Public indifference is supposed to be the worst state of affairs for any entertainment product. You are better off being despised than ignored. Organizational leaders shudder in fear at the thought of being irrelevant.
The leaders of the Detroit Pistons are an exception.
No leadership team in the history of business should be more grateful for the indifference of their customers.
You have to wonder how bad it would be for the Pistons if anyone cared. Indifference is the enemy of the ambitious, but an ally of the incompetent. The seats at Little Caesars Arena would be empty whether the fans were angry or indifferent. But at least the heat would be turned up a little bit on the few Pistons officials that spend any time in Michigan.
The averted eyes of a bored and disinterested fan base are the sole blessing bestowed upon this thoroughly mediocre operation. For over a decade, the Pistons have not even bad enough to instill dreams of a rookie savior looming in the draft. The team annually rolls out a C+ team, and then adds a C+ prospect with something like the 9th overall pick every June.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The famed (infamous?) Philadelphia 76ers “Process” may never deliver a title, but at least it has delivered interesting. The strategy was sound, and would likely be paying higher dividends had the scouting aspect been more dialed in or if Markelle Fultz had a better hypnotist. For whatever limitations “The Process” may have, the 76ers currently stand at 29-16. They emerged from half a decade of historical futility and now have elite pieces in place. Philadelphia is in contention, at least for the Eastern Conference.
While the 76ers were busy losing 70 games and missing the playoffs, the Pistons were losing 50 games and…also missing the playoffs. At least the 76ers would add Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to the fray months after their playoff-less seasons. The Pistons have countered by drafting a conga line of career bench players. How many times are we going to read the “Stanley Johnson could be good if he just finds a little confidence!” story? It has been written 5,000 times.
For the six people still emotionally invested in this franchise, perhaps there is solace in one thing: The owner is winning!
Pistons owner Tom Gores bought the Pistons in 2011 for $325 million. As of 2018, they were valued at $1.1 billion.
The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game since Gores took over.
The Pistons' record under Gores is 235-323.
That is quite an increase in asset valuation for an aimless operation oozing with incompetence. Imagine Chipotle’s stock going up by 400% after the norovirus outbreak in 2015. Gores is quite the magician.
When Tom Gores is being fed grapes in his Beverly Hills mansion every morning, do you think he has any clue whether the Pistons won the night before? I am genuinely curious if he has any concept of the day-to-day happenings of this team. Do you think the chauffeur tips his hat to Gores and congratulates him after victories? How "on-the-radar" are the Pistons in Gores' universe?
In the smallest defense of Gores, this fan base was already exhausted from the childish antics of the “Goin’ To Work” Pistons. The “If it ain’t rough, it ain’t right” mantra was cute for about 15 seconds. Then the team blew the 2005 Finals by no-showing for Games 1 & 2.
(Everyone points to Rasheed Wallace leaving Robert Horry uncovered in Game 5. Yes, it was horrible. But it was an individual breakdown. That series was truly lost when the team’s “We’ll play hard when we have to” attitude burned them in the first two games in San Antonio.)
Sure, Gores inherited an indifferent fan base. But he has also completely failed to address the total disinterest in this market.
I am not one to criticize Tom Gores, though. I am just here observing something that is frankly self-evident. Tom Gores came into this arrangement with one goal in mind: acquire an undervalued asset and reap rewards later. He has done that. He is a winner because he succeeded in the game he chose to play.
We knew going in what Tom Gores was. If there were any illusions regarding his emotional investment in the on-court product, they were dissolved when Gores made an annual habit of throwing t-shirts into the crowd on Opening Night and then disappearing for 8 months.
For all the criticism Martha Ford gets for her stewardship of the Lions, at least her and her giant sunglasses are accounted for at every game. Ford even attends away games and practices! She may have continued her husband’s reign of ineptitude, but at least she shows up to bear witness.
The Detroit Pistons are a line item on the Platinum Equity ledger. It is no surprise their owner’s indifference is matched by the total detachment of a once raucous fan base.
You have to feel bad for the few remaining fans. They’ve spent the last 8 years supporting this franchise and all they got was a cheap t-shirt thrown to them by a billionaire making his annual cameo.
Tom Gores has done an incredible job achieving what he sought out to do. Hopefully he finds it personally advantageous to exit this investment sooner rather than later.