I’m sick of listening to it.
Make that sick and tired.Sick and tired of having to listen to anyone who gets the chance to bash the city of Detroit.
So, with my days as a member of The Michigan Daily staff limited and my column opportunities dwindling, I’m finally doing what I should have done earlier: standing up for the Motor City.
There’s a pretty difficult challenge ingrained with taking on that task. It’s the fact that Detroit’s history has played it into this situation. Detroit gets mentioned and the majority of people are going to start thinking of the race riots from the 1960s, the less-hate-driven riots following titles like the Tigers’ 1984 World Series win and a crime rate that climbed sky high during those years.
The city’s biggest problem is that those are all valid historical points to bring up. The fact that the remnants of those dark days in Detroit’s history are littered all over the city in the form of burned down buildings doesn’t help the image people have in their minds.
But I’ll tell you what my biggest problem is: The majority of those who are so quick to condemn the city as a forsaken hell hole are making such claims with an ignorant mind — too scared to venture into town for a day, too quick to believe everything they’ve heard from everyone else. Detroit earned a bad rep, and, unfortunately, that reputation precedes itself more often than not.
And it’s definitely a glass-half-empty vs. glass-half-full situation in Detroit. You can either focus on Comerica Park, Ford Field and its surroundings of the Fox Theatre and the Detroit Opera House, or you can focus on the deserted lots you park in to attend events at those locales.
You can see the Renaissance Center and the nice area around it, or you can look at the filthy spots bordering the Detroit River.
Walk across the highway from Comerica Park and you might notice a brand new development of well kept townhouses priced to move. Or you might notice the abandoned 15-story building 20 feet away.
I’m well aware of the negatives of the city. I love it in spite of them.
What bothers me is that most don’t even stop to notice the positives. They won’t even give Detroit the benefit of a half-empty glass — they’re tipping the glass over, spilling it out and looking at a city in need of a complete refill. (Side note: I’m well aware I just pushed the boundaries of the glass analogy as far as it will go, so I’ll stop using it now).
I’ll tell you what they would have seen if they had bothered to look past this on Monday when the Tigers held Opening Day.
It was about as full as Detroit’s glass gets these days (Sorry, that was the last one … honest). Thousands upon thousands of people flooded into downtown Detroit bright and early on a Monday morning, excited about the start of the baseball season.
Excited about being in the city.
And it wasn’t just the quick layover so many Detroit visitors are accustomed to making. It was an arrival hours before game time and a stay well after the game ended.
Opening Day is Detroit at its best, and it’s the reason why I still believe downtown could be vibrant again. There are some pieces in place — that rejuvenated area around Ford Field and Comerica Park, Greektown and the plethora of museums throughout the city.
But for Detroit, the most important spots are now and have always been those related to sports. It was the Tigers that pulled Detroit through the misery of riots in 1968 and then helped again with a 1984 title. Opening Day and the recent championship parades and celebrations of the Pistons and Red Wings have brought more people into downtown than at just about any other time.
And so it’s important that — even as those who live around Detroit continue to ignore its resurgence — the rest of the sports world has opened its collective eyes.The 2005 baseball All-Star game will be held in Detroit. Same for the 2006 Super Bowl and 2009 NCAA basketball Final Four.
Over the next five years, the city of Detroit will no doubt undergo some big improvements to cater to those events. You can already see some of them as the endless string of burned-out buildings have started to be bulldozed to the ground. The sports world has seen Detroit trying to bounce back, and has offered its hand.
Detroit will have the opportunity to show the world that it is not just a city of crime and devastation, not just the butt of jokes. From what I’ve seen, and from my experiences in the Motor City, I’m more than confident that Detroit will get the job done.
All I can hope for is that the rest of the country — and especially everyone else in the state of Michigan – will give Detroit a chance again.
Chris Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org