Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Memphis and Detroit: The Upside

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 1:13 PM

For the first time in a long time, I hope the frequent and usually snarky comparisons of Memphis to Detroit are on target.

Detroit is on a roll in sports, business, and favorable national attention. I grew up in Michigan and still follow the Detroit newspapers and pro sports teams. The Lions are unbeaten, three years after going 0-16, and the Tigers are in the American League championship series. Ford and General Motors are making cars and money and restarting idled manufacturing plants. Detroit has a popular mayor, Dave Bing, who replaced a corrupt mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. It has the legacy of Motown and, more recently, a proud and defiant voice in Eminem.

Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes has a nice column suggesting that the improvements are based on a solid foundation and might be lasting. It will never be the Midwestern industrial titan it was 50 years ago because it has lost more than half of its population. The car business has come South. But Detroit's days as a national joke seem to be over, at least for a while.

I thought of this Monday night as I was watching and then bailing out of the first meeting of the new joint city and county school board. Commercial Appeal photographer Nikki Boertman, a Michigan native, was wearing a Detroit Tigers shirt. After watching the election of officers and a half-hour discussion of how to appoint a secretary, I put the over-and-under on this meeting at four hours. I tried texting my wife to keep up with the Tigers-Rangers score, but when it went into extra innings I took off and left the meeting to my able colleague Jackson Baker. A fan has got to do what a fan has got to do.

The Tigers lost but the Lions won on Monday Night Football. Watched that too. Then savored all the Free Press and News columns on the rags-to-riches team and town this morning.

Memphis has a ways to go, but the building blocks are in place and we seem to be on the right track. "A journey of a thousand miles" and all that. Our smaller-bore sports equivalents would be Tiger basketball, Tiger football, and Grizzlies basketball. Two out of three ain't bad. Our corporate savior, of course, is Federal Express, and the global economy will pick up eventually. Our new kid is Electrolux. Our Motown is Stax. Our Dave Bing is A C Wharton. Our Eminem is out there somewhere. Our ace in the hole is water and location. And, yes, our critics and dubious distinctions are many. But if it can happen in Detroit it can happen here. If you live here, you have to believe that.

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