Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Detroit

A series of Google searches illustrates life in Seattle these days. Only 6 results for “Seahawks frenzy” and 28 for “Seahawks hysteria.” “Seahawks mania” brings back 738 results. The one that really stands out brings back 12,400 hits: “Seahawks fever.”

In normal times, few U.S. cities exhibit more reserve and decorum than Seattle, the polite city. The last time I saw a city go this crazy was Mardi Gras in New Orleans. That doesn’t really count; they do it every year, and the crazy people are actually tourists from Duluth or Peoria or Schenectady.

National columnists have had a field day making fun of Seattle, saying they’d rather root for steelworkers than barristas and Microsoft geeks. Superbowl XL is being pitched as “brains vs. brawn,” and we are not being portrayed sympathetically.

Pittsburgh is portrayed as a gritty, hard-working town full of steelworkers, manual laborers, and blue collar workers. Nice, average folks. Seattle, on the other hand, is supposed to be a bunch of snobby, brainy Microsoft millionaires.

Not true! We do have our share of latté drinkers, but Pittsburgh has at least 20 Starbucks stores. Seattle has blue-collar workers, with a steel mill right inside the city limits. I used to ride the bus by it every day, and I loved getting stuck in traffic, so I could watch the heavy equipment and the red-hot metal rolling down the line.

What about those nice, hard-working Pittsburgh folks? Their murder rate is more than three times that of Seattle. Robbery and assault rates are almost twice as high. Our stealthy criminals have much higher rates of burglary and theft, crimes that require thought and planning instead of brawn.

Take away the question of reputation, and what it comes down is regional pride. Pittsburgh itself is smaller than Seattle, but there are many, many more people who live within a thousand miles. Why would they root for the Seahawks, unless they think our uniforms are cool and they once flew out to see the fish tossed at the Pike Place market?

The third city in this equation, of course, is Detroit, where the Superbowl will be played. Detroit lives up to its reputation as a dangerous city, with a murder rate that’s ten times higher than Seattle’s. When I was in college, I took a road trip through Detroit, and I remember being terrified. We locked all the doors, but we were really nervous at stoplights. The city was much more pleasant when viewed from a distance, at an overlook on the Canadian side, protected by Mounties.

This year, millions of dollars will pour into Detroit for the Superbowl, many of them brought by ecstatic Seattlites. Still, the one-day event doesn’t do much to address the city’s staggering unemployment rate, which some say is as high as 14%, and the grueling poverty in the inner-city. Officials think the game is a huge boost, but in the burned-out blocks, almost nothing will trickle down.

One Detroit man, Raymond Parker, was interviewed for an Associated Press story, saying he wouldn’t be joining in the Superbowl revelry.” We, as people who don’t have that kind of money, shouldn’t even be downtown,” he said.

That’s enough to give pause, even to a feverish Seahawk fan.