Dateline - Detroit
True story - a woman sat down next to me at the bar earlier this week and said to the man on the other side of her (who is the person she really MEANT to join) " Hey, I got the job with Sports Illustrated." She was happy, the guy was happy, ordering drinks, hug, hug, and I said to her without invitation, "Congratulations, make an effort not to go over to the dark side." I smartly avoided making any signs of the cross with my fingers, arms, or available silverware. "What?" she said, and then "You know, they really are kind of anti Detroit, aren't they?" Her previous employer was Popular Mechanics, and she still knew…
They are the supermodels like Naomi, Cindy and Giselle. The superstars like MJ and Magic and Barry. They don't need their whole name to be identified, and they dominate that thing they do. ESPN and SI are parts of the culture and mean to stay that way. But if you live in Detroit they stand for Everybody's Sports News but ours, and Sports In every city but Detroit. To an extent I'd say that they use the wasteland theorem, which postulates that everyone would be better off if there was a bridge from New York to LA so nobody would have to soil their feet on the trip in between. Maybe an easy off easy on gas stop in Chicago. I believe that everyone in LA is mutated from a New Yorker. As the novelist Saul Bellow sort of wrote - it's as though a giant picked up the country by the East coast and shook it like a rug. Everything not tied down went to the West coast. Detroiter just kind of woke up one day and here we were. But darn it, HERE we ARE.
We have a seminal team in all four "major" sports, two Big Ten schools within commuting distance and colleges representing three other near major conferences. We are the hottest spot in the country for amateur hockey. We have our own NASCAR stop, a Grand Prix and a marathon. The Super Bowl and the MLB All Star game are here this year. So why do we have to have a riot to get noticed by national sports media? Dr. Z, you have to come here anyway, wouldn't it be easier to at least pretend to like us? HEy, Sports are Played iN Detroit big time.
And I know a little about this. I watch all three ESPN channels on TV. I listen to their radio station. I follow their web site. I am one of those forlorn few who is an "insider". Like George Carlin's settlers who battled across the country through pestilence and peyote and then were upset that the Pacific made them stop - so they built docks - "insider" is for those who watch all three ESPN stations, listen to their radio shows, subscribe to their magazine and still can't get enough. So they pay more to get just a little deeper into their web site. After you've trekked into these bowels of ESPN, you find that, after listing your favorite teams, they will give you whatever they find that pertains to them. This is great except that what you quickly learn is that the only information you get, if you're in Detroit, is a bunch of links to the local papers - the very publications you found inadequate to begin with and the reason this whole quest began. And if your teams are Detroit teams that is all you'll get since Every Single Page has Nothing you actually want.
Even when they do talk about us it's not very satisfying. The Red Wings get accused of just checkbook surfing to the top and of being somehow disloyal because of the number of European players they use. You don't hear that complaint in the NBA. Ask the Yankees about spending your way to victory. Watch the transactions. The Cowboys sign Marco Rivera, an offensive guard, and we look at a picture of the Tuna smiling off the ESPN site for a month. The Lions sign Rick DeMulling, an offensive guard who has been a three year starter on the best offensive team in the NFL, and Marcus Pollard, an almost-star tight end from the same team, and we get a link to the Detroit Free Press. And the stars fade in and out according to their proximity to Detroit. Rasheed Wallace was an absolute marquee player in Portland (Portland for crying out loud!) but is another no name on a team with no stars on the NBA champion Pistons. Kirk Gibson played his entire career here, winning a world series, and didn't make much of a fuss to SI until he went to the Dodgers. You could almost use Jeff Garcia as a sort of free agency Geiger counter. When he moved toward Denver and Seattle, even Chicago, ESPN was right on top of it. If he had another conversation with the Lions, he went to the back pages. I know that the Jets could sign Phil Yokel and be the lead story for a week, and I made up Phil Yokel.
And it's not like we don't have clout. The owners of three NBA teams (Pistons, Orlando and Cleveland) are here. Three NHL owners are here - Mike Illitch, Pete Karamanos and Bill Davidson. Two NFL owners are Detroiters - William Clay Ford and Ralph Wilson. Think about this in terms of advertising - Ford Motor, Little Caesars, Guardian Industries, Quicken Loans, Compuware, Amway, and the mixing bowl of Wilson's stuff. If you were a magazine that existed on advertising income, would you mess with these guys? WE Spend Piles oN ads!
So, while I appreciate that if you type ESPN Detroit into google, you get a million responses, I hate that if you type ESPN New York you get four million. They play the same games as us. In the last ESPN magazine I can find around the house there is, amazingly, two articles that have something to do with Detroit - an interview with Rip Hamilton and a story about the amazing marketing done by the Pistons. Of course, Hamilton talks mostly about MJ, and marketing is, well, marketing. The only thing we get in the new SI is in the schedule section. Pretty hard for them to deny that we play some games soon in something. But darn it, the Lions signed four free agents the last two weeks, the Tigers are the talk of spring and the Pistons play the Spurs this weekend. Oakland and Michigan State were in the NCAA tournament, isn't there SOMETHING you could say about us? It's not like we want you to rewrite your "twenty greatest players" or "twenty greatest teams" or "twenty greatest anything" to try and say we might have done something right in the last seventy-five years. It's just that writing an article called "Biggest Free Agent Busts of All Time" and then naming the Lions all time leader in passing yards number one is a little like salt in the wound.
So, ESPN and SI, recognize that even people in a non-glamorous spot like Detroit get a little indignant when we see two Ford Motor ads and a General Motors ad in each issue of both publications, but no mention of us in the content. You may have read that Detroit is getting smaller, but it's not really. We're just more spread out than before. There are millions of us here and we have to read, watch, listen to and access something for sports news. Couldn't you give us a reason to hang with the popular kids - the ones that can just go by their initials?
John posts under the alias Shivas in THE DEN -- the official LionsFans.com message board. Chat with other Lions fans now!