There is an article in today’s Detroit News about how playing football as a youth saved the reporter from going the wrong way in life. Coincidentally, he grew up where I did – south Livonia. I like to joke that I’m from the wrong side of the tracks, but reading this article makes me see that this guy felt that living on the “wrong side of town” influenced his entire life. So, let’s check his facts and see what he got right, and what he got wrong.
Gridiron lessons set one young life straight
Charlie LeDuff / The Detroit News
LIVONIA — I grew up in Livonia, on the Westland city limit line, about equal distance from the mall and the Ford transmission plant, somewhere between the Jeffries Freeway and the dead Rouge River
*So far, so good. The Rouge River is still dead. Let’s go on…
This was the other Livonia. Southside Livonia. The lower-middle-class section of Italians, Scots-Irish, blacks, Arabs and Vietnamese, the sort of place where people drive American cars, not German. In the late ’70s and early ’80s — in my Livonia — divorce was rampant, drugs were a scourge and football, for kids like me, was the escape.
*WOW – I am officially white trash. Just call me Amy from the Hood.
Gees. Well, okay, that’s his take on it. However, he got one thing wrong. South Livonia was white. Livonia is still predominantly white. There was ONE black student at my high school, and maybe 10 Arabs and Vietnamese. Plus, all of those 10 kids spoke perfect English because they were born here in the good ‘ol USA. Their parents may have been immigrants, but they were as American as the rest of us. I realize this reporter went to Churchill High School and I went to Franklin High School, but I really doubt that there was much difference between the two populations, particularly since he grew up close to my neighborhood. I’m not sure where he got the idea about Livonia being a multicultural ghetto.
In fact, let’s back this up with some numbers. I went to American FactFinder and put in my zip code from Livonia for the 2000 census. Huh, what do you know? 96.1% white. 2000 was 16 years after I graduated from high school, when there was even less diversity.
By the way, this is not a commentary on what I think a neighborhood should be like, so please don’t comment back and call me a racist. I live in a very diverse community and I’m happy here. I’m just stating the facts, ma’am.
Now about the drugs… I did know plenty of kids who smoked pot and drank alcohol. However, the truth is that the kids who grew up in affluent north Livonia had much more powerful ones including cocaine. The bottom line is that they could afford them and we southerners couldn’t. How do I know that? I went to college with them. (Fancy that!)
Imagine – I actually escaped from my poverty and low position in life to go to college. I should write a book about my success story.
The rest of the article talked about his youth and how playing football changed his life, helping to ease some of the pain of living in a dysfunctional family. He met up with his old coach who faced some really horrendous difficulties in his own life. I can appreciate that. Really I can.
Maybe Charlie LeDuff could have just left the Mitch Albom melodrama behind. He could have talked about his own life instead of making the rest of us south Livonia kids feel like we should be thankful we got out. In fact, my brother and sister-in-law still live in our old neighborhood. Maybe they should know the truth about their side of town and move away while there’s still time.