Sunday, November 29, 2009

100 Miles an Hour on a Dead End Road...

...I need a little Detroit in my soul.

You know what? I love Detroit. Detroit is one of my favorite cities, I love several things about it. I love it's backbone, I love it's faded excellence, and I love the role it played in building this country. Detroit is a real city, a city with a soul and although all the naked eye can see of Detroit is the torn, battered skin of a wounded city, there's much more to it than that. It's easy to take a dig at the Motor City, and many people do, but it's not really fair.

Over the last two weeks all you've had to do is pick up a sport page or view a sports blog from any nouveau riche city in America and see various writers having a laugh at Detroit's expense due to the sale of the one-time home of the city's hapless NFL team, the Pontiac Silverdome. It's true, houses in many cities sell for much more than that, but does it really matter? The stadium was costing a financially pummeled city -- and many cities are in that position -- over $1m per year in up-keep, without any use the city had no choice but to get shot of the place, and they did. Now, if the new owner's plans come to fruition, the stadium will be a benefit to the city's tax coffers. Though they should've gotten much, much more for the land alone, the mere existence of the stadium as a property of Pontiac was going to break the city.

The owner, Greek-Canadian real estate magnate Andreas Apostolopoulos, wants to bring a soccer team to the Silverdome, possibly an MLS team, possibly not, but I think putting a team in Detroit, or even Pontiac, is a good idea. A lot of people will scoff at that, and say Detroit is dead and putting a team there would do damage to any league that dared try it, but they'd be wrong. Detroit has a great history of supporting sports teams, even in hard times. I mean, the Lions still draw fans. Yes, they get blacked out occasionally, but the fact that the fans still show up for what is at most, an impotent team, is a testament to their dedication. Would that translate over to soccer? Maybe, maybe not. But you're more likely to find concrete support in a city like Detroit than you are in a city with a transient population that could well up-sticks in two years and be on the road to the next hot spot.

I hope a team in the new NASL ends up in Detroit, possibly even a revival of the Express. It doesn't look like Detroit is even on the radar for MLS, and the professional structure of the USL appears to be falling apart at the seems, so NASL is a good option for what is becoming a mid-sized city. The Silverdome needs some work before a professional team can move in, let's face it, the stadium has been around the block and it looks like the best days of the Silverdome are in the past, but it still has potential following a touch-up.

I realize that people will disagree, and some will inevitably bash Detroit. That's a given, and is somewhat understandable, it's bleak up in Detroit and with the noteworthy exception of Ford -- who, to their credit, seem to be putting their ship right -- the future of Detroit's motor industry looks bad, but Detroit is always going to be there, and it will always have a place in American culture. It didn't just spring up over night, and it won't go away in a day. There's a chance Detroit could turn it around, and if it does, Detroit is a city any American sports league should be in.

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