By LZ Granderson
Special to Page 2

I was made in Detroit.

Mack and Van Dyke followed by 8 Mile and Schaeffer.

Government cheese in the morning. Canned pork at night.

WJLB and the D.O.T.

It wasn't always pretty but it was always home.

Wherever I go I try to make it a point of saying where I'm from because people like to make it a punch line.

Especially people who have never been to Detroit.

People who have never danced under the stars to live jazz at Hart Plaza with the river just a few steps away.

Or was there for the birth of house music with InnerCity in the basement of St. Andrews Hall singing about a "Good Life."

No, it's easy to make fun of Detroit when all you hear about is violence and poverty. And it's true, the city's hurting. Nearly a third of the families are living below the poverty line and over 70,000 people are unemployed. Last year, the average U.S. home sold for $167,500. In Detroit? $88,300.

But there's more to a city than numbers and glitz. There's a soul.

This city gave the world automobiles, Motown, Jerry Bruckheimer and Eminem. This city provided hope for thousands of blacks who migrated from the South in hopes of a better life. People like my mother, who had enough courage to leave behind everything she knew in smalltown Mississippi to make it possible for her children to go to college and, in her words, "be somebody."

That's why it's so important the Tigers have made it to the World Series this year. It's not that everyone who actually lives in Detroit (not suburbs Grosse Point or Bloomfield Hills) can afford to be at every game. But just being able to walk on the outside of the stadium -- to see the lights and hear the crowd -- is empowering in itself. It's a reminder that something excellent can still come from this city. Sure, the Pistons have been one of the best teams in basketball the past four years, but the truth is they don't actually play in Detroit. They're in Auburn Hills, about 30 minutes north of downtown. If you can afford the ticket, you still need a car that can make the trip and gas to get there. The Red Wings? A great team but not a sport that's been embraced by those who live in the city. The Lions? Forgetaboutit.

So we need the Tigers. They are here, in the heart of a downtown that's desperately trying to resuscitate itself. Just as Detroit is trying to recover from a year in which it's main source of employment -- the auto industry -- announces more crippling job cuts. In a year in which people are not only losing their jobs, but the homes they worked so hard to buy. For many, it's the first home anyone in their family has been able to call their own. In a year in which school started after a 16-day teacher strike because administrators wanted to institute a 5.5 percent paycut to employees to cover the $105 million deficit in the school budget.

Yeah, it's been tough, but I, like so many, am proud to be made in Detroit.

I've seen brothers in Now-N-Later gators strut the street with their heads up high despite not having a dime to their name. I've stood in the cold outside of welfare lines, waited for buses an hour late, done homework without electricity and played the numbers. That's life in the D -- down but never out.

Back in 1984, the last time the Tigers won the World Series, there was a slogan: Bless You Boys.

We're not New Orleans, but we needed this blessing. We knew God didn't forget about us, but it's nice to get a reminder just the same.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.




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LIFE IN THE D