David B.




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February 8, 2006
Hope You Had Fun in Detroit! Now Go Away

Is that all there is?

Is that all there is?

If that's all there is, my friends,

Then let's keep dancing

Let's break out the booze and have a ball

If that's all

There is.


If Super Bowl XL, staged in Detroit this past weekend, had a theme song, it surely wasn't "Satisfaction," a tortured and tired version of which Mick Jagger and company pummeled the assembled multitudes with at halftime. No, despite its message of dissatisfaction, "Satisfaction" doesn't exactly capture the spirit of this most spectacular of pseudo-events. Too boisterous, too enthusiastic, even in the retirement-home rendition the Strolling Bones currently have on offer. Super Bowl XL in Detroit needed something more...resigned. Weary.


It could have done worse than to plumb Peggy Lee's back catalog. "Is that all there is?" Indeed, yes, that is all there is, Detroiters. Ninety million people around the world got a party. You got to sit on the sidelines, watching the cool kids dance. Oh, but when it's all over, you're welcome to help sweep up.


Super Bowl XL, hyped for the last half-decade as the salvation of this suffering metropolis, expired with a predictable and inevitable whimper. The Pennsylvanians, Washingtonians and reporters downed the last of their beers, checked out of their suburban hotels and headed for the airport, anticipatory dreams of Super Bowl XLI in sunny Miami already dancing in their heads. The touted $300 million in local "economic stimulus" they'd been supposed to leave behind, a figure very nearly matched in expenditures by the city in its frenetic yet lackluster pregame preparations, had been revised downward a bit to, oh...$30 million. Bye Detroit; it's been real. See you around, maybe.


Had any of the visitors moved out of the Bowl's bubble a little ways - say, to the intersection of Fenkell and Livernois - they might have gotten some idea of just how obscene their little fete was in this context. As the last of the herd filed out of Ford Field, Fenkell & Livernois remained out of sight and out of mind. No spotlights scanning the heavens, no television cameras, no consumer product spokesmodels, no singing, no clapping, no chanting. Just the burned-out husk of the long-abandoned Foxes' Den bar; the shuttered Campus Ballroom; block after block of iron gates, boarded-up windows, and broken glass in the gutter. No milling crowds of fans - in fact, no pedestrians at all, just a couple of mangy stray dogs slinking around corners, staying in the shadows.


Take Fenkell west a mile or two into the ironically-named Brightmoor, if you can navigate without the benefit of streetlights. Block after block of postwar slab-foundation houses, fully half of which are burned out, boarded up, and blown out. Occupied dwellings sport burglar bars and bolted doors, effectively sealing intruders out and residents in. Vacant lots, overgrown parks, overflowing dumpsters, dead traffic lights. In the middle of the road, a man slowly staggering from one nowhere to the next, the entirety of his worldly possessions in the two plastic garbage bags he carries. Super Bowl night in Motown. Twenty-five degrees and falling.


So, uh, about that $300 million...any trickling down here any time soon? Gonna get these street lights on? Tear down these burned-out wrecks? Re-open the police station you closed in the last round of budget cuts? Find this guy a place to sleep?


Mr. Mayor? Mr. Host Committee Chair? Ms. Seattle? Mr. Pittsburgh? Anybody?




Just sit tight and wait, huh? You'll get back to us? Once that new economic development starts to kick in?




Dear football fans, so glad you enjoyed your beer and your Playboy Centerfold parties and your ice sculptures and your box seats and your light show and your catered luncheons and your airport shuttle service. Yeah, we kind of mind that it all happened at the expense of our streetlights staying on and the trash getting picked up, but who asked us anyway? We just live here. Good for you that you got to party for the last week and pick up hookers in Windsor and throw quarters in the casino slots and sing along to "Satisfaction."  But pardon us if we don't share your enthusiasm. You've had your fun; now go. That's all there is.


Pardon us, we've got a few other things to think about now. Like, the 60,000 auto workers laid off in the last few weeks by Ford and GM, the namesake of the stadium you were just in and the big game's principal sponsor respectively.


Is that all there is?


That's all there is. And it isn't much.


2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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