by | Dec 7, 2005 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

When it comes to music, there are few cities with a prouder tradition than New Orleans. From Fats Domino to Wynton Marsalis, from jazz to zydeco, it would take days to parade all the Crescent City talent.

Yet when the Super Bowl visited New Orleans three years ago, do you know who did the halftime show?


From Ireland.

We might keep that in mind as we complain that Detroit is getting “dissed” by the Super Bowl halftime show. Yes, the Rolling Stones were selected to headline. Yes, they’re from England. And no, that is not an insult.

In fact, Detroit ought to be proud. The Rolling Stones are one of the biggest acts in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and they are bound to attract a sizable viewing audience.

Which is all this was ever about. An audience. An international TV audience. Not celebrating the host. When it comes to Super Bowl XL – on this halftime issue and many issues to come – we need to understand something:

Detroit is the location.

It is not the reason.

How a Super Bowl really works

Hey, I am all for civic pride. I take – and hope to display – plenty of it with this Super Bowl. But there is pride and there is prejudice. And the folks who, in this halftime flap, were beating the drums of Detroit disrespect, claiming the NFL is ignoring us or slighting us, are showing a prejudice that makes us look childish.

Sure, it’s fashionable to say Detroit is being bashed. It gets the phones ringing. It gets the letters pouring in.

It just isn’t true.

Some people aren’t clear about what a Super Bowl is. Having been to the past 21 straight, perhaps I can offer some insight.

The Super Bowl is an international convention that, once a year, for one gaudy week, blows into one lucky city, swirling cash and creating a buzz. It comes with its own schedules, its own traditions, its own personnel and its own idea of entertainment.

It is not a traveling Chamber of Commerce promotion. It is not there to make a city look good. The city hosts. It provides infrastructure. And it catches reflected rays from the spotlight.

But it is not the spotlight itself. That belongs to the game. That belongs to the players. That belongs to the NFL. To act as if Detroit should be the featured focus of the Super Bowl is like having a birthday bash at a restaurant and learning the chef wants to blow out the candles.

Where are all our figure skaters?

“What about Motown music?” people moan. “What about Eminem? What about Madonna?”

What about them? The Super Bowl halftime show is not a birthright. Last year it was held in Jacksonville. The band Limp Bizkit is from Jacksonville. So is Yellowcard. Who did Jacksonville get for halftime?

Paul McCartney, from Liverpool, England.

Or how about this? In 1992, Minneapolis got its first Super Bowl. Minneapolis, home of Prince. But who did the halftime there? Gloria Estefan, from hot-weather Miami, and two figure skaters, Dorothy Hamill, from Connecticut, and Brian Boitano, from California.

Or how about this? In 1998, the big game was in San Diego. Southern California? Got to be the Beach Boys, right? Wrong.

Try Motown.

That’s right. Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Temptations all got a stage at halftime. The program was actually called “A Salute to Motown’s 40th Anniversary.”

In San Diego?

This means Detroit music has been featured more recently at Super Bowl halftimes than the Rolling Stones, who have never done one. Yet did we sympathize in 1999 that San Diego didn’t get to use its own musicians? Or did we see “Motown” and say, “Yeah! Good for us!”

I write this now, because this halftime flap is just the start. There will be more Super Bowl misconceptions that will lead to more Super Bowl letdowns. So perhaps we should adjust our expectations now.

The event may be great, but it will not repair our roads, save our economy or fix our politics. People will not suddenly decide to move here.

The best we can hope for is to be good hosts, get explored by new visitors and create a positive memory in the minds of people who might have thought otherwise.

You don’t do that by carping about the music at their party, during their event, on their night.

By the way, Motown left Detroit, Eminem would never clean up enough for network TV, and Madonna lives in England and speaks with a faux British accent.

It’s good to be proud. But if we want to be considered a world-class city, we have to stop acting petty and behave like one.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. He will sign copies of “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 500 S. Main, in Royal Oak.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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