[News] Super Bowl City on the Brink
News at freedomarchives.org
Sat Feb 4 11:04:54 EST 2006
Super Bowl City on the Brink
By Dave Zirin, AlterNet
Posted on February 3, 2006, Printed on February 4, 2006
"A celebration of concentrated wealth." That's what Washington Post
sportswriter Tony Kornheiser called the National Football League's two-
week long pre-Super Bowl party binge. Every Super Bowl Sunday,
corporate executives and politicians exchange besotted, sodden
backslaps, amidst an atmosphere that would shame Jack Abramoff. Only
this year the bacchanalia -- complete with ice sculptures peeing Grey
Goose vodka and two tons of frozen lobster flown directly to the
stadium -- is happening in the United States' most impoverished,
ravaged city: Detroit.
Detroit's power elites in government and the auto industry are rolling
out the red carpet while many of its people shiver in fraying rags.
This contrast between the party atmosphere and abject urban suffering
has been so stark, so shocking and so utterly revealing that news
coverage on the city's plight has appeared in the sports pages of the
New York Times and Detroit Free Press, among others.
Only a Bush speechwriter couldn't notice the gritty backdrop while
limos clog the streets and escort services are flying in female
reinforcements like so much shellfish. Detroit -- and there is no soft
way to put this -- is a city on the edge of the abyss. Its 2005
unemployment rate was 14.1 percent, more than two and a half times the
national level. Its population has plummeted since the 1950s from over
two million to fewer than 900,000, and more than one-third of its
residents live under the poverty line, the highest rate in the nation.
In addition, the city has in the past year axed hundreds of municipal
employees, cut bus and garbage services, and boarded up nine recreation
As the Associated Press wrote, "Much of the rest of Detroit is a
landscape dotted with burned-out buildings, where liquor stores abound
but supermarkets are hard to come by, and where drugs, violence and
unemployment are everyday realities."
Ryan Anderson of Detroit, wrote me a chilling email saying, "The mood
is one of Orwellian-flavored siege: dire warnings of a 30-day police
speeding ticket bonanza, designed to raise $1 million for the
construction of a damn bridge welcoming out-of-towners to the Motor
City; the mayor, the governor, and every other notable on the radio
urging us all to 'show 'em what we got' [read: Don't further sully our
already bad reputation]; and the homeless being taken to a three-
day 'Superbowl Party,' where they'll get the actual food and shelter
they need until the big game's over, after which they'll be kicked back
out on the streets. Welcome to the Poorest City in America, sponsored
and enabled by lily-white Oakland County."
Anita Cerf, a teacher in Detroit also wrote to me, "I am appalled by
the living conditions of its residents as contrasted with the hype for
the Super Bowl and the fancying up of downtown for all the rich out-of-
town guests. I live on the East Side, which probably has one of the
highest poverty rates in the country, and I teach high school dropouts
on the Southwest Side. My students have horrific problems, many of
which stem from these economic and social conditions. It's disgusting."
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press described the shelter, called the
Detroit Rescue Mission, throwing the "three day party" to cleanse
homeless people from the city's landscape. As Albom wrote, "Lines
formed before sunset, dozens of men in dirty sweatshirts, old coats,
worn-out shoes. They had to line up in an alley, because, [the
shelter's director says], the city doesn't want lines of homeless folks
visible from the street. Even at a shelter, they have to go in the back
But these days Detroit is dealing with more than normal tough times.
While the Super Bowl is played at Ford Field, the Ford family announced
last week that it would eliminate up to 30,000 jobs and close 14 plants
in the next six years. The cuts mean it's the unemployment line, and
maybe Albom's shelter, for about a third of the 87,000 Ford workers who
are members of the United Auto Workers (UAW).
For a city that built a stable "middle class" out of union struggle and
the auto plants, this is injury added to insult. But have no fear.
NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, will be flying
sorties over Ford Field to protect everyone from terrorist missile
attacks. There is no NORAD however on the streets of Detroit to protect
people from Operation Enduring Class War otherwise known as the Super
(If instead of betting on the big game, you want to give to the Detroit
Rescue Mission, call 313-993-4700 or send a check to Detroit Rescue
Mission, 150 Stimson, Detroit, MI 48201.)
Dave Zirin is the author of "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance
in the United States." Read more of his work at Edgeofsports.com.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/31635/
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