As I sat at the Palace on Wednesday night, sweating out our game against the Grizzlies, I noticed something strange.
Marcus Morris hit a three-pointer to extend the Pistons lead. Mason did his typical "FORRR THREEEE" call, the crowd cheered, and then...nothing.
For anyone who has attended a game at The Palace the past couple of years, there was always one staple of a Pistons three pointer: the tees for threes. In case you never got to experience this glorious in-arena moment, let me explain (because I assure you the name alone doesn't do it justice). After every made three pointer, the jumbotron would light up with "TEES FOR THREES," Mason would excitedly proclaim "TEEEEEES FORRR THREEEES," and then the Palace Entertainment Team would grab handfuls of balled up Pistons t-shirts that they would promptly launch into the crowd at a furious pace. It was a Top 5 non-basketball moment at the game. Super exciting. Not only did the Pistons nail a three pointer, but all the sudden you have a boatload of t-shirts being launched at you and into the crowd. Multitasking became a key component of this moment, as you might still be boxing out a fan for a t-shirt catch while the opposing team possession finished up.
I once caught one of these glorious tees. It was like catching a foul ball I could proudly wear home -- and then destroy through yardwork, painting the bathroom, or by giving to my dog as a chew toy. Because let's be honest, these t-shirts aren't great. But like life, it's more about the journey for the three than the actual tee.
Catching one of these is also one of the more instantly embarrassing moments as a human being, the immediate and intense joy you have of catching a free balled up t-shirt at an NBA game. I remember pumping my fists into the air, letting out a victorious cheer, and then looking around for congratulations, which is when you instantly realize "oh... no one cares that I just caught a free t-shirt." After this sobering realization, I slid back down into my seat, ducking my head a little lower, and cheering a little quieter.
So back to Wednesday night. Morris hits a three, and nothing happens. I turn to my brother and ask the obvious question, "where the f@#$ are the tees?" He then explains that they stopped it this year, shrugs, and goes back to Snapchatting the game. This immediately sends me down a spiral. Who makes that call? Did Tom Gores really cut the t-shirt budget despite raising parking? Does this mean that someone statistically projected the Pistons' three point attempts for the year, and do some cross analysis with the in-arena entertainment budget and see the potential loss? Did anyone stand up for tees for threes in the meeting? Why not skimming back with the in-arena band, or not having halftime acts like Silento?
I sat dejected. A three pointer became just another basketball moment and not a mini-lottery. There's only so much free Hungry Howies or Michigan Lottery giveaways a man can take. Eventually, by sheer will, I moved on from this enormous loss in my life as a Pistons fan. And then during a TV timeout, as if a sign from the Palace Entertainment Gods, the in-arena crew runs out on the court holding balled up t-shirts and asking the crowd to stand up. I refused, because we didn't earn this, when all of a sudden a cheerleader goes running by with tees. Everyone in my row turns to her, yelling for the prized possessions and all of a sudden a blue object appears falling out of the sky to my right. Within an instant, I realize it's a tee and I do a mean Odell Beckham Jr impression to save it from hitting someone's face. That same excitement washes over me, but with a bitter taste. I now am the proud owner of a Detroit Pistons Seasons Greetings tee, but it doesn't feel the same.
As I drove home with my new tee, and the pain of a Pistons loss on a half-court shot, I tried to pawn the tee off to my brothers. They refused, and maybe it's for the best. Not just because I now have a shirt for hungover holiday mornings, but also a reminder of how change is unavoidable, even for the tees. So goodbye tees for threes. You were fun while it lasted. Your memory will be carried on by giant t-shirt cannons at TV timeouts. But you and I both know, it will never be the same.