Tag Archives: Detroit

All the Tropes, All the Dog Whistles

I am not bound by the journalistic tradition of staying away from political reporting while the polls are open, and there are a couple things I’m itching to write about: Whether Molly Gray is burning every available bridge in the desperate closing days of her campaign, and how Ted Kenney’s stand on substance abuse reveals him to be unqualified for the position he seeks.

But Gray and Kenney won’t be relevant much longer, and Kenney’s statement is only the second stupidest I’ve seen from a Vermont lawyer this week.

Number one with a (metaphorical) bullet is Grand Isle State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito’s letter depicting Burlington as a lawless hellhole with gunfights and stickups around every corner and no home safe from invasion. The letter he was so proud of that he posted it on Twitter. Good God.

I was 13 years old in 1967. Two years earlier, my family had moved from the placid provinces of western Michigan to a Detroit suburb. Then the ’67 riots happened.

It was an upscale burb, but we lived only seven miles away from the Detroit border. My mom kind of freaked out, believing (as many suburbanites did) that the angry hordes would tire of burning their own neighborhoods and storm en masse up Woodward Avenue, looting and trashing their way through White Folks World.

It didn’t happen, but a remnant of those days remained: a corner of our basement where my mom loaded up the shelves with nonperishable food. You know, to keep us fed in case the supermarkets were all destroyed, deliveries stopped coming, and bands of you-know-who were terrorizing the neighborhoods.

It was serious at the time and more than a little racist, but eventually it became a reserve pantry, a useful add-on to our tiny kitchen.

I see the rotten, fearful spirit of those days in DiSabito’s letter. It’s not pretty.

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LeBron James and the pursuit of happiness

It was only yesterday that I was taking Art Woolf, Vermont’s Loudest Economist, to task for belittling the financial impact of agriculture in Vermont. And, on top of that, closing his column with a cutting reference to farmers who “do it as much for their own enjoyment as for the monetary benefits it brings them.”

Of course. And as I said in response, almost everyone makes major life choices for non-financial reasons. They do things for family, for the mind, heart, and soul. Sure, money has its place; but if all of us made our decisions solely (or primarily) for the money, this world would be a sad, desperate place. That’s why our founders invoked “the pursuit of happiness” instead of “the pursuit of maximum profit.”

And now we have LeBron James ignoring all the pundits and the ass-kissers and the main-chancers, and going home to Cleveland.


He could have gone back to South Beach, or taken his talents to Madison Square Garden, Chicago, or Los Angeles. He could have had his pick of major media markets, warm-weather destinations, and/or tax havens.

He chose Cleveland. The Mistake By The Lake. The place where the river caught fire. The place whose most famous celebrity, until now, was Drew Carey. (All due respect to Pere Ubu.) Inspiration for the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video. 

Why? The title of his as-told-to essay for Sports Illustrated says it all: “I’m coming home.” And went on to explain that life is bigger than sport:

I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio… to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

He made his decision because trying to win in Cleveland will be more rewarding than just plain winning anywhere else. Because he feels a deeper obligation to the place he grew up.

As a guy who comes from southeast Michigan, I can empathize. If I had the opportunity to do something special for Detroit, I’d pack up and move in a heartbeat.

Hardly anybody gets to make such a choice. I’m pretty sure I never will. But reading LeBron’s words made me happy inside. It affirmed my belief that, Art Woolf notwithstanding, there’s more to life than money.

Postscript. Yes, I know LeBron will be richly rewarded for playing in Cleveland. But he would have gotten just as much anywhere else — and he could have reaped far greater indirect rewards (sponsorships, endorsements, connections, post-sports opportunities) in a larger, more important city. But home was more important.