Take it from a Detroiter: You'd rather be in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl
And you thought the guys selling knives that cut through soda cans at 3 a.m. had a dubious operation?
I know Detroit. I lived in its suburbs for the first 18 years of my life. Which qualifies me as a Detroiter as much as 99.5 percent of the people making the claim. Total number of actual Detroit city residents who will be in the crowd of 65,000 at Ford Field on Super Bowl Sunday? One.
That's the thing. Nobody actually lives in Detroit. Which, come to think of it, makes it like downtown Los Angeles. Only safer.
Take that, Jimmy Kimmel!
I'm not here to rip on my hometown. Even if Detroit is no Chicago, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Madison or (this one hurts) St. Louis in the Midwest food chain. It does have Indianapolis beat, though. Much-less-maligned Indianapolis' "hopping" downtown includes that one movie theater and a Steak 'n Shake.
We topped Indianapolis! Woo-hoo!
So no piling on Detroit. Ice skating in the shadow of the Ren Cen may not hold the romance of doing pirouettes in Rockefeller Center, but ice is ice. Which brings us back to the point: You don't want to be anywhere near Detroit during Super Bowl week.
You already have tickets? Sell them to some bandwagon Steelers fan for seven grand and head to Las Vegas. That's right, Vegas. Counting the ways Vegas is the better Super Bowl destination than Detroit sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, but somebody has to do it.
Even if this somebody is likely to be met by an angry mob of former high school buddies the next time he flies into Detroit Wayne (that's right, the airport isn't really in Detroit either). And you thought Kimmel had it rough when he got yanked off the air for saying he hoped Detroit lost the NBA finals because "they're going to burn the city of Detroit down if the Pistons win"?
Still, it must be said, even at the risk of being disowned by my family. I love eating at Fishbones in Greektown. I know how underrated a Detroit Coney Dog is. I know Barry Sanders could run circles around Walter Payton. I think Eminem is a genius and Kid Rock - well, I can tolerate Kid Rock. But still. A Super Bowl in Detroit?
Do you go to Salt Lake City for Mardi Gras?
Freezing in the Game
How cold is Detroit? It makes Pittsburgh look like a tropical paradise. The forecast for Monday called for sleet and a high of 35. In other words, it's one of the good days.
Sure, Ford Field is indoors, but that doesn't account for the other 98 percent of the week when you'll be rushing in and out of your frozen car. What do they call frostbite in Detroit? Your seven-month tan.
Would you rather be recharging your batteries or your car's? In Vegas, not only will you be toasty warm camped out in a sports books like Caesars (still the best in town), Mandalay Bay, Paris or Wynn Las Vegas; you'll get toasty warm watching cocktail waitresses in short skirts bringing your $1 drinks (don't tip $1 and see how free those Vegas drinks really are).
In the days before the game you can slip onto the good golf courses a little farther out from The Strip that aren't booked up. While you're on Pete Dye's Paiute Wolf and Tom Fazio's Primm Valley Desert, think of the guy from Pittsburgh holed up in a Detroit hotel room.
And you'll still be a good five grand up on the chump. Assuming you only dropped a couple thou on the blackjack tables the night before.
"But wait," those Detroit tourism officials are no doubt crying, "there's gambling in Detroit now too." Even Chris Rock doesn't deliver lines that funny.
Technically, there is gambling at the downtown casinos, which Detroit built a few years ago so people who want to hang out in seedy, depressing gaming "palaces" wouldn't have to go across the river to Canada. But likening Detroit gambling to Vegas gambling is like comparing a Big Mac to a five-star
celebrity chef's truffles-tasting menu.
And what fun is Super Bowl gambling if there's no sports betting? Sure, you'll be able to find a friendly bookie (they don't actually live in Detroit either) to take your money on the Seahawks or Steelers. But good luck finding one who'll let you wager on how long the national anthem will last or whether Jerome Bettis will rush for more yards than the American Idol loser butchers musical notes.
Proposition bets - the more ridiculous the better - are the lifeline of any real Super Bowl experience. The more desperate the Las Vegas casino is to attract crowds, the more out there the prop bets are. That's why older, less glamorous casinos like Golden Nugget and Imperial Palace are prop-bet heaven.
Motown's traffic meltdown
How's this for a Super Bowl proposition bet: Will you stall out in traffic or get your wheel rod battered in a King Kong-sized pothole first?
Welcome to the Detroit freeways!
You'd think that because Detroit is home to the big automakers that roads would be pristine and super car-friendly. Think again. There's more reconstruction on the roads in Detroit than in Iraq, and the highways are smoother in Beirut. Potholes on The Lodge, the highway that runs straight into downtown, come in three sizes: huge, enormous and You've got to be freaking kidding me!
The lone saving grace is that chances are you'll only be driving 0.5 miles per hour. I've lived in New York, spent plenty of time in the San Francisco Bay area, experienced Boston at the heart of the evening rush. None of them have anything on Detroit traffic jams.
Every citizen in the Detroit metro area thinks it's his or her civic duty to own five cars. And somehow, they seem to get them all in use at the same time. Throw in the fact that the mid-manager auto execs bolt from the office at the crack of 3:30 p.m. every day (this couldn't have anything to do with Ford cutting 30,000 jobs, could it?) and you have one of the earliest-starting and least-convenient rush hours anywhere.
In fact, the only place with clearly worse traffic than Detroit is smog-choked L.A. In your face, Jimmy Kimmel!
So, you can spend Super Bowl week cooling your heels (literally) on a congested, pothole-filled freeway, desperately trying to find one Super Bowl party that will let you to pay to get in, or walking from endless choice to endless choice on The Strip.
With no one actually inhabiting Detroit, the best local nights spots are in towns 25 minutes (Royal Oak) and 45 minutes away (Ann Arbor). In Las Vegas, two of the hottest nightclubs will probably be down the elevator from your room.
Still waffling? You're clearly the kind of person who would pay $7,400 to attend a game that looks 10 times better on TV.
Sorry, hometown. You lose.
Count me in for the next Millen Man March (Lions in 3006!). Just please don't let the world know that Ted Nugent is one of ours.
February 2, 2006