Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, April 13, 2009
Back in the late 1980s, Kevin Nealon used to do this bit on Saturday Night Live where he was a TV interviewer who’s entire goal was to make the interviewee cry. So no matter who he was talking with, he’d ask probing questions about tragedies they might have experienced, times that they were very sad, perhaps a death of a loved one, or a favorite pet. And when they finally were reduced to tears, he’d turn toward the camera and smile. (I’ve already spent more time than I should searching for a clip, so if one of you find one, let me know and I’ll insert it here.)
This kept going through my mind during the Final Four weekend earlier this month. The NCAA men’s basketball finals were being played in Detroit and the Michigan State Spartans were, as underdogs from the underdog Big Ten conference and the underdog state of Michigan, the feel-good story. Quite a few State players hale from Michigan, so the national press and CBS just were just thrilled to ask them: Any of your family unemployed? Are times tough? What’s it like to live in a slum? Are you hungry now? How does this make you feel? It was a week-long SNL skit.
I was disappointed, sure, but not surprised. Michigan has become a tabloid story to the rest of the world and all those stories must include the words “unemployment, rust, decay, and heartbreaking.” Whatever. As I’ve said before, when parched folks outside our borders come sniffing around for fresh water in a few years, we’ll gladly provide them with a big brimming cup of kiss our ass. But for the few who happen to report about something positive before then — say, about the Michigan State Medical School being built here in Grand Rapids — come on in and have a swim!