Lately, the City of Detroit has been making headlines, and not really for the best of reasons. Being a native daughter of Detroit, I have been able to see this city at both its best and its worst during my lifetime. As a matter of fact, the lessons of Detroit have informed my journey to and through Sportuality, and I believe the joy of Detroit’s resurrection may very well be found in sport as well as sport metaphors.
In the March 17, 2013 opinion section published in both the Kalamazoo Gazette and online at www.MLive.com, Kalamazoo columnist Julie Mack wrote about such matters in a column titled “Detroit’s problems hurt everybody in Michigan.” Mack outlined the big picture issues and then mused “To be sure, Michigan’s economic driver is the auto industry, which is synonymous with Detroit, and it remains one of the greatest sport towns in the country. But in instead of a vibrant urban core such as Chicago or Manhattan, there is a city ravaged by abandoned buildings, a dysfunctional city government and school system, and a rapidly shrinking population.”
Yet, “it remains one of the greatest sport towns in the country.” Thanks, Julie, for that reminder. That is, putting the idea back in our minds the role of sport in the life of Detroit. Maybe, just maybe, sport is holding the spirit of Detroit while its mind and body are being reshaped by politicians and emergency financial managers.
Cultural visionary and radio and television pioneer John Fetzer owned the Detroit Tigers when they won the World Series in 1968, and saw their success as a means of healing the division caused by the 1967 riots. His legacy foundation which now resides in Kalamazoo, Michigan still has healing at its core: “Our mission is to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community.” And that mission rests on Fetzer’s conviction that efforts to address the world’s critical issues must go beyond political, social, and economic strategies to their psychological and spiritual roots.
The spirit of sport is strong and thriving in Detroit. Fans are true, passionate, and loyal. Home games for all Detroit’s professional sports teams sell out on a regular basis, and there is no shortage of affection by fans in the greater Detroit area, and indeed, the state of Michigan for the Lions, Tigers, Pistons, and Red Wings. Let the managers manage the economic, political, and social issues, but look to the players, coaches, and fans for the love of the game. I’m reminded of James Earl Jones’ speech in “Field of Dreams” asserting baseball’s importance throughout the years: “…it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”
Venues change. Tiger Stadium disappears. Olympia moves on. The Silverdome is re-purposed. There is new brick and mortar, but the spirit of those who play and those who cheer remains strong and healthy. Sport metaphors – the lessons of sport – must be a part of Detroit’s resurrection. Perseverence, persistence, courage, risk, strength, team, commitment, enthusiasm…let’s give a cheer for all that was once good and root for it to be so again…for the Spirit of Detroit.