Dirty Old Town

Saturday, May 26th, 2012 – Detroit City FC 3, Erie 0



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I hate Detroit.

I hate being in parts of a major American city that look like a ghost town with not another soul in sight. I hate the sad, helpless feeling I get when I see the homeless and beggars. I hate that there is more maturity and constructive conversation in the average kindergarten classroom than there is in the Detroit City Council chambers. I hate the snarky, ignorant assholes that make jokes about burning cars and dead bodies even though they’ve never set foot in the state. I hate Bubba, and I hate myself for saying that after reading the incredibly depressing story of his life.

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I love Detroit.

I love its name and that it is synonymous with industry and hard work. I love the “us against the world” mentality and feeling tougher than I am simply because of my geographic location. I love hearing the reactions of outsiders who come here for the first time and have a much more positive experience than they expected. I love that people have finally realized that their city’s government is so corrupt and inept that they must take matters into their own hands – whether it is by planting community gardens on vacant lots, starting mini-businesses and neighborhood services, or simply creating public art.

Photo by Karen DeCoster
Photo by Karen DeCoster

I love its football club.

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The official supporters’ anthem of Detroit City FC is “Dirty Old Town,”, but, inexplicably, we’ve yet to sing it during a match. This is disappointing to me since the song encapsulates many of my feelings about Detroit. For me, the moniker “Dirty Old Town” fits the city perfectly – expressing disgust but also affection.  The lyrics of Ewan MacColl describe a place that is smoky, dreary, depressing, but also a place where he fell in love and “…dreamed a dream.” One of the last verses even seems to echo the sentiment of some Detroiters who want to “bulldoze the whole thing and start over.”

I’m gonna make me a big sharp axe
Shining steel tempered in the fire
I’ll chop you down like an old dead tree
Dirty old town
Dirty old town

Detroit is full of ugliness but there is also beauty, even if some refuse to open their eyes to it.


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I’ve missed three City home games over two years, and the first against Erie is the one I regret the most. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t have any vivid memories or anecdotes to share, but I can relate what was said in the days and weeks that followed. Aside from the fact that it was the club’s first home win (by a score of 3-0), it was also the point at which the novelty started to turn into something more serious.

Several players, coaches, and owners said that this was the game where they realized something special was happening. Despite the pouring rain, the supporters turned up and provided an even better atmosphere than the opener.




While parts of our city are crumbling, there are also many bright spots; obviously chief among them in my mind is our football club. I’m not naïve enough to think that a sports team can save a city – no single organization or policy can – but DCFC and the Detroit City Futbol League have had an undoubtedly positive effect on the local community.

The truly special thing that happened at this match was not the win, the debut of Knox Cameron, or the birth of Sgt. Scary, but the growth of City from mere club into a movement.


I smelled the spring
On the smoky wind
Dirty old town
Dirty old town


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