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Keep your hands off my hair-band

See if you can decipher the below song lyrics, and then tell me what they have to do with our Pistons.

We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall
Cause maybe they've seen us and welcome us all
With so many light years to go and things to be found
I'm sure that we'll all miss her so.

from Europe's "The Final Countdown"

"WTF?," you say. Not exactly lyrics that inspire thoughts of Dee-troit basketball, huh? But let me assure you that this 80's classic is as "Piston" as the Palace, the "Bad Boys", Blaha, or Mason. For those that don't recognize the song by name, it is the unlikely source of the familiar, chill-inducing synthesizer riff that plays during Mason's (and Marco's) Piston introductions, as well as during crunch time of any regular season or playoff game at the Palace.

Those fans unfortunate to have come of age in the dreaded "teal era" may not know much of the song's history; that this song served as the soundtrack for titles one and two on Four Championship Drive. And when Joe D gained control of the Piston front office in 2000, it didn't take long for him to bring it back along with several of the team's championship ties (including the original Piston colors). For some--me included--the return of "The Final Countdown" and the championship memories it evokes was almost as significant as the return of the red, white, and blue.

And in the first season back in their championship colors, the Jerry Stackhouse and Ben Wallace-led Pistons clinched their first Central Division title since the Championship season of '89-90. As the players celebrated on the court, the song was blared over the PA system to the delight of the then recently-suffering Piston faithful.

Sadly it seems the significance of this hair-band classic is lost on some. Out-of-towners definitely don't understand the fetish....though the Pacers and 76ers, amongst others have been known to dust off the track once in a while, and the Chicago Bulls have continued to use "Sirius" by the Alan Parsons Project, the same 80s track played during the Jordan era. Most are clueless of the song's championship powers, evidenced by this question asked of ESPN-tool "Buzzmaster" during last year's finals Game 3 chat:

Scott (NY): Doesn't "The Final Countdown" as introduction music serve as a bad omen? Seems like there were better choices out there... (ESPN chat)

But more disturbing is the band of Piston bandwagoners bent on "updating" this Piston theme. During the height of Eminem's popularity, it was suggested by numerous fans on message boards, sports talk radio, etc. that "Lose Yourself" (from the '8 Mile' soundtrack) should replace Europe as the Piston anthem. And while that song has the beats and the Detroit origins to represent the boys in blue, it suffers from a lack of Piston pedigree.

What these late-comers fail to understand is that "The Final Countdown" isn't just a gimmick from the Bad Boys era; it has become a unique part of the new-school Piston experience, blending seamlessly with Mason's modern announcing style and the playoff pyrotechnics. The Free Press listed "hearing The Final Countdown" as one of their favorite experiences at the Palace, one that still gives them chills. And Piston fans have continued to embrace the song in different ways, no-doubt contributing to it being one of the more downloaded cell-phone ringtones. Do these guys represent Deeee-troit Basketball to you? Well they should.And, amongst numerous similar examples, the song serves as a backdrop for this Piston fan's MySpace page and provides a soundtrack for this fan's ingenious flash movie.

In short, yes--Europe is a hair band. Yes, "The Final Countdown" lyrics babble incoherently about a band of 80s rockers leaving behind Earth for Venus (again, WTF?). And yes, any one of us could have banged out that little synth riff on our Casio keyboards as kids. But who cares? The song has transcended its humble beginnings to become a symbol of all that is right and good with the world (i.e., the Pistons).

So let it be.

Lyrics to "The Final Countdown" []
Going Retro: Detroit Pistons []
Pistons 105, Hawks 99 recap (April 8, 2002) [ESPN]
100 things we love about the Palace [Detroit Free Press]
Piecereine's MySpace Page [MySpace]
Detroit Pistons movie [Stick Figure Death Theatre]
The Final Countdown [Wikipedia]