There are times when a great game can serve as a backdrop for a larger lesson than a blip on the radar in the cycle of sports.  From my perspective, that's what the NFC championship football game was.

It was like a tale of two cities…in reverse. It was the worst of times and it was the best of times....depending on which side you were on and on which city you are considering as you look to the future.

The Motor City versus the City by the Bay. The Detroit Lions versus the San Francisco 49ers.

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers
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Is football a metaphor for life?

It featured a perpetual winner and five time California Superbowl champion against a Midwest likable loser which has never even been to the big game.

It was a doubly stunning contest. The underdog Lions jumped out to a 17 point halftime lead! Stunning!  Could that predict victory?

Under head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers had been down by 7 points in the second half of games 24 times in the past and they lost them all! 0-24! But this time, in a stunning turn of events, the 49ers scored 27 consecutive points and won the game 34 to 31. What a turn around. What a comeback.

Detroit Lost the Real game Long Before Kickoff

Only this isn’t a football story. It’s a story about the cities themselves. That is a different kind of ball game and in this game San Francisco continues to lose, while Detroit seems to be making the comeback.

My intent isn’t to outline all the problems Detroit has faced over the years. A short list includes the changes in the auto industry, white flight to the suburbs, financial incompetence including the city filing for bankruptcy, the riot and damage from the late 60’s, racial tensions, drugs, gangs, crime, lack of housing and a population drop of nearly three quarters of a million people.

Detroit Burns During Riots
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San Francisco Has Lessons To Be Learned from Motown

But Detroit is recovering. A University of Michigan Economic Forecast foretells of a brighter future.

Wages are gaining ground

Overall, projections show the City gaining more jobs and Detroiters receiving higher wages over the forecast. Expect to see “ongoing gains over the next five years….Detroit’s improving labor market over the past several years has led to a 47 percent rise in average annual wages of Detroit residents …


Jobs are gaining strength

In July Amazon cut the ribbon on its new packaging facility with 1,279 workers, 60 percent of them Detroit residents. And GM is expected to turn the former AMC headquarters into a warehouse for electric vehicle parts creating 350 new jobs in 2024. Additionally, Lear’s new seating facility on the site of the former Cadillac Stamping Plant is still on track to reach full employment of at least 400 this year.

City Bankruptcy Ruling Expected In Detroit
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If not a full on touchdown, that sounds like a pretty good fumble recovery at least! Just do a Google search for “Is Detroit coming back? And you will find lots of articles that say “despite ongoing challenges, Detroit is recovering”. Maybe not yet a WIN but movement in the right direction. A comeback.

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The Telling Stats For San Francisco Show Crime and Chaos Winning

How about San Francisco? How is that once amazing city doing? Well, they don’t call it San Fran-Sicko today for nothing. The California Globe recently interviewed a family that felt they had no choice but to move out.

“With San Francisco experiencing everything from high crime to continued high rents to businesses fleeing the city the last several years, many residents have left the city. From 2020 to 2022, 65,000 fled San Francisco alone."

San Francisco Battles With Homelessness Problem
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The agencies that track population say that for every 63 people who move to the Bay Area, 100 more move out. That kind of attendance trend will doom a sports franchise or a city.

“Something shifted 10 or 15 years ago though. It may have been tech taking off or a change of people in charge, but there was a change in the air so to speak. Then you started seeing more and more of the tents going up. A lot of people brushed that off as part of the recession, but they stayed. Then more reports of drugs came on the news. Then there was talk of not charging some criminals with crimes.”

In their defense city leaders point out that violent crime is about 25% lower than in 2006 and that people are “statistically safer” in San Francisco than Seattle. But it isn’t violent crime that is destroying San Francisco’s quality of life and reputation.

Homelessness On The Rise In San Francisco
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San Francisco's Decay is in the Media for all to see

We’ve all seen the blitz of videos of shoplifting mobs, smash and grabs, hard drug shoot up sites, homeless camps, human waste on the streets, auto theft, and property crimes. Local law enforcement is understaffed and overwhelmed with San Francisco’s police chief admitting that to catch up enough to move the needle on crime prevention will likely take years if ever.

Detroit is recovering and demonstrating the successful plays

To return to our comparison of San Francisco and Detroit you may well ask- “Will San Francisco ever get sacked as hard and as bad as did Detroit?” Perhaps not…Why, that would be the equivalent of blowing a 17 point lead against a team that never wins when trailing by seven points in the second half… but it doesn’t mean what’s happening in the Bay area is acceptable and should be allowed to continue. 65% of Bay Area residents say they don’t visit downtown San Francisco for fear of crime.

California Governor Newsom Releases $650 In Aid To Combat Homelessness
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 San Francisco retailers are calling an "end around" and moving out.

A headline article in today’s New Republic says the San Francisco Toy Store that Inspired the beloved Toy Story Franchise is set to close due to rising crime and disorder.

In the article the owner of Jeffery’s Toy Store says:

The store was struggling to stay afloat because of the rise of online shopping but also because of San Francisco’s downtown struggles—open drug use on the streets, shoplifting, and violence.

San Fran can Buzz Off, Says Store That Inspired Toy Story

If the shop that inspired the formidable front line of Woody, Jessie, Buzz Lightyear and Mr. Potato head can no longer hack it, is it any wonder that places like Walgreens, Whole Foods, Nordstroms, AT&T, Banana Republic, Starbucks, Target, Disney, and Anthopologie have all decided to punt on San Francisco.

So in this post-game report we conclude that while Detroit lost the game, the city is winning again; San Francisco won the game, but the city is actually losing - residents, businesses, and its reputation as one of America’s premiere cities.

San Francisco Battles With Homelessness Problem
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So when the team and the fans - those who can afford it - (TicketiQ says the average ticket price is $10,752) head off to the big game in Las Vegas, otherwise known as Sin City, there will be plenty of sin left behind at home and eating away at San Francisco. What's the long game on that? The Good Book, the ultimate playbook says the wages of Sin is death.

So 49er fans, good luck, cheer your hearts out and when you come home, hopefully you will take with you a page from Detroit’s playbook and start to fix your city by the bay before the clock runs out.

Investigative journalist Michael Shellenberger Believes He Has A Solution

Investigative journalist and best-selling author Michael Shellenberger has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for thirty years and he believes he knows why the city had slid into decline. He wrote a book about it called San Fransicko.  Amazon describes the book this way.

The problems had grown worse not despite but because of progressive policies. San Francisco and other West Coast cities — Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland — had gone beyond merely tolerating homelessness, drug dealing, and crime to actively enabling them.  San Fransicko reveals that the underlying problem isn’t a lack of housing or money for social programs. The real problem is an ideology that designates some people, by identity or experience, as victims entitled to destructive behaviors. The result is an undermining of the values that make cities, and civilization itself, possible.
Homelessness On The Rise In San Francisco
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Shellengberger visits Yakima this April

Michael Shellenberger is coming to Yakima on April 25, 2024 at the Yakima Convention Center for the Union Gospel Mission's Evening of Hope! He is the cofounder of the California Peace Coalition, an alliance of parents of children killed by fentanyl, parents of homeless addicts and recovering addicts, and is also founder and president of Environmental Progress, an independent nonprofit research organization. Ticket available at UGM.

With change comes hope and healing.

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