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Chris Ilitch Might Be Worse Owner Than Ford Family

Chris Ilitch does not convey any confidence that his sports teams are ever going to turn it around.

The Ford family, as owners of the Detroit Lions, has been synonymous with losing. 

After decades of futility, any bit of positive coverage of the Lions is met with extreme skepticism. 

"Enough with the talking and show me on the field" is the common reply when stories pop up expressing a hopeful expectation about the future of the team. 

In my lifetime, I would have thought the Ford family would sit all by itself in a power ranking of the worst owners of a professional sports team. 

However, Chris Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, is doing his best to climb the charts. 

Overseeing two clubs going through rebuilds, Ilitch publicly lacks any sense of urgency.

While ownership does not have have to be meddling, there is value in publicly stating your disappointment at how rebuilds have turned out. 

The Tigers are in the midst of a disappointing 2022 MLB campaign, highlighted by one of the worst offensive attacks in the history of the game. 

Despite the ills of the team that plays at Comerica Park, Ilitch found a way at new Red Wings coach Derek Lalonde's introductory press conference to publicly express some hope regarding the state of the team. 

"I'm very pleased with the progress at the Detroit Tigers," Ilitch said. "Despite a very slow start this season, there's actually some good progress happening with some of the young guys that have come up and developed, and so on and so forth."

If I was working with Ilitch, my seat would be perpetually cool, since there does not appear to be any pressure to get anything tangible done. 

I would talk about rebuilding, doing it the right away, all while sitting back and cashing a large check for five-seven years. 

I would be spurned into action if the boss signing the paychecks was out there demanding results and putting the pressure on for the team to succeed.

Chris Ilitch is not like his father, Mike Ilitch

The son of Mike Ilitch does not remind a passionate sports town of his father, other than carrying his last name. 

Chris Ilitch has lost touch with the fans who aided his family in becoming among the most prominent families in the state of Michigan, and has become reliant upon cliches about "the process" and building the right way. 

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All the while, the Tigers have failed to reach the postseason since 2014, and the Red Wings have not been in the postseason since 2016.

Selling hope year after year does not encourage fans to purchase tickets. 

But, if the sparse crowds at Comerica Park and Little Caesars Arena to watch his teams has not spurned him into action, there clearly isn't much that will. 

While Mike Ilitch did not deliver a World Series to the Tigers, the run experienced by the Red Wings in the 1990s and early 2000s, which included championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002, along with another title in 2008, was awe inspiring. 

He was committed to spending money on both franchises, especially the Red Wings, and was relentless in his pursuit of putting the right front-office executives and personnel pieces in place to produce a winner. 

The same cannot be said about Chris, who seems content with the subpar product of both franchises. 

Broken promises

Among the reasons that skepticism has grown with Chris has been the failed "District Detroit" project, which surrounds Little Caesars Arena. 

When LCA was being constructed, it was promised that sidewalk cafés would be built, that families and fans would be able to take a stroll in the District during the evening and before games and buildings would be filled with new tenants. 

As of July 2021, WXYZ-TV reported that 686 units, promised in six buildings near Little Caesars Arena, still exist nowhere other than on architectural renderings. 

When asked about it again on Friday, Ilitch did not give anybody any reason to believe they would be enjoying a vibrant district anytime soon. 

Instead, he chose to recite optimism that the stated plans for downtown development could still go through. 

"It is not uncommon for the pacing of development projects throughout the country, including in Detroit, to change or alter over time," Ed Saenz, director of communications wrote last year, via Deadline Detroit. "This is due to a variety of reasons, including community and market needs, demand, tenant interest, the need for additional planning, as well as general economic conditions."

At the present time, fans still appear to be engaged and angry, but apathy could soon set in if the Tigers and Wings do not turn things around soon. 

Selling hope is not like pitching real estate development plans to a bunch of lazy politicians. 

And, if Ilitch continues along this path, the calls for him to sell both teams will get increasingly loud.