As regular readers of this blog know, I am a fan of a certain Boston baseball team. Today, though, I am a fan of the Detroit Tigers, who are playing a tiebreaker against the Minnesota
Two Ply Kleenex Box Wavers Twins later this afternoon.
I have no particular grudge against the Twins (anymore), nor do I have a strong affinity for the Tigers. But today I am in their corner, hoping they win and advance to the playoffs, where they would be further encouraged to stomp all over the New York Yankees. But not even my animosity toward the Yankees is behind this.
It's something more than just baseball. I want the Tigers in the playoffs because I have a strange sympathy for the city of Detroit.
I have only been to Detroit twice in my life, more than 20 years ago, and I can only count those as visits if one is allowed to count "driving through the place" as a visit. So it's not like I know the place well, despite the fact that Jimmy Hoffa and I had unusual and uninvestigated ties to one another. No one I know even lives there, although I do have a few relatives in other areas of Michigan.
Detroit, like many other American cities, is in a horrible decline. A once-great, bustling, productive city has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. The American automobile industry, the backbone of the city's economy, is in tatters. The housing market collapse has hit Detroit extremely hard: in December 2008, the city's median home sale price was $7,500. That's seven thousand five hundred. The Detroit Board of Realtors reported that the average home price in January 2009 (one month later) was only $13,638.
In August 2009, the US unemployment rate was 9.7%. Michigan's rate was 15.2%. Detroit's was 17.3%. (So says the Michigan state government.) And those are seasonally adjusted rates - the raw unemployment rate in Detroit was closer to 28% during the summer.
- Detroit's overall crime rate was more than twice the national average.
- Detroit's violent crime rate was more than four times the national average.
- Detroit's murder rate was more than six times the national average, and was higher than the murder rates in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland and Boston.
- Burglaries in Detroit occurred at a rate more than three times the national average.
- The rate of motor vehicle thefts in Detroit was more than five times the national average.
The good news is that the homicide rate has shown some decline, dropping in 2008 to the lowest level in many years. But due to a continued exodus from the city, even this good news prompted mayoral candidate Stanley Christmas to say, "I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but there just isn’t anyone left to kill."
Speaking of mayoral candidates, Detroit has recently had a little trouble with its mayor, a Mr. Kilpatrick, who appears to have got carried away with the trappings of his office.
So overall, one might describe Detroit as a place to avoid. While I don't plan to travel there any time soon myself, I have a soft spot for the place. This once-wonderful and exciting city is in the dumper, with few prospects for or reasonable expectations of improvement. It makes no good sense that cities should be in such bad shape, but they are, and Detroit is among the worst.
That's why I'm rooting for the Tigers today.
Not just because the hanky-waving Twins fans are a bunch of wienies, and because the Metrodome sucks. The people of Detroit need something to cheer for, even if it's only for a few more days. So go get 'em, Rick Porcello and teammates. Chew these guys up in Minnesota, and then crush and humiliate the Yankees.
Do it for the great city of Detroit.