Commentary

Detroit fawns over masterful Verlander

Updated: September 15, 2011, 11:35 AM ET
By Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott | Special to ESPN.com

Autumn is rapidly approaching, and along with fall come the most exciting sports months of the year. College football has begun, the NFL is starting and the playoff races are heading down the stretch in major league baseball.

[+] EnlargeVerlander Fan
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesJustin Verlander's appeal stretches beyond the Motor City.

All of a sudden, we go from having a few baseball games to watch to having a whole wide world of high-quality sporting events to entertain us. Just a few weeks ago, we found ourselves on our bus watching the Little League World Series. While we think it's a cute event, we can't get away from the idea that we could dominate those kids. With all due respect to the little guys, we could put together a team full of our adult musician friends and put up big numbers on the Little Leaguers.

To go from sparse sporting weeks like that to the plethora of events we'll have to choose between watching this weekend is a welcome change.

Being from Detroit, this is an especially exciting year. The Lions are actually going to be televised locally this season, and hearing fans on local sports radio tell it, they are going 12-4. We think they're closer to an 8-8 team, but the expectations are high around town.

The University of Michigan football team is headed in a new direction and the Michigan State Spartans are coming off their best season in ages. The college football fans are giddy, and we haven't even seen the Nebraska Cornhuskers in our home state yet.

Football definitely is king in America right now, but even amidst the formative moments of the season, we can't help but feel as if there is an incredibly captivating story unfolding in front of our eyes: Justin Verlander has become the best pitcher in baseball.

We can't remember a time when we were as excited to watch a single player on the Detroit Tigers. When the team picked up Pudge Rodriguez in 2004, there was a significant increase in ticket sales. People were glad to have a marquee player and there was a genuine buzz around town. But things have changed a lot since then and the team has had a lot of high expectations from the fans beyond the Tigers' 2006 trip to the World Series.

Perhaps we take teams for granted as they win more, but there hasn't been as much tangible fervor in Detroit the past few years (especially given the team's propensity for late-season collapses).

[+] EnlargeJustin Verlander
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesJustin Verlander has 11 consecutive victories and Detroit in the palm of his hand.

Verlander has always had what baseball pundits call "great stuff." As Detroit fans, we had been waiting for him to become the elite player we believed him to be, and this year he just stepped up to a whole new level. He is currently threatening to win a "triple crown" by leading the American League in ERA, wins and strikeouts. He already posted his 23nd win and has won his past 11 starts.

The other day we were discussing how we can't remember another player who inspired as much dedication from us to watch. Getting to watch Verlander this season is like a little version of Christmas every start. He's become a pitching machine and has, at times, single-handedly carried the Tigers this season.

We are fortunate to be able to watch Justin Verlander's rise to elite status. We have been pushing back sound checks and skipping meals because we are glued to the television when he pitches. He is becoming the local hero that Rip Hamilton can only dream of being, and that Barry Sanders should have been.

Earlier this season, he chartered a private jet and took Alex Avila and a few other younger players with him to the MLB All-Star Game in Phoenix. That's the kind of guy we want to root for. He's even infiltrated the subculture of our city. Just the other day we heard someone say, "she had a banging body, but her face looked like Verlander." To which the guy's friend responded, "with the year he's having, that isn't such a bad thing!"

We couldn't agree more with that guy's friend. Verlander has become a guy we want to get behind. He has become the Tom Brady of Detroit, and we are proud to follow him as he attempts to be our city's leader and carry the Tigers on his back to the World Series.

Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are contributing a bi-weekly sports blog for ESPN Music. The Detroit indie dance-pop -- or hip-hop folk -- duo just released "It's A Corporate World," and they might soon be making a pit stop in a town near you.

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