Monday, January 30, 2006

The Super Bowl and Detroit

The Super Bowl is less than a week away and the discussions on this American holiday being held in Motown are beginning to intensify. It's interesting to hear the image of Detroit that seems to be held in the national consciousness. The cold weather, the crime, the drugs, lack of anything to do, etc. are some of the common themes that are mentioned. I read this recent article by Jemele Hill, a Detroit native and a columnist for our local newspaper, The Orlando Sentinel, and thought her perspective was worth noting...

"Unfortunately, this column won't completely stop the jokes about how parts of Detroit look like a car bomb went off 20 minutes ago or that it gets so cold here, Dick Cheney's heart can chill on Eight Mile. Some free advice to you national columnists who are preparing to shred Detroit: Bombed-out building jokes are as old as Members Only jackets, so be more creative if you're going to insult us Detroiters.
The problem is that when it comes to Detroit, people can't separate the truth from the CNN footage. Yes, Detroit has lots of crime -- uh, doesn't every major city? -- but people act like as soon as you land in the Motor City, there are a couple of gunmen waiting for you at the end of the jetway. Oh, but nobody says a thing about Los Angeles, where if you wear magenta in the wrong neighborhood, you leave wearing Eau De Bullet.
"I've lived in Detroit all my life, and I've never been a victim of a crime," 60-year Detroit resident Janice Berman said. "I've never even seen a crime. Overall, people say Detroit is a bad place, but statistically I don't think it's worse than any other urban areas." Detroit has lived with a bull's-eye on its back for ages. Sadly, the main reason the national media are going to condemn Detroit during Super Bowl week is because it isn't in a warm-weather city.
So, sorry it's a Super Bowl that inconveniences journalists by forcing them to wear coats. We see the game for free, eat free on our respective companies, stay in hotels for free and go to parties for free, but bring a scarf? The nerve. Jacksonville is a warm-weather city, and all I heard from people after last year's Super Bowl was everything had to be done by boat, the city was too spread out and you couldn't find anything to eat past 9 p.m...
What makes the city special is that it has fulfilled a lot of dreams for people for years. African-Americans fled the South to Detroit looking for jobs, which they found in abundance at the city's auto plants. Greek immigrants came to Detroit seeking a better life, too. That's why there are 120,000 people of Greek descent in the Detroit area and a two-block stretch of terrific Greek restaurants along Monroe Street.
Arabs call Detroit home because here they're fully accepted. Detroit has the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East. "We've had to live by the factories," said Dan Keros, a third-generation Greek whose family owns American Coney Island, where you can find the best chili dogs in the city. "It's hard work, and it's inbred in us. We want to do our best, no matter what."
You might think of Detroit as the birthplace of violence, but without Detroit, there would be no Ben & Jerry's, Dr Pepper or automobiles. Ice cream, soda and Henry Ford all were born in Detroit. (The city also has the second-largest theater district in America next to New York, but I don't want to brag.) I know dogging Detroit has been an Olympic sport for years. Though the Olympics are every four years, and bad-mouthing Detroit happens nearly every day.
But riots happen everywhere (just ask Paris). Cold weather is a part of life, and certainly Florida's 75 consecutive 90-degree days have been known to cause a bit of discomfort. Detroit has problems, but any city with nearly a million people would have them, too. But if you still want to rip my city, I'd advise you to take heed of this warning from Keros: "You keep picking on us, and we'll get even better."
There must be something good about D-Town. We're the only northern city to host two Super Bowl in the past 25 years...


Anonymous said...

Great article. can only make fun of Detroit if you're from there!

Anonymous said...

I liked Lori's comment - and this is a great article - although now, I'm sure itching for a Greek salad and Coney Dog. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.