City's Polish Conceals the Pain Beneath

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Freeman

DETROIT -- The roads and highways around this city have never been this clean. I have come to Detroit many times and almost shattered my rental car into pieces because of the potholes. Garbage often was strewn on the sides of the highways. Now, the roads are as shiny and smooth as Matt Hasselbeck's head.

I've always enjoyed coming here, doing so at least a dozen times, to cover the electric and elusive Barry Sanders while rarely engaging in the Detroit bashing that brings such glee to others. This is a real and gritty place with little pretentiousness. I've always appreciated that about Detroit.

To say this city has undergone a dramatic facelift is an understatement. It's as if some giant cosmetic surgeon took a scalpel to the place.

And if you want to know the largest difference between Jacksonville hosting the Super Bowl and Detroit, it can be summed up in two words: police presence.

This isn't Detroit; it's Fort Detroit.

While Jacksonville cleaned its streets and swept its homeless and poor aside just as every other Super Bowl city has done -- the NFL really hates when reality collides with its glitzy and sexy image -- Detroit has done the same thing while also going to a security extreme that I haven't seen at any other championship game. This is the Security Super Bowl.

It seems as if there's a police officer on every downtown corner and highway exit ramp. There are sirens around the clock and helicopters constantly buzzing the skyline.

The police here are friendly and professional, with some of the female officers being even slightly flirty. It's just that . . . there are so many of them. Everywhere. This must be the safest place on the planet. …