Super Bowl XL: Detroit's Time to Shine

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Commentator Todd Boyd, a Detroit native, says for the Motor City, Super Bowl XL is more than just a game — it's an opportunity for the city to shine. Boyd is a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California.

ED GORDON, host:

The Super Bowl is hyped as a bigger than life event. Millions will gather to watch the game and the pomp and circumstance that surrounds it. But Commentator Todd Boyd says for Detroit, it's not the game but hosting the event that may prove the chance of a lifetime.

Prof. TODD BOYD (University of Southern California): 'The Motor City' the name itself conjures up a range of images, depending on who you are. For some, the name represents the historic seat of the American auto industry. For others, it prompts images of economic blithe and urban decay. This week, Detroit is the center of our entertainment universe as the 40th Super Bowl and all of its attended festivities come to town. For me, the name of Detroit represents home. And as we all know, home is where the heart is.

I've lived in Los Angeles for a long time now. But I am, without a doubt, from Detroit. So, this week's Super Bowl gives me the opportunity to, as they say in hip-hop, shout out my city. Once the thriving example of the industrial economy and the locus of our nation's car-dominated culture, the city has now become representative of the decline of the American automobile business.

Ford Motors recently announced another round of devastating job cuts. This kind of thing is old news in Detroit by now, though it's never pleasant to hear. In the wake of such economic shifts over the years, Detroit has lost people, a tax base and national status. The city is often stereotyped as a cold, violent wasteland; some place to stay away from as opposed to being a destination, like it is this week.

Some have argued that juxtaposition of the larger-than-life Super Bowl and this beleaguered city are a contradiction in terms. Not the least of which is the fact that Super Bowls are usually held in warm weather cities. It is February, after all. So the hawk, the harsh winter in Detroit, will be out in full effect.

One of the things underlying all of these images of Detroit is the issue of race. Detroit has long been a predominantly black city. The image of Detroit as an urban war zone has to do with the racial stereotypes that grew out of the notorious '67 riots. People in the suburbs don't even say that they are from Detroit anymore. They simply say that they're from Michigan. It's as though they don't want to be guilty by association. But the Super Bowl is not coming to the suburbs. It's coming to downtown Detroit. That's right. Detroit is on the tip of everybody's tongue this week.

The hype of the Super Bowl won't alleviate Detroit's woes; but all of this Super Bowl talk is bringing much-needed attention to the city, not to mention money, and a massive jolt of positive energy to boot. Streets have been cleaned up. Storefronts renovated and new restaurants and bars have opened up; all in anticipation of the nation's biggest party. It's too bad it took the Super Bowl before all of this happened. But when you're from Detroit, you take what you can get.

Detroit has been down many times before, but never out. Detroit bends, but it never breaks. It is this resilience, this experience at weathering hard times, that makes Detroit what it is today: a bedrock of this nation, in spite of its many shortcomings. So I welcome all the hype, pomp, circumstance and exposure that the Super Bowl brings. Detroit is back in vogue, at least this week anyway.

As fleeting as the moment will be, I don't want it to pass without the city getting its due. Detroit, stand up. It's your time to shine.

(Soundbite of music)

GORDON: Todd Boyd, also known as the Notorious Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Southern California.

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