's big year
  • Earl Shores, author of The Unforgettable Buzz, an illustrated history of electric football
  • Bob Page, retired Detroit and New York sports broadcaster, host and anchor
  • Matt Hutter, our Red Wings and NHL Insider

But what was the Detroit sports landscape like back in May, 2009, when Al Beaton and Greg Eno started The Knee Jerks?

Red Wings
When the show began, the Red Wings were about to lose a heartbreaking, seven-game Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Game 7 on home ice, no less. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were in their prime, and Niklas Kronwall was starting to make a name for himself with his thunderous hits.

Darren Helm was a rookie and Justin Abdelkader was also just coming onto the scene. The goalie was Chris Osgood. Chris Chelios was still an active player!

The team was one year removed from winning their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years.

The Pistons were coming off their first losing season since 2001, as the great Allen Iverson experiment failed miserably. Iverson, acquired from Denver for Chauncey Billups in November, 2008, wasn't a good fit with rookie Pistons coach Michael Curry (a bad hire).

The 2008-09 season, in fact, was the first time the Pistons missed the playoffs since 2002.

This lends itself to a trivia nugget: until last month, the subject of the Pistons in the playoffs had NEVER been discussed on The Knee Jerks.

The Lions had just made their draft pick---number one overall in the 2009 draft---and it was quarterback Matthew Stafford, who joined first-year coach Jim Schwartz as new Lions.

"New" was a tricky word, though, because coming off an historic 0-16 season in 2008, fans were rightly skeptical about the notion of the "new" Lions---albeit with new uniforms for 2009.

The Matt Millen Era had been mercifully ended about seven months prior to our first podcast.

Calvin Johnson was heading into his third season and the leading rusher was Kevin Smith, who had 976 yards in 2008.

And Matthew Stafford was the new franchise QB.

He still is---for now.

In May, 2009, the Tigers were coming off a highly disappointing 2008 season, which saw them stockpile on big names but nonetheless get off to a horrible start on their way to a last-place finish (sound familiar?).

Jim Leyland was in his fourth year as the team's skipper. Justin Verlander was also coming off a disappointing season---and he was just 26 years old, same as Miguel Cabrera.

The starting catcher was mostly....Gerald Laird. Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Placido Polanco were all starters. The closer was Fernando Rodney and a youngster named Rick Porcello was a rookie who made 31 starts.

Sadly, the 2009 season would end with that horrific Game 163 in that damn Metrodome.

So that was the lay of the land, Detroit sports-wise, when The Knee Jerks first hit the Internet air seven years ago.

In some cases (*cough* Lions *cough*), the more things changed, the more they stayed the same!