Saluting Motown spirit 

Thick as a brick: Awards heaved in worthy Detroiters' general direction

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the first annual Motor City Brick Awards, a totally random acknowledgement of things that happened in Detroit this past year. We're holding the ceremony in front of Belle Isle's Scott Fountain because there's a lot of space out here, and people are milling around bonfires chatting, snacking and having a genial good time. We've got some grills roasting up Detroit-grown vegetables and some Indian Village free-range chickens. Don't ask me where in Indian Village and I'll tell you no lies. There is also a garbage can full of grog created from the dregs of liquor bottles collected from 500 local New Year's Eve parties. Just dip your paper cup in and scoop up some swill.

The awards are made from bricks we've recovered from a number of crumbling buildings. Several of our local artists have lent a hand to paint them with mysterious designs of their own origin. So without further ado, let's get on with the Motor City Brick Awards.

Who Woulda Thunk It Award: This one goes to the Detroit Lions. Who would have thought the most feel-good story in Detroit sports as we enter the New Year would be the Lions? The fact that our Honolulu-blue-and-silver gridiron warriors managed to win six games isn't such a big deal. Many pre-season pundits put them in that territory going into the season. However, they way they did it, pulling off four of the wins in a season-ending streak, defied belief. They broke loss streaks — road losses, division losses — had a four-game win streak for the first time in over a decade, and they won with whichever quarterback was healthy enough to tape up and throw out there on a given week. They gave us a reason to smile on a New Year's weekend when the Wolverines and Spartans stunk up their bowl games so badly they were bigger jokes than the Lions. Michigan coach Rich Rod may well have been run out of Ann Arbor by the time you read this. Michigan State looked so lame in its 49-7 shellacking by Alabama and former coach Nick Saban that it's hard to feel like its 11-1 regular season record really represented where this program stands. Those aren't sugarplums dancing in your head; those are Lions footballs and the dreams of next season.

Miss Congeniality Award: She almost lost this award for not showing up for a pre-Christmas roll call, but considering more than 70 members of Congress skipped out early for the holiday, I'll let it slide and make outgoing U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick Miss Congeniality. I know there isn't a lot of love out there for Cheeks; after all, voters tossed her out in the August primary election. However, she took her medicine without a lot of twitching and moaning, although had it not been for the problems of her son, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, she'd probably still be in Congress for another term. Aside from coming up with that "y'alls boy" comment during Kwame's 2005 re-election run, she pretty much stayed out of the Kwame muck. That was borne out when the federal indictments came down and her name was not on the list. I'm not saying she was the greatest legislator ever, but she lost her seat because she happened to be the mother and ex-wife of a couple of gangstas. You might say that showed bad judgment from the start, but I hear that she counseled Kwame not to run for mayor in the first place (he didn't listen) and also told him to stop running around with Christine Beatty (he didn't listen). Like I said, she took her medicine and didn't start yowling about God's plan or a comeback, and showed more class than anybody else around here named Kilpatrick.

Best Thing That Happened in Detroit This Year Award: In an admittedly tough year, it was hard to get large groups of people to come to the city for any reason not related to physical freaks who are paid incredible amounts of money to throw balls or score goals, but the United States Social Forum 2010 managed to get about 15,000 leftist activists to come to town for hundreds of workshops, mostly at Cobo Center, focused on learning from each other how to continue the fight for social justice in the face of the globalized economy. They also spread out to help clean up the city, add numbers to several protests, and party in some of our cultural enclaves in the course of dropping some cash into the local economy.

Yeah I Said it Award: Few folks in Detroit took as much heat as Ron Scott and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality did for not taking the knee-jerk easy reaction in the wake of the tragic killing of police officer Brian Huff last May. Scott always seems to stand strong on controversial police issues, but it must have taken extra nerve when a media circus and war of words sprang up between Scott and then-Police Chief Warren Evans after Scott questioned police activities leading up to the tragedy. The war of words continued as a diversion from the real issues surrounding Huff's killing. In the long run, Scott is still out there doing good work in the community, rightfully questioning a police force with a history of questionable behavior, and Evans ... well, I'm not sure what he's up to these days, but he's no longer police chief.

Medicate Me Now Award: This one goes out to the medical marijuana movement. Although medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan two years ago, a lot of the action around it sprang up in 2010 with the proliferation of compassion clubs, big-time busts, cities taking their stand for or against it, lawsuits challenging some of those laws, and activists coalescing into a movement. We'll know a lot more about how this is shaking down in the next year, but journalists have to give up the overused metaphor "hazy" for their description of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

Alexander Haig Memorial 'I'm In Charge' Award: Robert Bobb's attempt to be the Detroit Public Schools czar of everything rather than just its emergency financial manager was pushed back in early December, when Wayne Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter ruled in a suit by the Detroit School Board against Bobb. It was one of the few things that has gone the board's way in recent years.

Cee Lo Green F-You Award: This award goes to former state Attorney General Mike Cox. The position of state attorney general can be just a few steps from the governor's office — that was Jennifer Granholm's route — but Republican voters gave state AG and suave ladies' man Cox the boot in his bid for governor, in favor of the Nerd, who easily swept into office on the tails of his own fortune.

Local BS Political Ploy Award: For a minute, there was faux drama when Mayor Dave Bing threatened to close 77 parks during a budget standoff with City Council. It was never a serious threat, but it kept people like me going for a couple of news cycles.

Those are the winners for our highlight broadcast. There are many other winners. You'll know who you are when I toss a brick on your porch.

More by Larry Gabriel

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