A Tale of Two Cities

[quote]IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair!
-Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities (1859)[/quote]

Each June I become perversely interested in the Stanley Cup. Like a migratory bird, I wake up one morning in spring with my homing beacon dialed in to the NHL. It never fails. I don’t watch much hockey during the regular season, but from mid-to-late May through June I’m a crazed hockey fan.

I think the Stanley Cup is the coolest professional sports trophies out there. For starters it’s the same cup every year. No player dares touch it until they have rightfully won the cup. Each player on the winning team gets to have the cup for a single day and then must pass it to the next player. Players often use that opportunity for some civic virtue: visiting veterans hospitals, orphanages, etc. At the end of the year, the team gives it back. The cup also bears all the misspellings of previous engravings, and dents, and nicks—once dented, or engraved, even incorrectly, it is never “fixed.” And, starting with Marguerite Norris, President of the Detroit Red Wings in the ’50s, the cup bears the names of a dozen women. It also has a mother and son combination: Charlotte Grahame, the Colorado Avalanche Director of Operations (2001) and her son, John Grahame from the 2004 Tampa victory.

This year I’ve noticed an odd ideological trend in some columns and hockey shows I’ve seen: that a win this year would be “good for Detroit.” And by Detroit they don’t mean the Red Wings they mean Detroit the City/Industry. I’ve even read that the battle between these two cities reads as an allegory, in which Detroit is the city in need.

It is true that one can easily apply the Dickens lines above to Detroit the City/Industry, for it represents “the worst of times!.the age of foolishness!the epoch of incredulity!the season of darkness!.the winter of despair.”

But if there is an allegory between these two cities (as metonyms for their industries), should we not look to Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh has a lot to teach Detroit right now. Pittsburgh has a lot to teach America right now.

Thirty years ago, Pittsburgh looked like Detroit does today. Once the steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh was crushed, gutted, and left for dead in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It was a rust-belt dump whose central industry was in shambles. But Pittsburgh reinvented itself, not by going back and trying to rescue old, failed industrial paradigms. Pittsburgh went after new business models, new industries, and from its season of darkness it created a its own “season of light.”

Pittsburgh is the quintessential American allegorical rust-belt hope. It now consistently ranks near the top of the nation’s most livable cities and is the only city in the nation to rank in the top 20 most livable cities every year since the report was published. It has also been ranked by Forbes magazine as the world’s 10th cleanest city.

Yes. Pittsburgh. Who woulda thought?

Besides the Red Wings won the Stanley Cut last year over these same Penguins, and it clearly did nothing for the foolishness in Detroit’s industrial penthouses. The Red Wings have brought the cup home to Detroit more times than any other city in the U.S.

Go Penguins.