Best Of 2001

Thanks, folks

Best MT Writer
Melissa Giannini

Wow. I’ve always known I was cute as a button, but who knew I had talent too? So by this you’re saying you really like my obtuse metaphorical descriptions and stuffy deconstruction of rock music? Well, thanks. Specifically, I’d like to thank my parents for bringing the Best of ballots to work just like they used to with my Girl Scout cookie order forms. I have to thank my Uncle John for all those CMJ subscriptions (and for only making fun of me for about a decade after I asked if he had heard of this “great new group,” the Steve Miller Band, as a naive preteen.) Thanks to the MT editors for supporting my “crazy ideas” and to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Dobblestein, for teaching me that “being verbs are bad.” And I couldn’t forget to thank a “certain local entertainment weekly” for having impeccable timing when they decided to “let me go” the same day MT advertised a music-writing position. Last, but not least, many thanks go out to all the super-sweet musicians in town for being so damn cool and innovative and giving me way more to write about than there ever will be column inches to fill. And, oh, yeah, everyone who voted for me, meet me upstairs at the Magic Stick tonight for those shots I promised. Cheers!

Learn why MT readers voted for Melissa Giannini, by checking out her Metro Times online story archive.

Best Local Athlete to Trade
Charlie Batch

Quarterbacking the Detroit Lions is one thankless job. Just ask the parade of almost-was journeymen and hard-luck cases who’ve led the team since the ‘60s: Plum, Sweetan, Landry, Danielson, Hipple, Long, Mitchell. Or ask MT’s Best of Detroit voters. Charlie Batch, current Lions signal caller, “won” the contest as Best Local Athlete to Trade. You could ask Batch himself what’s best about being Lion QB, if you can catch him between hospital stays. He makes the disabled list the way most people make grocery lists. In three years of pro ball he’s suffered neck strain, a compression fracture of the back, triceps bruise, thumb and shinbone fractures, and bruised ribs. He’s a big guy — 6-foot-2, 220 pounds — and was sturdy enough to set most of the career offensive records at Eastern Michigan. I mean no offense, Charlie — and that’s his problem, no offense. I’d like to defend him — but not as an offensive lineman.

He’s had several streaks of brilliance: a 6-2 start in 1999; hope-reviving, decisive wins over the Patriots and Giants last year; three times he’s thrown more than 100 straight passes without an interception. He’s wobbly sometimes (bruised ribs might affect one’s passing). Five-yard-high, -wide or -long misthrown balls eerily recall the bad years of Scott Mitchell. Will the new Lions management take MT fans’ hint and try to trade Batch and his seven-figure contract? The team has played according to MT’s 1999’s Best New Lions’ Slogan (“We suck”), even folding before the lousy Bears to dodge a playoff spot last season. And who could they get for Batch? Two wooden legs and a specialist to be named later? Even worse — Troy Aikman?

Coach Marty Mornhinweg stated last month, “I’m excited about Charlie Batch … tremendous positives … he’s rehabbing nicely.” Lions fans hope these don’t win next year’s Best Famous Last Words award.

Hamtown yuks

Best Way to Fix Up Hamtramck
Merge with Detroit

Poor Hamtramck can’t catch a break. It seems that our readers take this town of about 20,000 for a hardy-har-har laugh riot. When asked what the best way is to fix the city, you suggested that it be turned into an amusement park. What kind of plan is that? Do you really expect people to plunk down a handful of change for a ticket allowing admittance to corner bars and a face full of paczki? Mmmh. On second thought, maybe you have something there. Before settling on the amusement park idea, let’s consider your other suggestions. “Merge with Detroit” received the most votes. How boring. And besides, do you really think you can talk Mayor Dennis Archer into taking on this financial drain? “Create 10 paczki days a year” received the next highest number of votes (may as well combine that with the amusement park idea). “Open more bars” took third place — that also goes along with the amusement-park theme, don’t you think? “Pay the workers” (damn civil servants probably wrote that suggestion) was number four.

Though I’m not much of a beer drinker and paczki give me a stomachache, the amusement park idea is admittedly best. Let’s see, there could be a Trashcan Roller Coaster for the kiddies and all-day rat shoots. (Don’t take it personally, all great cities have ’em.) And who would want to miss The Great Pothole Adventure? Plus, if you put the council members in Spandex tights and tone down their meetings a tiny bit, people will surely pay to watch, just like they do for pro wrestling.

Best Comics Shop
Dave's Comics

Comic-book fans loyally voted for this perennial favorite once again this year, but as we reported last December, Dave Hutzley closed his Royal Oak store. At that time, Dave told us he’d continue to sell vintage collectibles at shows, by mail order, and maybe over the Internet (he didn’t rule out the possibility of opening a new brick-and-mortar store, either).

Unfortunately, Dave’s former hotline has been disconnected, and we were unable to locate him prior to our deadline. Consider this an E.T.-style message for him to call and tell us about his latest plans. We promise to pass any news along to you.

Best Way to Counteract Media Monopolization
Use the Internet

It should come as no surprise that MT’s readers are an astute group when it comes to issues regarding mass media. The fact that they pick up this rag shows their interest in obtaining alternative points of view. Hell, I can’t even disagree with them for ranking the alternative press a middling third choice as a strategy for beating media monopolies. Papers like this have become increasingly consolidated in recent years (we call the folks at a daily in Scranton, Pa., boss these days) so even the alties ain’t the independent voices they used to be. And ranking the Web number one is absolutely spot-on. No matter how much the big boys at AOL Time Warner muscle in on the action, it doesn’t seem possible that they will ever be able to squeeze out those offering an alternative to the mainstream. I see it every day. When I wanted to hook up with demonstrators going to D.C. to protest Bush’s inauguration, the Internet connected me with local contacts in a matter of minutes. Countless messages are posted on the enviro-mich listserve, offering informed critiques of the state’s environmental policies. There’re also timely comments and source contacts from groups such as the Institute for Public Accuracy (www.accuracy.org) which, in its own words, is a “nationwide consortium of policy researchers” who seek “to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for those whose perspectives are commonly drowned out by corporate-backed think tanks and other influential institutions.” The BuzzFlash Report (www.buzzflash.org) provides an antidote to Drudge by offering timely links to articles with a progressive bent. Salon (www.salon.com) offers a daily dose of wide-ranging, fiercely independent reporting and essays. And then there’s TomPaine (www.tompaine.com), which “seeks to enrich the national debate on controversial public issues by featuring the ideas, opinions, and analyses too often overlooked by the mainstream media.” A group called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (www.fair.org) offers up “well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship.” The Utne Reader (www.utne.com) daily e-mails highlighting selected articles from all sorts of alternative publications. The list goes on and on. So, to paraphrase the late Timothy Leary (who’s still inhabiting cyberspace at www.leary.com), turn on your computer, tune in your search engine (www.dogpile.com is my favorite) and drop out of the monopolies.

Ready to rumble

Best Candidate to Run Against Dennis Archer,
Best Politico to Cause L. Brooks Patterson Grief

: Geoffrey Fieger

Ah, Fieger ... the Pied Piper of plaintiffs, champion of shoplifters, archnemesis of daytime talk-show hosts, a grinning, gap-toothed Grim Reaper of deep pockets everywhere. One kind of wishes brother Dougie would’ve invited him to join the Knack, thereby sparing us from his incessantly high-pitched and reedy Midwestern elocution.

MT readers have selected him as the Best Candidate to Run Against Dennis Archer/Cause Brooks Patterson Grief (two categories that go hand in hand, as naturally any mayor of Detroit will eventually cause L. Brooks some grief and vice versa). A Fieger for Mayor campaign would no doubt captivate the same grassroots disenfranchised who picked up their pitchforks and jumped on his last gubernatorial campaign bandwagon (which eventually crashed and burned in a landslide defeat). One can only hope, however, we won’t have to once again endure the hackneyed and banal campaign slogan, “It’s Fieger time!” Given what some have described as an abrasive, ego-flexing personality, coupled with his love for obscenities, it’s clear that Mayor Fieger would elevate city-suburb acrimony to a level of frostiness unseen since Coleman Young left office. Such a turn of events would undoubtedly set the city back a few decades in terms of measurable progress and credibility (read: business development). Nevertheless, one cannot deny that the supremely humble Fieger, who has described himself to an MT reporter as “one smart motherfucker,” and who once admitted to possibly calling John Engler a “bag of shit,” would certainly provide a welcome contrast (at least for a few weeks or so) to the prosaic and stultifying regime of Judge Dennis, who’s about as inspiring as a grain of rice.

Best Place to Find Parking Downtown
Cobo Roof

Ah, yes, only in Detroit would one of the largest parking lots have a spectacular river view (that is, if you’re standing on the roof of your car). I would also note that MT readers voted the Best Spot for Outdoor Sex to be “on a rooftop.” As such, the Cobo Roof might very well be considered the best spot for parking downtown and having outdoor sex, for those so inclined. Perhaps, in a nod to Potsie Weber, the line “do you wanna go down to Cobo and watch the submarine races?” will take on new meaning as part of our local lexicon.

Parking occupies a pre-eminent position in Detroit’s unfortunate streetscape. Meter maids are zealots in every sense of the word, and, in our version of “the (un)welcome wagon,” most visitors to our city will undoubtedly be hit with a fat parking ticket for their troubles. Why is it that the worst-run big cities always have the best-run parking squads? Moreover, if you want to avoid our parking commandos, awaiting you are acres of pockmarked, overpriced surface lots with ramshackle guard booths scattered all over downtown; their black holes of asphalt devouring any hope of an urban zeitgeist. City planners still adhere to the build-more-garages-and-have-more-spaces school of thought, and new structures are cropping up like weeds these days. This is related to the widen-the-freeways-to-ease-congestion philosophy. Unfortunately, the wider the freeways, the more cars on the road, the more congestion we get. Sort of a downward spiral of crumbling concrete — not unlike the exit from the Cobo Roof. Here’s a suggestion: Why not build structures and freeways and invest in a little good, old-fashioned mass transit? You know, the kind real cities have? Ponder that next time you’re having sex on the Cobo Roof.

Best Athlete to Bring to a Detroit Team
Chris Webber

Thanks to fire-sale trades that have brought in some interesting talent and also left the team with a horrible player balance (three point guards, three power forwards, zero centers), the Pistons are almost $16 million under the salary cap for next season. It’s mostly for one big reason, the possibility that Chris Webber — former U-M player, keystone of the illustrious Fab Five and now a member of the very talented Sacramento Kings — could become a Piston next season through free agency. That’s what team President Joe Dumars, the management, players and fans up at the Palace are hoping and praying for anyway.

Webber was run out of Golden State and Washington following a series of personality conflicts and sketchy incidents. In Sacramento, he has become one of NBA’s premier players. He’s an all-star, a real power in the paint, and, most importantly, a consistent and solid team leader. Having begun his career at Detroit Country Day High School, Webber would be welcomed back as a real prodigal son for the Detroit metro area.

We know the Pistons want him. We know they have the money to bring him here. We know the fans would be beside themselves. The only real question is whether or not Webber wants to play for the Pistons. But since players must worry about this season before the next one (the Kings, unlike the Pistons, are expected to be a real contender in the playoffs), we’ll have to wait until the summer before we know what the big guy is going to do. In the meantime, let’s start planning the welcoming parade.