DETROIT — The murky yellow light from the one streetlamp in the road illuminates the graffiti splayed across a once white wall before it disappears into a black hole where a window used to be. Rust covers the wrought iron and smears a nasty red color along the sides of eroded buildings.
No, this isn’t the scene created by an independent horror film producer. This is real. This is Detroit.
In July, Detroit filed for bankruptcy, becoming the largest city to do so. The previous record holder was Stockton, California, which is approximately half the size of current day Detroit.
Detroit is 18 million dollars in debt, with a population of about 700,000. Compared to the population in 1995 of over 1,000,000 people, it is very obvious Detroit was falling quickly.
The whole country seemingly fell into an uproar over the filing for chapter 9, when the rest of Michigan shrugged and went about their business. They knew Detroit was a city waiting on impending doom.
Let’s take a moment for a science lesson that applies here: Antoine Lavoisier created the Law of Conservation of mass, which states “Mass cannot be created or destroyed, it is simply rearranged in space.”
This is what happened to Detroit. Money wasn’t created or destroyed; money simply left for other parts of the state. Most fail to realize that the areas around Detroit, like Grosse Pointe and Livingston County, are some of the most affluent in the Midwest.
For those of you who haven’t made the trip up to Detroit (frankly, I don’t blame you for postponing it), you are probably thinking that Ford Field, Comerica Park, and Joe Louis Arena must be almost empty with so many people leaving for other parts of the state.
I assure you, that is not the case.
The Red Wings fans are an unbelievable sight. If you have not been to Joe Louis Arena, I will give you a brief description just so you are aware of how dreadful this building looks.
The Joe (what most Michiganders call this excuse for a hockey stadium) is jealous of most amateur rinks around the city. The seat backs are a faded pink, and look as if they were installed around the completion of the Vietnam War. It is probably the worst arena in the National Hockey League.
However, when the Red Wings play, the streets flow with the blood- red sweaters of the thousands of fans that fill the stadium. People, even outside Detroit, schedule their evenings around watching the Red Wings. There is a reason Detroit has the word “Hockeytown” spread across the center of its home ice
All three of the Michigan teams that are actually based in Detroit, have a following across the whole state of Michigan.
It is nearly impossible to drive down I-94 without seeing at least one in every ten cars with a Tigers “D” or a Flying Wheel symbolizing passion for the Red Wings.
Ford Field, which opened in 2002 and hosted Super Bowl XL, is one of the nicer and newer stadiums in the NFL. Even though the product on the field may not have been the best, fans across the whole state, not just the city, still love their Lions.
No, it’s not the Las Vegas strip or Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, but it is full of life on Sunday. A nice sign that there is actual life left in this skeleton of a city.
I met Austin Johnson from Grand Rapids (which is on the opposite side of Michigan), who described the Detroit sports situation when he told me, “The Lions are tradition. It doesn’t matter if they are good or bad; it is just what you do on Sunday. You just sit and watch the stupid mistakes, then talk about them all week and hope they don’t happen the next.”
Living here for two years now, I have to listen to the constant cooler talk about the stupidity of the Lions and how they are a playoff team with no discipline. How Jim Schwartz is a good coach for a team that has no talent, but not for one that does. And frankly, a lot of what they are saying is correct.
Phil Simms of Inside the NFL summed up the Lions when he said, “They do a lot of wonderful things stats-wise. But they’ve got to tighten up the football team. Too many fouls, too many good plays against the defense. Yeah, great defensive line, doesn’t win enough games for them. And the offense puts up some big (yardage) numbers, but they don’t put up the points.”
Even though the Lions, 4-12 last year, opened the new season with a win on Sunday, they did so in a fashion that did not disprove the words of Phil Simms. It has to be hard to watch your team intercept a pass, run it into the end zone, then have it called back for an illegal chop block twenty yards behind the play.
And that foul was committed by the team captain, Ndomukung Suh, who has since been fined $100,000 for his unconscionable behavior. Things like this are commonplace for the Lions.
Even in their victory over Minnesota, the Lions committed 10 penalties.
Performance like that is probably why the city now may favor the Red Wings, despite the subpar arena. The hockey fans don’t have to deal with the constant heartbreak that comes with the Lions.
Still, week after week they cheer for their football team, because it’s tradition.
Detroit fans don’t die; they aren’t created or destroyed, but just relocated.