It’s unusual to me meeting a foreigner who thinks highly of Detroit. Maybe in days gone by, they would hear Detroit and think of Motown, cars, and the American Dream. More recently, the blight, bankruptcy, and corruption of our city make headlines. When I was abroad, I’d say I was from Detroit and get questions like:
- Do you have black friends?
- Have you ever seen someone shot?
- Do you own a gun?
When I talked about this with my sister, she said when she told someone in the Middle East she was from Detroit their response was “I’m sorry.”
This weekend with Glentoran, I expected them to be nice and embrace our city for what we see in it. We might have to talk about bankruptcy and crime a little, but I was prepared to offer up the DIA and Belle Isle and a host of other wonderful sites in Detroit for them. As if I had to prove that my city is not shitty.
As DCFC supporters, we see Detroit through different eyes sometimes. We embrace the grit and celebrate the survivors. We see promise in the future. Many city supporters live, work, and play within the city limits. We are Detroit and it’s hard sometimes to go outside the bubble of Detroit-love and realize that most people don’t believe us. We are hopeful in the future, because we know our history, our struggle, and our determination, but most observers miss at least one of the pieces and doubt us.
I didn’t have to make a case for Detroit a single time this weekend.
As I stopped to take in the conversations around me at the 50th Anniversary celebration, at Fowling, at Whiskey in the Jar, I heard only glorious Glentoran drinking songs, gratitude for being recognized and welcomed, and excitement about being in Detroit for the match.
It didn’t take a single breath to convince a Glenman that Detroit is something special.
They already knew that.
I learned this weekend that Glentoran holds its own legacy inextricably intertwined with Detroit.
Their supporters and the club hold the summer of 1967 in the highest regards. The men who played as the Detroit Cougars are legendary. Talking with the former players and the supporters who remembered the Detroit Cougars was amazing. However, it was even more incredible to hear the stories from supporters who weren’t alive and have had the legends passed down from the grandfathers to their fathers to them.
I thanked more than one Glenman this weekend, and now I would like to thank you all. It filled my heart to the top this weekend to realize another club halfway around the world kept alive a legacy of my hometown for over 50 years. That despite the headlines in the newspapers, Detroit has maintained its honorary place in the club’s lore.
This weekend, I can only hope that we have added to the legacy. As the Belfast Telegraph reporter said “Glentoran and DetroitCity FC story tells us our teams are more than a club. They are families, communities where lifelong friendships are born.” This weekend celebrated the past, but it was also a beginning. A beginning for new stories, new legends, and most importantly, new friendships.
Detroit may have forgotten about the Detroit Cougars for a long time, but Belfast never did and now I never will.