PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

The Michigan State House is trying to appoint the next Detroit Lions head coach, should probably just "stick to politics"

December 04, 2020

Nic Antaya

You've probably seen the upsetting news by now: 36 legislators from the Michigan State House, led by District 15 rep Abdullah Hammoud, have signed a letter asking the Detroit Lions to hire Robert Saleh—Michigan native son and 49ers defensive coordinator—as their next head coach.

Now, let me make one thing clear: I don't care what side you're on when it comes to sports. I truly don't. Everyone has a god-given right to an opinion, and lord knows I have opinions of my own. I even have opinions about the Detroit Lions and their next head coach. But—call me crazy—I think there's a time and a place to voice those opinions.

The Michigan State House—with its millions of fans across the nation and the world, young and old, rich and poor, Lions and Cowboys fans alike—is not that place, and 2020 is not the time.

Newsflash: we live in polarized times. I remember a day and age when we could respectfully disagree about our sports allegiances. When a Giants fan and a 49ers fan could sit down, have a drink, and just co-exist as—gasp—human beings. Sure, maybe they'd both leave thinking the other person was dead wrong, but they'd respect each other. Now? The sports climate is so tense across America that we treat each other like sworn enemies. It's sad, and it's oppressive.

And sometimes, you just want an escape from that. For many of us, including me, that escape is the Michigan State House.

Each morning when I turn my computer on, one of the first things I do is to fire up the Michigan State House docket. Like many of you, I'm in a fantasy league, so that's part of it—I want to see if my bills passed, and if the legislators I drafted have been active. (Hey, Rep. Matt Koleszar from Plymouth: you were supposed to be a late-round steal. Maybe pull out the old inkwell and draft something up one of these days! Name a damn water fountain or congratulate a kid who won a spelling bee, for all I care. Just do something.)

But it's more than just fantasy sports. It's a bit of comfort in these complicated times. When I was kid in upstate NY, my father would take me on Saturday mornings to the Mae's Diner, we'd order the flapjacks with syrup, and we'd pore over the weekly Michigan State House Digest—the paper copy, in those ancient times—argue about the upcoming bills, and put together our "all-time 101": The best 101 legislators in Michigan State House history, from Carl "The Human Abstention" Viglund to Samantha Gawain, the woman who managed to outlaw handshakes for two weeks.

All across America, the same story was playing out—with fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, in living rooms and school hallways quaint diners with vinyl booths. It brought this nation together.

Now, sorry to say, we've lost that pleasure. Abdullah Hammoud, who I admit is an incredibly promising young politician, just corrupted the simple joy of the Michigan State House by dipping his toe into the cesspool of sports.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but here's an idea: Maybe, just maybe, not everything has to be about sports. Yes, even in 2020. Let me repeat that: Not everything has to be about sports.

I have a son of my own now, he's seven, and the next time we look over the docket, how am I supposed to explain to him why one of his favorite representatives—he has a Hammoud poster hanging in his bedroom—is talking about the Detroit Lions and their head coach search? How am I supposed to explain the complicated, unsettling dynamics of Matt Patricia being fired when all he wanted to know was whether HB 4454 would introduce enhanced penal fines for repeat violators of the state's litter statutes, or whether on March 1, in each tax year, certified abandoned property and property that is delinquent for taxes, interest, penalties, and fees for the immediately preceding 12 months or more is forfeited to the county treasurer for the total amount of those unpaid delinquent taxes, interest, penalties, and fees, per the pending vote on HB 6268?

I get that sports are important. I do. I know it affects people's lives; I don't need another lecture. But please, I'm begging you: Can we just have a few things that don't revolve around sports? A few "safe spaces," to quote the kids? Can the Michigan State House just be the Michigan State House?

Abdullah Hammoud, I respect you as a legislator, orator, and back-room wheeler and dealer. Your work inspires me, especially on urban revenue sharing payments and the earned income tax credit pertaining to corporate expansion, and I don't say that lightly. But please, for the good of everyone, and for the sanity of all your fans:

Stick. To. Politics.