I was born in Detroit in 1961. In the city. I grew up when the Red Wings were simply awful, and missed the playoffs every year, when only four teams in the NHL suffered such indignity. I was still a fan back then, and wore my red wings jersey with the non-embroidered, printed winged wheel with pride on our backyard rink in Southfield. We also played on the creek a couple of blocks from our house. In the summer, we played street hockey. I was always a Red Wing. Usually Gordie Howe, sometimes Henry Boucha, who wore a trademark sweatband on his head and the number 12 It became my number in Pee Wee. We played for hours.
I now live in Northern New York and have four kids of my own. We are still part of Hockeytown. We watch the games whenever we can on CBC Hockey Night in Canada, Versus, and NBC. It is a treat to see the red and white jerseys that never change flying around the rink, and nearly always beating their opponents. I take pride in my Red Wings victories, because I am still a Detroiter. As Kennedy said 50 years ago about Berlin, I say it about Detroit: Ich bin ein Detroiter.
When I left Detroit in 1998, it was still enjoying record auto sales and profits, and the boom times were still booming. Detroit has fallen upon hard times that are difficult to fathom. The depth and scope of its problems are breathtaking. As I see my hometown featured in news articles and photo essays that document its extremity, my heart is broken. I love this city, my home and native land, and I always will.
I love the history. Detroit has four of the oldest and most storied franchises in the annals of sports. The Tigers with their Olde English “D”. The Red Wings with the best logo in sports, and jerseys that never change because they cannot be improved. The Pistons with their classic togs and names like Mahorn and Thomas and Bing in their past rosters. And the Lions….*Cue crickets chirping* well, there was always U of M if you like football.
I love I-75, and the Lodge, and 696, and 94. I love the traffic reports on WJR. I love Detroit radio, the best on the planet! There is always something good to listen to somewhere on the radio dial. I love National Coney Island, the chili is insanely good, and I always order “the clogger” when I am in town: coney dog and chili fries. I love the mild winters (folks, I live in Northern New York – the temperature hits -30 every year here; yes Detroit has mild winters), the hot summers, and the amazing springtime when the State Bird, Mr. Robin comes back singing that all is well once again. I love the thunderstorms! Detroit has some of the best thunderstorms I have ever seen, and I am awed by the distinctly green hue of the sky before a storm event takes place. I love the frequent tornado warnings, and the all clear when they are over. Missed me again!
I love being close to Canada, having a 50/50 mix of Canadian coins to American on my dresser. I love the sight of the Ambassador bridge. I love the tunnel. I love having Tim Horton’s everywhere. I love the Thanksgiving Day parade, and the fact that the Lions are showcased every year on national TV, win or lose. I love the small church broadcasts on radio every hour of every day, the trips up north to the cottage on the weekends, Big Boy, and the chance to net smelt up in the thumb with friends. I love Frankenmuth (we were always a Zehnder’s family), Bronners, and Belle Isle. I love Paczki on Fat Tuesday, the Dream Cruise, and the fact that we all Hate Ohio State. I love Palmer Park, Ford Field, Comerica Park, The Joe, The Fist, and the Spirit of Detroit. By the way, bring the Pistons back downtown!
I remember Bob Allison on Bowling for Dollars, JP McCarthy’s sonorous voice in the mornings, and the tears I shed when he passed away, Milky the Clown, Sargent Sacto, the Ghoul (Hiya Gang, Hiya, Hiya, Hiya), the Three Stooges on Channel 50, the Electrifying Mojo, Arthur Penhallow, Mort Crim, and Mr. Belvedere (Conrad, I’m not happy). And who could ever forget Sonny Eliot, the best meteorologist in the country; “a high pressure system that is weaker than a butterfly’s burp”. I remember the 1967 Riot, the Tigers winning in ’68, Gerald Ford becoming president without a single vote, Coleman Young, and Sander’s Bumpy Cake. Vernors. Strohs. Better Made. Soupy Sales, Bob-Lo, Cedar Point once a year, Kowalski Hot Dogs, Greenfield Village, Woodward Avenue.
There is much to love about Detroit. Pray for the City and its leaders, and do what you can to brighten the corner where you are. Together, there is a better tomorrow for the “D”.