You can pick them out from across the room more often than not. They tend to be loud, self-assured – or at least seemingly so – and used to being in the right. Their intelligence knows no bounds and neither does their arrogance. Overwhelmingly rich and overwhelmingly insolent, they make up a larger proportion of the University and social discourse at large than we’d like to believe. They are the Detroit bashers: normally too busy shopping at Bloomingdale’s, servicing the Benz or managing the ole portfolio to care, but horribly overworked come February 2006.
They say, “Detroit’s too cold; we can’t have the Super Bowl there” – the frozen tundra of southeast Michigan being all the more deadly inside heated Ford Field. “Detroit’s too dirty; no one wants to walk those streets” – never mind the stench of milled paper that reportedly enveloped last year’s host, Jacksonville. “Detroit’s too run-down; who wants to see gutted buildings and burnt relics” – even if the downtown is now immaculate, and businesses sparkle with the aura of yuppiedom, if you’re not too busy scrutinizing.
I admit, Detroit is not a world-class city, not even close. Much more needs to be done than building a few expensive lofts downtown or erecting a gaudy welcome arch for visitors coming from the airport. There are many reasons to decry Detroit but, unfortunately, few people who criticize the city know what they’re talking about. Most have spent little time here – chief among them late-night hack, never-was “comedian” Jimmy Kimmel – and others are all too happy to just venture in for a night of gambling or a Red Wings game, praying profusely at the sight of a single boarded building.
I don’t claim street-cred – I only lived in the city for a few years and, admittedly, in unusually well-kept areas. I do, however, claim to know the city well enough to say that it’s the subject mostly of baseless and unwitting bouts of defamation. The saddest part is that these things come up only at the city’s brightest moments, like the Pistons championship runs, the Major League Baseball All-Star game and now the Super Bowl.
There’s really no point in me sitting here and writing about all the reasons why the bashers are wrong. (Every city has a dark side, decay is an unavoidable consequence of industry, Detroit’s actually not any worse than parts of Philadelphia, Los Angeles or Boston, there have been noticeable improvements over the past decade, etc.) Everyone knows these things to be true. Indeed, the bashing is more a form of entertainment than a display of genuine concern.
It’s not the outsiders – New Yorkers, Chicagoans etc. – that warrant the greatest ire, because it’s not their business to know this city anyway. But the good suburbanites should know better. Be their opulence from Troy, Grosse Pointe or Novi, metro Detroiters bear the brunt of this wrath because of their impossibly naive superiority complex.
True, Detroit was the fourth-poorest big city in America in 2004, and Oakland County consistently ranks among the nation’s richest, but where did all that wealth come from? The cold, hard truth, my affluent northern neighbors, is that all the wealth this area has built grew out of Detroit. Be it Motown, the sports teams or the auto industry, Detroit made every one of its rich suburbs.
But enough down that road. Let’s get back to the Super Bowl. The whole nation seems to be holding its collective breath, waiting for good old Detroit to screw something up. But for once, city and state officials are working feverishly to make sure everything goes according to plan. Despise him though I do, I support Kwame 100 percent at the moment. Hate to disappoint all you critics out there, but Detroit won’t screw this up. It can’t.
Detroit is not neutral ground for this game either, and the reason is one Jerome Bettis. Born and raised on the west side, “The Bus” is the city’s hero at the moment. This is Steeler town for the week, officially declared so by the mayor. Black and yellow jerseys flash everywhere, while the ugly teal ones, strangely enough, are only seen at Starbucks. The Bus has rolled in for what could be his final stop; how fitting that it’ll be the Super Bowl in his hometown. Jerome, you carry more than just your 255 lbs. of fat on your sore, aging feet – you also carry the hopes of a harassed city, not to mention its deprived football fans.
Like it or not, Detroit is ready. After weeks of warm temperatures, there’s enough of a dip to make “Winterfest” a Super Bowl attraction no other city could match. The NFL Experience is under way without a hitch at Cobo. Fans are flocking in, merchandise is flying off shelves and Campus Martius is electric. Ford Field is a world-class facility and, for a week, its city will pretend to be one too. This’ll be a great Super Bowl – go Steelers.
Stop squinting for reasons to deride the city. Sit back and enjoy the show – live from Detroit.
Syed can be reached at email@example.com.