Bert Blyleven is a dope — but why should we care?

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

We've established that Bert Blyleven is an idiot. The question is, why do we care?

Why do we work ourselves into low funks and high dudgeons every time someone insults Detroit? Why do we even pay attention, let alone feel compelled to respond?

Why are we so civically insecure — and when will we get over it?

Blyleven, 64, is the Minnesota Twins color commentator who amused himself during a rain delay at Comerica Park last week by tweeting a picture of the gray skies with the advisory, "It is the best I have seen downtown Detroit though! Thank you low clouds."

Metro Detroiters responded with a hailstorm of aggrieved messages. Blyleven, a Hall of Fame pitcher whose career was distinguished by losing nearly as many games (250) as Jack Morris won (254), answered with a note about "how ugly your downtown is."

Then Gov. Rick Snyder stuck Blyleven with loss No. 251, tweeting a photo of the Tigers unfurling their division championship banner: "I think our view of downtown Detroit looks just great."

By the 8th inning, Blyleven had been publicly scolded by his TV network and the Twins. He deleted the tweets and apologized.

Victory was ours, both on and off the field. But again:

Who cares what Bert Blyleven thinks, when his exposure to the city has pretty much been limited to cab rides from his hotel to a stadium? And, more important:

Why do we always take the bait?

If there's a jab from a late-night comedian, we punch back. If reporters come to town for a big event, we write stories about the stories they're writing about us.

In the singles bar of life, we are the sweaty guy who looks at his feet while he dances. Isn't it time we squared our shoulders and made eye contact?

Can't we just ignore it all?

We react, or ...

Yes, says Desiree Cooper, the founder of a sportswear company called Detroit Snob.

No, says Renee Monforton, communications director for the Metro Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Maybe, says Harriet Saperstein, chair of the Woodward Avenue Action Association.

Cooper, a Detroiter for three decades, says she put up deflector shields five or six years ago.

A reformed journalist, she considers the same old Detroit story and the same old ruin porn to be both tired and lazy.

"Some people feel like they have to correct that perception every time it arises," she says. "But there are are some of us who think, 'Just don't come. We're having a good time fixing it together.' "

Monforton, a lifer in the region, agrees that "Detroit has had enough of being kicked around." True, a lot of neighborhoods are still awaiting the trickle-out from more prosperous sectors, but "we no longer deserve to be the whipping boy for the nation and the world."

Don't be defensive

Monforton appreciated Snyder's breezy approach last week, and she wishes she could ignore the slings and arrows the way Cooper does.

When you're booking a rapidly growing number of conventions, though, and your ad campaign is called "America's Great Comeback City," you can't let the scornful voices be the only ones talking.

Saperstein, who moved to Lafayette Park in 1963, says it's her responsibility to respond positively — but honestly — to criticism.

That's in a one-on-one sense. In the global sense, "somebody should respond — but not everybody has to." And with bankruptcy banished and so many joints jumping, she sees the proper approach as informative rather than defensive.

The approach in places like Chicago or New York, of course, is to consider the source of any criticism, sneer at it, and welcome a few more planeloads of tourists.

Cooper is waiting for the day all of Metro Detroit reacts the same way. For now, she has a head start — and a nice little line of Detroit Snobwear.

If she actually cared what Bert Blyleven thought, she could send him a baseball cap.

He probably wouldn't understand it, but the Twins come back to town next month. Somebody could explain it to him then.