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Like The Lions, Detroit Finally Has A Winning Season

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After many awful seasons this year's Detroit Lions are — can you believe it — undefeated. To add to the glory, each of the Detroit car makers is showing signs of health with increased quality and profitability. It's long-awaited good news for a city that's been through bad times.

There's no denying that Detroit has had an image problem for quite a while. A whole cottage industry has sprung up over the years with many people from all walks trying to help turn that image around.

Charlie Wollborg is kind of a professional cheerleader for the Detroit region. He runs a marketing firm called Curve Detroit. He likes to tell this story from Detroit's past:

"At the turn of the century, our chief export had fallen out of vogue, and everybody wrote Detroit off as, you know, 'They're done.' But you know, we moved out of the fur trade," he laughs.

Wollborg says Detroit has been reinventing itself for centuries. His sees his beloved Detroit Lions as tied up with the new story of Detroit, because everybody pretty much wrote them off as a team that was "meh."

"When you listen to them in the locker room, they know that they are a good team," Wollborg says. "They know they're better together. And you look at the city, and the city's been kind of written off. But if you talk to the young entrepreneurs here, there's that sense of optimism – they don't believe the bad PR about Detroit.

There are a lot of people who don't believe all the bad PR. Brandon Walley is an artist and activist who's trying help revive the city. As a matter of fact, he's building a statue of the science fiction cyborg Robocop for Detroit. The city needs every positive, he says.

"I think this city, you know, overall it needs so much that yeah, a winning team – anything that's going to bring people from the suburbs down to Detroit, even if they're going to the game, is a plus," he says.

Detroit residents Jeff Smith and his wife Melita Alston Smith are Tigers fans.

"We have good ball players," Jeff says, standing outside one of Detroit's hip new barbecue restaurants. "That's what it is, good ball players. It's not about turning the city around, it's about some really good ball playing."

Jeff says everybody knows the problems of Detroit — unemployment, flight of the middle class — but right now he's just rooting for a repeat of the 1984 Tigers' World Series win.

But, his wife says, "That's how Detroit is going to be regardless of how the sports teams are performing."

The Smiths say they'll definitely take a win. After all, you've got to root for Detroit. And the Tigers and Lions, too.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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