Detroit Looks to Show New Image for Super Bowl

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Detroit has the reputation of being a run-down town — it's still the poorest major city in the United States — so its residents are thrilled to host the Super Bowl this weekend and show a different picture of their town. Alex Chadwick speaks with Luke Burbank, on location in Detroit, about the mood in the Motor City.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In sports. It's going to be an extra large Super Bowl this weekend. Super Bowl XL, Super Bowl 40 coming in Detroit; and it's a big time for that city. NPR's Luke Burbank joins us from just outside Ford Field. That's the site of the game.

Luke, some people have complained about putting the game in Detroit, 'cause it's not glamorous enough. What's Detroit doing to look good?

BURBANK: Well, Alex, from where I stand I'll tell you Ford Field is a pretty beautiful facility, here. It's part of a big redevelopment effort that Detroit has put into their downtown. They spent something like a billion dollars trying to get this area spruced up. And a lot of long time Detroiters who I've been speaking to this week say that they have not seen downtown Detroit look better in a long time.

Of course, that's not enough to impress the 3,000 or so reporters who have descended on this place. Most of them are, you know, these sort of pasty middle-aged guys who spend most of their time in a press box. And the Super Bowl, because it's usually in Florida or California or Arizona, is the one time these guys can sort of reliably get some sun and play some golf, so they're not excited to be here. But, of course, criticizing the host city is kind of a pastime. Last year it was in Jacksonville.

All the reporters said, Jacksonville was not south enough in Florida. So, they always find something to nitpick about. The one thing everyone can agree on is it's better than the last time they had the Super Bowl here in Detroit; that was in 1982, and it was freezing cold temperatures, and the traffic was so poorly thought out that one of the teams had to actually stop their bus, and the players had to get out and walk the last six blocks to the stadium on game day, because they couldn't get to the field. So, it's looking better than that.

CHADWICK: The other thing is, Detroit is fairly far south in Michigan, so there's that.

BURBANK: Well, absolutely, and something I've been pointing out to a lot of people.

CHADWICK: The week leading up to the Super Bowl, it's famous for all the parties and good times. How are you doing?

BURBANK: I'm doing okay so far. The real fireworks are supposed to start tonight, and then go through the weekend. P. Diddy is throwing a party here this weekend, and the tickets range from anywhere from $100 to, ready Alex, $28,000 to get into this party. I don't know what $28,000 gets you. I mean, P. Diddy I think will sing you happy birthday personally for that, and bring you a cake or something.

CHADWICK: Well listen, it is going to be a big weekend. You know, they got The Rolling Stones playing for the halftime show, that's got to be pretty good. What are Detroit residents saying about this?

BURBANK: They are excited. I mean, there are hundreds of volunteers who have turned out. They're just helping out anywhere you turn, wearing these Super Bowl jackets that they've been given by the NFL. You know, this is a city obviously, that has a sort of long history of having not such a great reputation, so anything that puts Detroit in the spotlight gets them excited across the board.

CHADWICK: All right. There is, actually, going to be a game on Sunday. Kind of symbolically interesting isn't it? You've got this old economy city, Pittsburgh, playing the new economy city, Seattle. They're meeting in Detroit, very much an old economy city. So, how does it feel?

BURBANK: Well, definitely, this feels like Pittsburgh's town; it's only five hours away. And like you said, there are a lot of similarities between Detroit and Pittsburgh. The Steelers are the heavy favorite. They had to take a much tougher road to get to the Super Bowl; they had to win at Denver, at Indianapolis, at Cincinnati. The Seahawks got to play their games at home, and are seen as coming out of an easier division, the NFC.

So, the favorite is Pittsburgh, although there have been some rumblings here among some of the sport's writers I've talked to that Seattle might be better than people think. So, they're saying take Seattle and the points if you're gonna be in Vegas. I don't even know what that means, but that's what they tell me to do.

CHADWICK: I'll just note for our listeners in Seattle that reporter Luke Burbank used to live there.

Luke, thank you.

BURBANK: Sure, Alex.

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