Sunday, February 05, 2006

XL-ent! (But you know, it could've been colder)

For Super Bowl week in Detroit, city and event planners viewed the weather cautiously. There was something of a love-it/ love-it-not courtship of winter. They chose to embrace the area's cold weather, studying occasions such as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to design activities that would work well with a typical Michigan February. Yet it couldn't be too cold, otherwise visitors would be confined indoors and out-of-town media would complain that this game should be held in Miami, San Diego, and Tempe every year.

Maybe the strangest irony of this past week, however, has been that it wasn't cold enough. This has actually been the area's warmest winter in 74 years. It's difficult to stage ice skating, snow slides, dog sled races, and ice sculpture gardens with two key ingredients missing: cold temperatures and snow. Rather than a winter blast, Motown had more of a chilly spell. But last night, Mama Weather apparently decided it was time to remind everyone that it was February in Michigan, blowing frigid winds and dumping a few inches of snow through Detroit.

Hopefully, cold and snow on game day doesn't ruin the Super Bowl experience for visitors. It's been a good week for Detroit. Downtown has looked great, all of the surrounding parties and events have gone smoothly, and visitors have been pleasantly surprised. I've spent most of the week looking for hack sportswriters pecking out tired cheap shots at crime, unemployment, and fans setting cars on fire, but the media's been pretty nice to the city. Maybe they read Michael Rosenberg's "Guide to Ripping on Detroit" in last week's Detroit Free Press, and realized how lame such material was. (Jimmy Kimmel made up for his shot at Detroit two years ago by bringing his ABC late-night talk show here, and trading quips with local newscasters.)

That's not to say there haven't been unflattering portrayals of Detroit in the press during the past week. But at least those were honest attempts to examine economic and social issues plaguing a still-struggling city, rather than collections of stale jokes and insults. Most articles about Super Bowl week in Detroit have touted its thriving restaurant, bar, and club scene, and accepted the city for what it is, instead of what it isn't. Some writers have come dangerously close to blowing smoke up Detroit's collective ass. That's very nice of you, Dan Shaughnessy, but rather unnecessary, considering the aforementioned warm temperatures.

Well, there was one asshole this week: Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times. He said that he found his way around the city by following "the unemployment mailman" and "crack house attendants." Wow, Rick, that's hilarious. And original! How long did you have those jokes waiting? You, sir, are a hack. And that's disappointing, considering Telander has been a pretty good writer throughout his career. Maybe he's just perplexed that Chicago hasn't hosted a Super Bowl.

But now, it's time for the game. Isn't that supposed to be what this hype and pageantry is all about? Today feels like Christmas. Tomorrow should be a national holiday. Maybe you can buy your friend a t-shirt or hat with the most marketable logo in the history of this event. (In this cause, "your friend" means me. I want a Super Bowl XL t-shirt, and not just because that's my usual size.) Detroit got a lot of attention this week, handled it beautifully, and came out looking great. Hopefully, this is the catalyst for bigger and better things in the city. That would be much more fun and fulfilling than a football game.

You stay classy, Detroit.

(Image via AP)