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Sports

How to Trash Talk Detroit Teams Without Being a Total Jerk

Poverty isn't a punchline.

by Lindsey Adler
Aug 1 2014, 2:35pm

It happens every time a Detroit sports team does something amazing: Rival fans come out in droves to point out that the Michigan city is beset by poverty and crime, so ha ha, losers. Following the trade of David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Detroit Tigers, a Florida FOX affiliate used its Twitter account to get in on the lowest-common-denominator action. The tweet in question is now deleted, but nothing on the internet ever dies, so here's the image the account sent out:

Is it funny because living in Detroit sucks because a lack of jobs led to a dwindling tax base and fewer services, forcing people to leave en masse and further draining the city's coffers until it had to declare bankruptcy? Is it funny because thousands of people are going without running water in Detroit thanks to this crisis? Is that why a photo of the ocean was included? Is that another layer of humor? Funny!

Sports are a fun form of entertainment, but they don't matter the way the grim economic conditions endured by Detroiters matter. It's normal for fan bases to joke about one another's cities, and they usually reach for the closest stereotype at hand-San Francisco has gay people, it rains in Seattle, you can smoke weed in Denver, New York is full of assholes, and so on. But you cross a line when you single out a serious problem that a town has been struggling with, and you cross another line when you make fun of other people for being poor. It shows a lack of compassion, a failure to understand poverty, and a exaggerated investment in a bunch of men throwing a ball around. (And did the FOX social media person forget the Tampa Bay area's crippling foreclosure problem a few years ago? Or the city's ranking as the most stressful place in the US? That part of South Florida really shouldn't be talking shit about another region's quality of life.)

The solution here is to try harder and make better jokes. It's fine and healthy to have rivalries, to slam your fist in anger when the Red Wings score a goal or high-five your buddies when Matthew Stafford throws a pick. Have a laugh at the Lions' Matt Millen era or the current state of the Pistons. But when you're venturing out of the sports bubble into the real world, remember to punch up, not down-and please keep in mind that there's a thin line between a trash-talking fan and a real asshole. For a guide on how to joke about sports, see this response from the FOX affiliate in Detroit:

Lindsey Adler would rather live in Detroit than Florida anyway. Follow her on Twitter.