How to Spend One Night in Detroit

I’ve heard from a few Redskins fans who are planning to make the roadtrip to Detroit this weekend, and it occurred to me that I know absolutely nothing about Detroit. I don’t know any landmarks, don’t know if there are any local foods, don’t know what the city is like at all. What little I know comes from seeing 8 Mile years ago, but I remember nothing at all from it besides Eminem throwing up on himself. Anyway, living in Baltimore while watching The Wire taught me a valuable lesson about the futility of using popular entertainment as a city guide, so I figured a better approach was in order.

With that in mind, I asked a few of the guys on the roster who have Michigan ties what fans should do with one single weekend night in Detroit.

Todd Collins seemed unsure. “There’s the casino, if you like to gamble, I guess,” he said. “Probably some kind of Henry Ford site you could tour.” Devin Thomas had no such hesitation. “Go to the casino — you can’t go wrong,” he said. “The only way you go wrong is if you lose your money.”

This seemed to me like a fairly major way to go wrong, so when Chris Wilson started in with the same answer, I asked him what people should do if they didn’t want to go to the casino, or before the casino, or afterward. “Robert Porcher’s got a nice spot called Seldom Blues, if you want to eat. You’d also probably want to go down to the Waterfront.”

Well, do you have a personal favorite place to eat in Detroit? “Oh!” he said, suddenly enthusiastic. “You gotta go Southern Fires. It’s a soul food restaurant, but it’s, like, the best. Most of the time, you go to soul food joints … you don’t know if you’re gonna have a stomachache the next day or what. But this place, they really prepare the food well, it’s not just a bunch of grease, you know? It’s real, and really good.”

Jon Jansen also had a specific food suggestion. “I would go down to Lafeyette street,” he said. “There’s a place down there called Lafayette Coney Island, and I’d get myself a coney dog. Apparently there’s some sort of ongoing conflict between Lafayette Coney Island and the neighboring American Coney Island, but Jansen came down firmly on the side of Lafayette.

All of which is much more instructive than the Eminem film, although without the excellent theme song.

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Fan Reminder: Buses Leave At 12:15 on Saturday

Any fans planning to come to Redskins Park on Saturday to send the buses off on the trip to Dallas, please be aware that the buses will be GONE BY 12:15, a bit earlier than usual, and plan accordingly.

Wednesday, August 27: On the Madden Cruiser

When the Madden Cruiser pulled up outside Redskins Park yesterday, I had one immediate thought: “Wow, somebody really likes Australia-themed chain steak restaurants.”

The somebody in this case is John Madden, broadcaster, former player, Hall of Fame coach, spokesman for the eponymous Madden Football videogame (along with hundreds of other things over the years), and legendary non-flyer. The Madden Cruiser is the bus that gets him out of flying, and has for the last two-and-a-half decades. The bus itself is replaced every few years; this particular Madden Cruiser is on its third year of service.

While Madden was talking to players in preparation for Thursday Night’s Sunday Night Football game, I was able to get onto the legendary bus and take a look around.

I was expecting to be able to make some sort of obvious comparison — “The bus is nicer than my first apartment,” or something — but I was not expecting it to have more bathrooms than my current house. (Admittedly, my house only has one bathroom, but even so I didn’t really think the Madden Cruiser was going to double that.)

The front of the bus is a lounge/dining/viewing area, along with a small kitchenette.

This is where Madden eats (presumably) and reviews film to get ready for upcoming games. These, for the younger readers, are called VHS tapes. They’re like DVDs, only bulkier and less convenient. (The bus is also equipped with DVD players.)

Also up here is the first of those two bathrooms, mainly for the use of the two drivers.

(Move to the back of the bus after the jump.)

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Monday, August 25: Four Lessons after the Trip to Charlotte

Soon-to-be-signed memorabilia on the sidewalk in Charlotte, waiting for players to walk by.

Soon-to-be-signed memorabilia on the sidewalk in Charlotte, waiting for players to walk by.

Lesson 1: Do not trust Redskins.com TV director of production Marc Dress. He is made of lies. Dress called me Saturday morning with some kind of half-baked story about how there was an emergency production meeting at the stadium and I should probably get there to blog about it. “Don’t rush too much,” he said. “Theismann’s running a little late.” Bank of America Stadium — which is really nice, from what I saw — is located right in downtown Charlotte, maybe a ten minute walk from the hotel. Not too far, but far enough that I was mightily annoyed by having to walk there just to amuse Marc Dress. Welcome to the NFL, rookie, etc, I suppose.

Lesson 2: Yes, the team is upset after losses. It’s every fan’s worst fear, I think, the idea that watching your team get demolished is more painful for you than experiencing it is for them. I didn’t see a lot of the players on the trip back, but the vibe among those I did see — and among the staff — was notably subdued. So that, at least, is one thing not to worry about anymore.

Lesson 3: People will wait for and watch the team just about anywhere. When you do a normal, everyday thing like get off of a bus, there will be people pointing camera phones at you just in case you are someone interesting. Even when they realize that you are not someone interesting, they will continue to take video of you in case the person behind you is more interesting. This will happen even if it’s four in the morning at the Newark, NJ, train station, and it feels very, very strange.

Lesson 4: Folks who like autographs are very patient. The autograph collectors were camped out in and around the lobby of the team hotel literally around the clock. They were waiting for the buses to arrive, they were there when I went to grab a slice of pizza, they were there late at night, they were still there the next morning. If I were more of an autograph guy, maybe I’d understand this, but it’s completely foreign to me and reflects a level of patience (and a fondness for watching people write their names) that I simply don’t possess.

Friday, August 22: Travel Day

The team is preparing to set out for Carolina today. No trains this time — it’s back to the plane for players and staff this trip, and the team equipment set out to travel by truck yesterday.

Packing and shipping for an away game are the kinds of things that lead to the equipment staff working 21 hour days. Even after the team equipment is gone, individual equipment has to be prepared, packed, and brought to the plane.

Repainted helmets ready for transport.

Repainted helmets ready for transport.

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Monday, August 18: A Bit More About The Train

I received a number of emails asking about the team train, so here’s a quick overview.

It was a private chartered train, not a scheduled Amtrak route. This was the one I probably received the most. No, there is no chance you’re going to wind up on the team train by coincidence. No, the team does not just troop onto a crowded train and ask people to move over. It’s a small train, just large enough for the players and staff, and it makes a direct run.

The ride took somewhere around three hours. No, it wasn’t some sort of special insane maglev bullet train, or even a more conventional high-speed train.

Yes, the players had fun. At least, some of them did. The ones who were waking guys up with ammonia ampules and ice water were on the “having fun” side, as were the guys playing dominoes. The guys being woken up, on the other hand, probably were not so enthused. (The staff car was not nearly so lively, although some of the production guys managed to horribly depress themselves by watching Requiem for A Dream on a laptop during the ride.)

Next time we travel by train, I’ll get pictures and more details, but hopefully covered everyone’s basic questions.

On The Road Again

Today is a travel day, which means no real access to the players or the practice, and that we’ll be on the road shortly.

“On the road” today actually means on the rails — we’re travelling by train. This is something that had apparently gone out of fashion under Gibbs, but that Coach Zorn has brought back. The last train rides were under Spurrier, and the word around Redskins park is that they were pretty lively.

Train travel to an away football game is one of those things that triggers all sorts of nostalgic ideas, although I’m pretty sure that the charter train we’re riding up to the Meadowlands is pretty far removed from what you see in movies set in the middle of the 20th century. I’ve never seen or even really envisioned a charter train, so I’ve got no real idea what to expect.