An open letter to Tiger Johnny Damon's wife: Detroit's got class

Dear Mrs. Michelle Damon,

On behalf of the residents of Detroit and Michigan, as well as Tigers fans everywhere, let me welcome you and your husband, Johnny Damon, to the Motor City, America's best sports town.

According to published reports, it wasn't an easy decision for you guys to make. Word got back to Detroit that you had reservations about Johnny signing with the Tigers, on the grounds that Detroit wasn't "cosmopolitan" enough for him.

A friendly heads up, some folks around here were a little put off by your apparent assumption that Detroit is little more than a cultural backwater, full of decay, burnt out factories and fine dining at Long John Silver's.

While I appreciate the sensitivities of my fellow Detroiters (we are a proud bunch and rightfully so) I welcome your supposed comments about Detroit not being cosmopolitan enough for you and Johnny.

That's a concern that has been raised before, and something our leaders and the city as a whole need to be more sensitive to because it has a direct impact on our future.

Simply put, place matters. And your hesitations about Detroit serve as a helpful reminder of that.

Your husband just signed a one-year $8 million contact, which according to reports was a couple million more than any other teams offered. Now think about it, if a company like the Tigers can't get someone to come to Detroit or Michigan without millions of extra dollars on the table, how are companies doing business in our state going to be able to recruit the kind of talent they need to run their businesses? How are we as a state going to recruit new companies that will bring more jobs if they will not be able to recruit top-talented employees?

A few years ago we got a lesson about the importance of place and talent attraction that I'm afraid we've forgotten too quickly. In 2007, Comerica Bank, formerly the Detroit bank, moved its headquarters to Dallas. Justifying the move, the CEO of Comerica said nothing of tax rates, but stressed a need to "continue attracting and retaining talented employees" to stay globally competitive.

Rumor has it you would have preferred your husband playing in Chicago. That's a story we are too familiar with here in Michigan. In fact, several of our universities have their largest alumni chapters in the Windy City. A lot of people attribute this to a lack of jobs in the area but in fact, of the 46 percent of college graduates that are leaving the state within a year of graduation, roughly two-thirds of them are choosing where they want to live before they decide to look for a job. They choose to live in cities that offer a certain metropolitan lifestyle that they don't feel they can get in Michigan.

It's what has been referred to as the "talented dividend" and it doesn't just apply to the skill of a starting line-up, it also deals with the talented team that any company competing in a global marketplace needs in order to survive.

So as you can see, we need to develop a greater appreciation of the importance of quality of place here in Michigan. It's essential to our future that we develop the types of communities and urban centers that will attract the talented work force of the 21st century. The types of communities that even in tough times like these support and offer effective mass transit, walkability, arts and culture, an entrepreneurial spirit, density, and a certain diversity of experiences and people. Or as you might describe, a more cosmopolitan flair.

At the same time, we need to do a better job of promoting and supporting the cosmopolitan side of Detroit that is already here, which I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by. Dare I suggest it may even rival the cultural epicenter that is your hometown, Orlando.

Now being a typical Midwesterner with a welcoming demeanor, and because I would hate for you to be lonely during one of Johnny's extended West Coast road trips, I insist on giving you one of my world famous tours of the city.

Here's just a brief sample of the cosmopolitan things we could do in the D:

If culture is what you are looking for, we are the home of the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of the largest and most revered encyclopedic art museums in the world, which houses the Detroit Film Theatre, one of the finest independent cinemas in the Midwest. Or we could visit Baker's Keyboard Lounge, the oldest continuous jazz club in the country.

We are also home to the prestigious Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I bet you didn't know this tidbit (because most Detroiters don't even know it), but Detroit has more theater seating than Chicago. In fact, we have the second largest theater district in the nation, behind only Manhattan's Broadway.

For fine dining, we could visit the elegant Whitney where famous athletes like Derrick Coleman have been spotted over the years. We could follow that up with some nightlife at the trendy bars at our new casinos where we'll be certain to bump into other athletes and their entourages.

Maybe you associate cosmopolitan with a certain worldliness or international flair? Well we could visit Greektown or Mexicantown, frequent the shops and restaurants of our massive Middle Eastern community, feather bowl with Belgians, play cricket with Bangladeshis, and eat perogies with Poles ... or even rebuild Chinatown with one of Johnny's weekly paychecks.

I could keep going on and on about shopping or drinking opportunities. Fact is, there are countless things I'd love to show you (and maybe Johnny ... that's up to you if you want to invite him) in Detroit to welcome you to our city.

And hopefully, what you'd take from my tour would be an appreciation for Detroit, one of the most fascinating cities you'll ever come across. There are, without a doubt, things we need to improve upon to make our city more livable and desirable to future free agents both on the field and in the work force; however, you'll find we have a cosmopolitan foundation upon which to build.
And, regarding your concerns over Detroit not appreciating your husband, as long as he hits better than Granderson did against left-handers and the Tigers start winning, our blue-collar town will embrace him and all of his metrosexual glory.

With love from Detroit,


Sean Mann is this month's guest editorial writer for Model D. Mann is the founder of the Let's Save Michigan campaign and a drafter of the Detroit Declaration. He lives in Hubbard Farms in Southwest Detroit.

Send feedback here. Previous guest editorial writers have included Paul Krystyniak on Southwest Detroit's role in the bridge issue Andre Brumfield on right-sizing, and Khalilah Burt Gaston on the Detroit Declaration.

All Photographs © Marvin Shaouni Photography
Contact Marvin here


At the DIA

Making a splash at the Belle Isle beach

Feather bowling at the Cadieux Cafe

Cocktail hour at Atlas Bistro

Dinner at the Whitney

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