For too many years my hometown, Detroit, has been much maligned by nighttime comics and knuckleheaded sportswriters. The latest brick recently came from Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan, who wrote on his blog, “Two trips to Detroit in a month… Is that the second or third ring of Hell?”
Memo to Souhan: If Detroit is so distasteful to you, stay home! When the Metrodome roof caved in last month due to snow, it was that hellish place Detroit that came to the rescue.
“If structures in your city are in such bad shape that you need to come to Detroit, you probably shouldn’t be throwing stones,” Detroit Free Press cartoonist Mike Thompson responded to Souhan’s cheap shot.
While the Twin Cities haggled for years to get a new stadium, Detroit built two side-by-side stadiums downtown with little fuss over a span of three years (2000 and 2002). Despite being hit hardest by the economic crisis and long before the rest of the country, the city built both a football and baseball stadium, not for rich millionaires but because the Lions and the Tigers, respectively, are longtime valuable civic assets.
Unlike local team owners (namely the Wilf family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings) who want a state with record budget deficits to largely pay for a steel-and-mortar, money-making monument for their teams, Detroit team owners stepped up and contributed their fair share to the stadiums’ construction costs.
Furthermore, what has Minneapolis brought to the world besides Prince (more on him later)? Detroit brought Joe Louis, automobiles, Motown, Eminem and techno music. It was there, and not in the nation’s capital, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit in the summer of 1963.
Detroit has, per capita, the largest number of churches of any U.S. city. It also has been known over the years as “City of Champions” (see sidebar), the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II, and a key stop for southern Blacks in both the Underground Railroad and the Great Migration.
While the Timberwolves once boasted about capturing the NBA’s attendance title in 1989-90 (whoopee-doo!), the Pistons won league titles.
While the Vikings brag about making four unsuccessful Super Bowl trips, Detroit has NFL championship trophies in their display case.
No other American NHL city has won more Stanley Cup titles than Detroit, which is why it is called “Hockeytown.” Since the start of the 1997-98 season, the Red Wings have won more regular season games (708 and counting) and playoff games (99) than any other NHL team.
“The history of this team is pretty deep and rich,” defenseman Brad Stuart told me after a December 26 Wings win at Minnesota. “A lot of the players that we depend on day in and day out were drafted by the Wings, and not always with high picks. They were smart picks in later rounds.”
Thirteen draft picks make up this year’s Wings: one first-rounder, three second-round, four third-round, one fifth-round, one sixth-round, one seventh-round, one ninth-round, and one tenth-round. Stuart is one of two players acquired in a trade, along with five free agents making up the remaining roster spots.
Unlike a local football team that played this season like they had a bye into this year’s Super Bowl simply because they finished runners-up in the NFC title game a season ago, the Red Wings play otherwise. “If you win the President’s Trophy (annually awarded to the team with the best regular season record), it’s obviously a sign that you had a great season,” notes Stuart.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you lose out in the first round [of the playoffs]. It’s a nice thing to get, but it doesn’t guarantee or make you feel better unless you go all the way and win the Stanley Cup. The standard is high, but it’s normal around here.”
Detroit is a proud sports town. We support our teams: rain, snow or shine. “It’s what we expect,” surmises Stuart.
As for Prince, it was Detroit radio stations that first recognized his musical genius and regularly played his music long before his hometown radio stations, save for KMOJ, did. “I grew up in Minneapolis… I can say with authority that hell is listening to music on Minneapolis radio stations, all of which seem permanently stuck in 1985,” admits Thompson.
I can’t agree more with his succinct summation of local radio, which is the main reason why I subscribe to satellite radio. Dissing the “D” by out-of-towners such as Souhan “is downright lame,” says Thompson.
Final memo to Souhan: Unless you died and came back to life, then you haven’t been to Hell yet, as you claim Detroit feels to you. I’ve heard that Hell is eternally hotter.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.