It's a good time to be a football fan in Michigan. Their biggest college team just won a National Championship this year for the first time since 1997 and the Lions are one win away from the Super Bowl after winning two playoff home games for the first time in over three decades. The success of the Lions in particular has a lot of the national spotlight on the city of Detroit, which, so far, has been met with a mixed bag of emotions from those that live there. On one hand, the Lions' success has been a long time coming, and the things that Dan Campbell and company are doing deserve to be celebrated within the context of the Lions' last three or four decades. On the other, their success has plenty of pundits – including, recently, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith – parroting the same, out-of-touch narratives that have been attached to Detroit for far too long.
"Detroit – phenomenal fanbase. Great city. Been through a lot," he said. "The downtown area? Big time. The stadium? Big time. But you go to other outskirts of the Detroit area, and it looks like a damn desert town. I mean, I'm sitting here wondering how the hell people are making money. It looks like a desert town. I'm looking at it and I'm like, 'what the hell is going on in this city?' And then you see the Detroit Lions and sort of reviving – they were on a respirator for crying out loud, just as a city. And what this franchise has done for that cit and state? You've got to go there to see what I'm talking about. Because when you get away from the downtown area, when you get away from the stadium, and you're just driving around? It's different, man. It's different. And so to know and see the kind of impact this is having? ... Right now, seeing what Detroit was, and what it has been revived into? Knowing that the Lions have everything to do with that? It extends beyond football, and it extends beyond the individual."
In Smith's defense, it does seem like he's trying to be complimentary. The Lions are one of the better, if not best, feel-good stories left across all four teams heading into Championship Weekend, but like Detroit Free Press writer Darren A. Nichols points out in a column about Smith's comments, Detroit residents are tired of hearing the same speech about how bad things got. And judging by the Twitter reactions to the clip, most people agree.
To Smith's – or the producer that was in charge of monitoring First Take's mentions – credit, he came back and worked to clarify the point that he was trying to make:
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