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Beginning this week during the Major League Baseball All-Star festivities, the city of Detroit will be brutalized by sportswriters from across the country. The maiming and name-calling and dissing won't stop until the completion of Super Bowl XL.
By the time it's over, the victims will include Kid Rock, Eminem, Madonna, Coleman Young's unborn great-grandchildren and Flint's Michael Moore.
Beating up on Detroit is easy. As the center of the free-falling automotive industry, known chiefly for crime, high unemployment and urban blight, Detroit is an easy target. Motown's 30-something mayor wears an earring, zoot suits and, if you believe the whispers, throws a house party that would make Snoop blush.
Yeah, making fun of Detroit is about as trouble-free as cracking a fat joke on Kirstie Alley. I've done both. It's really nothing to brag about.
But the truth is, especially when it comes to sports, Detroit is as good as it gets.
Yes, if we're buried under 10 inches of snow during Super Bowl XL, Paul Tagliabue should be forced to stand outside Ford Field butt naked apologizing to every fan as he/she enters the stadium. In fact, instead of looking to pass steroid legislation, Congress should pass a law tying the Super Bowl to three cities.
One: San Diego: Best weather in the world.
Two: New Orleans: Best food in the world.
Three: Tampa Bay: Only Mons Venus in the world.
But I digress. The fact that Detroit has lured sports' biggest showcase twice, while New York and Chicago have yet to host a Super Bowl, says all you need to know about Motown as a sports town.
Laugh all you want, but the Motor City gets the job done. Detroit is the old high school sweetheart who landed the boy who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and put together a Hall of Fame career. Yes, she lost her hourglass figure three kids ago, and suffered through some painful public infidelity. But now, in her 40s, she's still on the arm of the man of most women's dreams, controls most of his money, and has the freedom, emotional leverage and confidence to come and go as she pleases.
It's a good life. A very, very good life.
Let's see in June, Detroit hosted three games of the NBA Finals. This week it will host baseball's All-Star game. And in February, the world will descend on Detroit for the Super Bowl.
Want to make fun of Detroit? Go right ahead. But what's so funny?
The Pistons won a championship last year, and should've repeated this year. The Red Wings have won three Stanley Cups since 1998. Yes, the Lions and the Tigers stink. But the Lions and the Tigers play downtown in brand-new, state-of-the-art stadiums that sit within blocks of each other. The Pistons play in a 17-year-old Palace that still looks and feels new. And Joe Louis Arena, home of the Red Wings, is part of the reason Detroit is called "Hockey Town."
Detroit is the best sports town in America. It blows away New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. With the car industry dying and Motown dead, sports is all Detroit's got.
And it's got sports stories in abundance, so much so that Detroit scribe Mitch Albom carved out a reputation as the nation's best sports columnist long before he earned worldwide fame with "Tuesdays with Morrie" and "The Five People You Meet In Heaven." Heck, Mitch's sportswriting peers/rivals, Bob Wojnowski and Drew Sharp, have become Detroit celebrities. Wojnowski, a columnist for the Detroit News, has a wildly popular radio talk show. And Sharp, Mitch's colleague at the Free Press, has developed a rep as the city's tough-talking contrarian.