Archive for February 7, 2021

By John Ruberry

I hit the road last week–to a regular stop for me–Detroit–my fourth visit there. Coincidentally last Monday, when I arrived, was the first day that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lifting of Michigan’s ban on indoor dining, replaced by low-capacity dining, took effect.

Yet central Detroit was still nearly void of people last week.

During my first visit, in 2015, while I noticed a fair amount of bustle on the streets and sidewalks downtown, I also walked past empty skyscrapers. On my next trip, two years later, most of those same buildings were occupied or being rehabbed. And the city’s light rail line, the QLine, an expensive and impressive showpiece, had just opened. As I noted at the time on my own blog, these trolley cars ironically echo Detroit’s monorail, the People Mover, the 1980s Stalinist boondoggle championed by Coleman Young, the five-term mayor of Detroit who may have been a closet communist. Both the QLine and the People Mover serve only the downtown area. They look stunning though.

Also in 2017 Little Caesars Arena opened in the adjacent Midown part of the city. It brought the Detroit’s NBA team, the Pistons, back to the city for the first time in nearly four decades. The NHL team, the Red Wings, made the short jump from downtown’s Joe Louis Arena to Little Caesars too. Since the early 2000s the NFL entry, the Lions, and its MLB team, the Tigers, have been playing downtown. Which made the many gamedays in central Detroit a magnet for hungry and thirsty people with fat wallets. Now the teams play in front of no fans.

Quicken Loans has been based in Detroit since 2009 and is now America’s largest mortgage lender. While Detroit is still the Motor City it is the Mortgage City now too.

But meanwhile in the neighborhoods the decline of Detroit continued. For urban explorers like myself, that is, people who photograph or shoot videos of abandoned homes, factories, offices, churches—am I leaving anything out?–oh yeah, schools, there is no shortage of material to work with.

Things looked even better for Detroit when I spent a day there in 2019.

Then COVID-19 hit. Whitmer’s statewide lockdowns have been among the nation’s most restrictive. As I witnessed in Chicago last year, the streets were also eerily empty in Detroit in 2020 according to media reports, such as this one from AP in October:

Downtown Detroit was returning to its roots as a vibrant city center, motoring away from its past as the model of urban ruin. 

Then the pandemic showed up, emptying once-bustling streets and forcing many office workers to flee to their suburban homes.

And if you work for Quicken and its Rocket Mortgage wing, many of your job responsibilities, perhaps all of them, can be done from a suburban home, as Quicken performs most of its transactions online.

But lets say you need to come downtown for your annual review. What else is there to do? On Day 1 of the partial-lifting of the indoor dining lockdown, it looked to me that about half of the restaurants there were still closed. Most retail outlets were shuttered. And all of the shops and eateries were closed at the Little Caesars Arena, where I hoped to buy a hockey souvenir for Mrs. Marathon Pundit. But of course there is always Amazon to fall back on for that. Oh, Kid Rock’s Made In Detroit restaurant at Little Caesars closed last spring, although that departure had nothing to do with COVID.

So in downtown Detroit last week you still had to struggle to find a place to eat. Yes, there were a few of those ludicrous tents outside some eateries–by the way temperatures were in the 30s all last week during our visit.

Story continues below photograph.

Diners last Monday in downtown Detroit

Part of the allure of big-city centers has been the array of shopping and cultural choices offfered. That’s mostly gone now in Detroit. Sure, New York, Chicago and other large cities are facing similar challenges under COVID lockdowns, but many of their eateries and shops have been operating for decades. And yes, such businesses usually have narrow profit margins but being a going concern for many years means there will be an established customer base that might remember you a few years later. What if you are a Detroit boutique that has been open only for a couple of years?

The QLine and the People Mover haven’t run since last spring. There aren’t a lot of people in downtown Detroit to well, move. Buses are still running, however.

Back to those cultural choices: The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of America’s premier art museums. I wanted to attend Wednesday but the DIA was sold out that day. I was able to purchase tickets, online of course, for myself and my traveling companion the following day for one of the available time slots. And do you know what? Outside of employees there couldn’t have been more than 50 people inside the sprawling museum when we were there. I’m confident that Wednesday’s “sold out” day wasn’t much different. On the positive side I was able to stand and stare in front of the DIA’s four Vincent van Gogh paintings as long as I wished–there was no one to push me aside and tell me, “You’re done, now it’s my turn.” Yes, we were forced to wear masks and we had our temperature taken at the museum’s entrance. Precautions were taken.

My companion visited Dearborn’s Henry Ford museum on Tuesday–a fabulous place that I experiended in 2015–and it was nearly empty too, I was told. 

The Motown Musuem in New Center remains closed, it re-opens February 18. Man, oh man, we really wanted to see that place.

Will COVID-19 and Michigan’s lockdowns kill Detroit’s revival?

Many people have their life savings and their mortages invested in small businesses that have been closed for months in Detroit and other large cities.

The dominos will start falling.  Which is something most Detroiters know a lot about.

Meanwhile in Florida, life and business continues, with masks, but without the lockdowns. The Florida COVID death rate is lower than that of Michigan.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Today is Superbowl sunday and the day if full of irony

Under normal circumstance the NFL would be as proud & as happy as it could be. Not only has it alone among US major sports played a full season intact & largely on time during the COVID crisis, which is a solid accomplishment, but it is ending the season with the best possible matchup you can think of in terms of a draw featuring not only a great narrative but the greatest player of all time vs the best current QB in the league. Brady vs Mahomes, the Past vs the Future, the ageless wonder vs the young stud. The slow steady methodical tortoise vs the speedy, explosive and irrepressible hare. It’s the best matchup at QB since Montana vs Marino in Superbowl 19.

Instead it finds itself despite so many stuck at home with ratings down for the season, advertisers fleeing their signature event over the prospect of being associated with either side of the culture war (Cripes even Budweiser gave it a miss) , lower ad rates for the ones who stayed and the prospect of the salary cap for the teams dropping for next year.

Given the size of the NFL getting woke isn’t going to make them broke but has managed to stop it’s growth and will cost the league and it’s player much in terms of revenue for a long time to come.

As for the game itself the only reason I’m interested because I’m a big Tom Brady fan and have been for years. I suspect a lot of others who would normally skip the new woke NFL’s showcase game will watch because to them Brady is a surrogate for Donald Trump and in the new police state it’s the only safe way to cheer him with fear.

I must confess that while I would like #TomBrady to win the superbowl today given the two teams and the matchup this is as close to a “pickem” game as you get. I would not be shocked if either team won nor would I be surprised if these same two teams & QB’s meet for a rematch next year. Tis could become the NFL’s Bird vs Magic for the next three years.

I’m working so I can’t watch the game but if you’re in this position as well never fear. Given the Biden administration’s success in killing US jobs in just a few weeks I’ll not be surprised after a year of the Biden Administration’s war on the American worker I suddenly find myself free next year to watch the rematch along with millions of other Americans who will be no longer burdened with the responsibility of a job.

Unexpectedly of course

Here is the state of the table top baseball leagues I run. All leagues are 162 game seasons with one 3 game series scheduled per week If you click on a team link you can see their stats, injuries, leaders etc.

League one All Futility League (all teams lost 96 + games) 2nd Season. Scheduled series time Thursday Mornings.

Teams AL Division AWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1970 Milwaukee Brewers3729.561—–No
1970 Chicago White Sox3432.5153No
2002 Tampa Bay Devil Rays2739.40910Yes
2003 Detroit Tigers2439.38111 1/2No
Teams AL Division BWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1970 Kansas City Royals3828.576—–No
2012 Minnesota Twins3630.5452No
2008 Seattle Mariners3630.5452Yes
1973 Texas Rangers2739.40911No
Teams AL Division CWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2009 Cleveland Indians3432.515—–No
2019 Baltimore Orioles3432.515—-No
1957 Washington Senators3333.5001No
1967 Kansas City A’s2835.4444 1/2No
Teams NL Division AWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1998 Montreal Expos4320.683—–No
2009 Washington Nationals3531.5309 1/2Yes
2001 Pittsburgh Pirates 3432.51510 1/2Yes
1998 Florida Marlins2835.44415Yes
Teams NL Division BWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2015 Atlanta Braves3333.500—– No
2017 San Francisco Giants3135.4702No
2012 Houston Astros2937.4394Yes
2000 Philadelphia Phillies2738.4096Yes
Teams NL Division CWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1982 Cincinnati Reds3726.587—-No
1993 New York Mets3528.5562No
1974 Chicago Cubs3234.4856 1/2No
1993 San Diego Padres3135.4707 1/2Yes

The SD Jones memorial .500 teams league is a league (all teams were no better than 2 games over .500 or no worse than 2 games under) Initial season . Games are scheduled for Tuesdays. AM

Note: Cincinnati has been taken in the league since the last update and has moved to 1st place in their division

Teams AL EastWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1993 Boston2118.538—–No
1973 New York (A)1920.4872Yes
1967 Washington1722.4364Yes
1957 Baltimore1623.4105Yes
Teams AL CentralWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2010 Detroit2316.590—–Yes
1975 Cleveland2019.5133 No
1998 Chicago (A)1821.4625No
1973 Minnesota1524.3858No
Teams AL WestWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2017 Kansas City2712.692—–Yes
2010 Oakland2316.5904No
2005 Toronto1821.4629Yes
2018 Los Angeles (A)1425.35913Yes
Teams NL EastWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2018 Washington2913.690—-No
1967 Pittsburgh2613.6671 1/2No
1957 Philadelphia2019.5137 1/2Yes
1975 New York (N)1920.4878 1/2Yes
Teams NL CentralWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1996 Cincinnati1920.487—–No
2000 Colorado1920.487—-Yes
1975 St. Louis1821.4621Yes
1973 Houston1524.3854Yes
Teams NL WestWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1975 San Francisco2811.718—–Yes
2007 Los Angeles (N)1821.46210Yes
2012 Arizona 1725.40512 1/2Yes
1982 San Diego1227.30816Yes

3rd League All time any time Great Teams League (3rd season) Games scheduled Friday evenings

Teams AL EastWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1970 Baltimore72.778—–Yes
1993 Toronto75.5831 1/2Yes
1999 Boston33.5002 1/2No
1961 Yankess15.1674 1/2No
Teams AL CentralWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2010 Texas81.889—–Yes
1974 Oakland45.4444Yes
2006 Detroit36.3335Yes
1954 Cleveland36.335Yes
Teams AL OtherWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1924 Washington63.667—–No
1977 Kansas City54.5561Yes
1967 Minnesota45.4442Yes
2009 New York (A)36.3333No
Teams NL EastWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1975 Cincinnati75.583—–Yes
1998 Atlanta54.5561 1/2No
1955 Brooklyn36.3332 1/2Yes
2019 Washington Nats36.3332 1/2No
Teams NL CentralWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
1957 Milwaukee63.667—–Yes
1971 Pittsburgh33.5001 1/2Yes
1985 St. Louis33.5001 1/2No
2003 Cubs36.3333Yes
Teams NL OtherWinsLossesPCTGBAvailable
2001 Arizona42.667—–Yes
2016 Chicago (N)42.667—–No
1977 Philadelphia45.4441 1/2Yes
2007 Colorado36.3332 1/2Yes

If you are interested in taking over the management of any of these teams contact me in comments.