Grand Rapids, Mich., is the kind of city where on one side Kool-Aid can be found as a beverage at restaurants with the word "shack" in its name and on the other, Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign T-shirts are worn without a hint of irony. Or remorse.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is from Grand Rapids.
So is the guy who wrote "American Pie."
And as of this past weekend, I too now call Grand Rapids home.
No, I'm not being punished. Actually it's quite the opposite. I wanted to come here, to be closer to my son. Besides, I went to graduate school here and cut my teeth as a journalist with The Grand Rapids Press not long after.
In a sense, I am back home. And it feels good. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is, so coming back is comforting.
Or at least it should be.
Not so for the man at the center of the Pistons-Bulls series, Ben Wallace.
For Big Ben, home is hell.
He would like us to believe he is not bothered by the boos directed at him each time he touches the ball in Detroit. But anyone who has ever been rejected by someone who matters to him or her knows that is a lie. Wallace might live in a new city and play for a new team, but this, The Palace of Auburn Hills, is his home.
It is here where a fan base with little reason to cheer took in a 26-year-old nobody loved and loved him. In return, he played his heart out each and every night. That 2003-04 championship banner overhead? Wallace helped put that there. The division titles, the four consecutive conference final appearances, the return to relevance? Wallace was the bruising cornerstone.
But the family that once blanketed Wallace with support now laughs and jeers sadistically when he misses a free throw. He's back home, but he ain't welcomed. In fact, he is treated as an enemy of the state.
Now, I'm no fool. I understand this is a competition and somebody has to lose. But for some reason, Big Ben feels different.
This is not Mavs fans booing Steve Nash or Michael Finley when they return to Dallas. Those players were seen as talent when they arrived. Wallace was an overlooked journeyman who became something special because of the unconditional love of Pistons fans.
However, we now see that love was not unconditional at all. It is a very jealous love, a love that is vengeful and quick to strike if the object of its affection appears to lack loyalty.
I don't think Wallace should be celebrated with a bell tone each time he blocks Chauncey Billups, but as a lifelong Pistons fan, I don't believe it is right to boo him during introductions, either.
Vince Carter quit on the Toronto Raptors in hopes of being traded. He should be booed there. But Wallace should be respected for his role in turning this franchise around, the same way Michael Jordan was greeted in Chicago after becoming a Wizard and Karl Malone in Utah after joining the Lakers. No, I'm not saying Wallace is as good a player as Jordan or Malone. But there is a way to cheer your home team without attacking someone who meant so much to it less than 12 months earlier. Someone who only did what I and so many people in the stands have done on at least one occasion -- leave one job for a better-paying one elsewhere.
Sure, it was disappointing to see him go, but Joe Dumars didn't bust open the bank to keep him, either.
Business is business, and everyone -- including Bulls GM John Paxson -- knows he overpaid for Wallace.
But this booing thing is something else.
To me, it's spiteful and unfair.
Again, I'm not talking about a guy who was a cancer in the community or said disparaging things about the city as he was heading out the door. This was Ben Wallace. How can you love a guy for six years, then quickly turn on him for taking someone else's money?
It makes you wonder whether the love was real at all.
I sat near courtside during Saturday's game and watched Wallace's face as he was being booed. He did what he was supposed to do -- partially playing the bad guy by scowling and shaking his head to show his new teammates he could handle the pressure. But if you looked close enough, you could see the hurt in his eyes.
How could you not?
It's pretty hard to play with heart if you don't have one that could break.
I just hope Billups, who is a free agent this summer, was paying attention. In Detroit, money can't buy you love but it sure can cost you it.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and host of the ESPN360 talk show "Game Night." You can reach him here.