Justin Verlander was crowned AL MVP today.  If you’re a baseball fan, this isn’t too much of a surprise- JV was stellar this year, going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts.  He won the AL pitching triple crown and even threw his second no-hitter May 7 (I was there- amazing).  He helped the Tigers clinch the AL Central, and lead his Tigers into the playoffs.

In true current athlete fashion, JV tweeted the news first- “Other than 06 World Series, never been prouder to represent Detroit – city of resilience and pride. #DetroitPride,” and, “Thank you to everyone — teammates, fans, baseball writers). #DetroitPride (trend it – let’s have some fun with this).”

I was going to start this blog by going into an argument over whether pitchers should be MVP at all.  Their identity is questioned because they only pitch 21% of the games in a season.  Can a pitcher still have an MVP-worthy citizenship on a team?   Does his standing and earning propel him up to that level?  However, after reading JV’s tweet, I got thinking about JV’s citizenship and identity not as an MVP- but instead as a Detroiter. He embraces it, and that is why he is such a Detroit citizen.

I was delighted to see #DetroitPride was trending worldwide today.  As a city that is no stranger to being mocked nationally, it feels good to get a little respect for a city that is dear to me.  My parents were born and raised in Detroit, and my dad still works in the city. I grew up in the outskirts of Detroit and frequent it often. But guess what?  Verlander is from Virginia.

He was born and raised there, and was an amazing player at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.  Justin was drafted by Detroit in 2004.  Soon after, he was a leading pitcher for Detroit, baseball team coming out of a funk, but what was Detroit to him before?  Another mediocre city, probably.  Yet here he is, promoting pride in the city he now calls his own.

Verlander’s citizenship now belongs to Detroit.  He has embraced it, he is beloved by the city, and stands for hope here.  His contract is extended into 2015, so he will probably be here for a while.

But what would Shklar think?  In her eyes, would JV be a citizen of Detroit now? Is embracing one’s citizenship a large factor as well? JV certainly earns his money here, to the tune of 16 million dollars a year. He has standing not only in the state, but also around the nation. Other players on opposing teams are consistently quoted giving major props to JV.

The city definitely does not exclude him.  But it brings to mind other Detroit players that never quite are included by the city, or they themselves don’t want to be included.  Johnny Damon, for example, played one solid year with the Tigers.  The city loved him, but his wife infamously said she didn’t want to be in Detroit. She just did not embrace it. I also think of another excluded player like Allen Iverson, who also earned here for one year.  He had standing on his own coming into the Pistons, but did not embrace being a Detroit citizen.  Soon enough, he was getting booed.

Verlander was a Virginian who is now a Detroiter, too. He’s a citizen here, not only because he earns and has standing here, but because he has embraced his Detroit citizenship. #DetroitPride

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3 Responses to #DetroitPride

  1. Although I hate to admit it (being a White Sox fan and hating the division rival Detroit Tigers all my life) Verlander did have a great year and is arguably worthy of the MVP award. However, I am not sure if I would call him a “Detroiter”. I believe that an athlete’s association and promotion of the town they play for many times has a business incentive behind it. It is hard to gain admiration around the world and get lucrative endorsements if the city you play for doesn’t even like you. Plus I would personally say that it would take more than playing for the Tigers for Verlander to be a true citizen of Detroit. Has he ever actually lived in the city? Has he significantly contributed to the city outside of playing for the Tigers? Does he use any of his $16 million dollar salary to help a city’s population that has one of the highest unemployment rates of the nation? I ask all these questions because I honestly don’t know the answer to them and I believe they are important to Verlander’s Detroit citizenship. I would call Michael Jordan a citizen of my hometown of Chicago because he has actually contributed to the city creating a Boys and Girls Club named in honor of his murdered father and donating millions to struggling private schools in the inner city. Plus he did something else for Chicago that Verlander hasn’t done yet for Detroit: win championships. 🙂


  2. arlaurin says:

    Well, charity wise, JV is donating $100,000 ($70,000 from winning this award and $30,000 of his own- sounds small though next to 16 million) to “Verlander’s Victory for Veterans” program. It was started back in May to give up JV’s suite to veterans to enjoy the game. In addition. it sounds as though the charity also raises money for Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. I am not positive how much goes to getting people to the game or actually directly to help out the hospitals. It is nice to see him giving back, but I wouldn’t say that makes him a citizen of Detroit. I too have been in the suburbs and often in the city for events and I can’t see how someone coming here for a few years gives them automatic association as a citizen here.

    Also, don’t forget one of Shklar’s main points: voting. We don’t know if he is registered to vote in MI. Many kids here at college are not registered here since they are only here 4 years and don’t want to go through the trouble. Sports teams are always trading players and I wouldn’t be surprised if he never changed his voting registration to here. That goes along with his I.D. I think of everyone here at U of M and how they still have their home state I.D. I am not sure how it works but I assume if he bought a house he would need to change his I.D. but then again, many people have houses in other states. As can probably be seen, I am confusing myself even a bit, but it is just something to think about.


  3. Courtney M says:

    I’m a little skeptical about calling JV a “Detroiter” for some of the reasons raised above. Detroit is obviously providing JV with an amazing career and a savvy salary, but outside of this, does he really have any other connection to the city of Detroit? I think this is the case with any professional athlete… The life of an athlete is extremely mobile because trades happen all the time. Very seldom do athletes get the chance to reside in a city long enough to build an intimate connection with the city out of his career, to a point in which he could actually be considered a “citizen” of that city.

    My brother is a professional hockey player, and I watch trades and moves happen all the time. The guys can really be traded at any given moment. They are forced to rent apartments because they don’t want to buy a house, get traded, and then be stuck with a house in a city in which they will never live again. Getting back to JV, let’s say hypothetically he gets traded when his contract ends… I don’t think he will have any reason to ever return back to Detroit later on in his life. Detroit has been extremely important for his career and success, and I’m sure JV will always remember that, but his only connection to Detroit right now is through his career, and it is very likely that his career may take him elsewhere in the future.

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