BACK ON THE BUS
The Pistons, at least a few of them, are taking a two-day bus tour on Wednesday and Thursday to drum up interest in the team and the upcoming season. They will make six stops, from as far north as Traverse City to as far south as Toledo.
I was on a couple of these caravans during my early days as a Pistons beat writer but they haven't done it for seven years.
Why are new coach Michael Curry and second-year guards Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo going out on a media blitz? People have gotten spoiled by the Pistons' success and frustrated by their inability to get past the conference finals. Moreover, they're disappointed that Joe Dumars didn't make a big trade to shake things up. They're trying to energize season-ticket sales, something they haven't had to do in a long time.
The Pistons' long sellout streak - a wink-wink proposition anyway with rows of empty seats in the upper deck during numerous games last season - is certain to end this season. People just aren't excited about this club anymore, even though they should remain one of the league's elite clubs.
Back to the old days: The first bus tour I took was in 2000. I don't remember much about it, except walking in the rain in Traverse City that night to go to a restaurant. I also remember taking a picture of Joe Dumars and an excited fan in the hotel gift shop the next morning just as we were about to leave.
I have many more memories of their last media tour. Rodney White, Brian Cardinal and Rick Carlisle - in his first season as head coach - were on the bus. The date was Sept. 11, 2001.
We stopped at a middle school in Okemos that morning and the players showed off some of their skills at a pep rally in the school's gym. Shocking as it may seem, all of the terrorist attacks and the Trade Center collapses happened while we were in the gym and everyone there was apparently oblivious to what was going on along the East Coast. It's inconceivable that would happen now, with every kid having a cell phone, text messaging, etc.
Anyway, we learned what was going on when we got back to the bus, where the bus driver had a radio tuned to the news. We somberly headed to Grand Rapids for another media stop, saw the sickening replays of the Trade Center disaster for the first time, then turned around and went home instead of staying overnight in Traverse City as scheduled.
I'm hoping this tour will be a lot less memorable.