A golden opportunity. That's what the mayor of Detroit called it, and so did the executive director of the Motown Museum, who also happens to be Berry Gordy's grand-niece. Mick Jagger didn't say it, but he came close.
Detroit is Motown, Motown is Detroit, the Super Bowl is in Detroit, and the no-brainer theme for the big halftime extravaganza was Motown. The only people in the galaxy who didn't realize that just happen to work for the NFL, though, which appears to be why Jagger and the Rolling Stones have been imported to perform on the main stage at Ford Field tonight instead of, say, Stevie Wonder.
"It was a common, natural connection," Robin Terry said late last week from the museum she operates, which is located in the buildings that once housed Motown's headquarters - the recording studios, her great-uncle's living quarters, the "Hitsville USA" sign.
"You didn't have to be a Detroiter, you didn't have to be a big Motown fan, to notice the golden opportunity," she continued.
It's an opportunity the NFL missed, as badly as Mike Vanderjagt missed that field goal three weeks ago against the Steelers.
Stevie performs before the game, and Aretha Franklin sings the national anthem. But with all due respect to the Stones, Stevie and Aretha shouldn't be anyone's opening act. Not here, not now.
The NFL had one shot at this. It's Detroit's second time hosting the game, but the world, the city, the league and the halftime show is light-years away from where they were in 1982. Presuming the city isn't about to join the regular Super Bowl rotation, there never will be a window like this again.
No city in America, maybe the world, is more identified with music than Detroit. (Nashville and Liverpool are in the ballpark, and the Super Bowl isn't headed there, either.) Why even think the halftime honor would go anywhere else?
"With this kind of music legacy? No. No. No," Terry said, unable to suppress a laugh.
Well, no, no, no, is exactly what the NFL said.
People in Detroit and outside it were blown away when the league announced its big "get" for halftime. Even Mick thought it was a little crazy, which is saying a lot considering his standards for such things. "They make mistakes just like everybody," he said last week at the Stones' news conference.
"It's not surprising to hear that," Terry said. "Even in this wonderful moment for them, they understand. They get it. ... I applaud them for that."
So how and why did this happen? At least two stories have circulated about the NFL hearing proposals for Detroit-based acts taking the halftime stage, and rejecting them because they were bent on getting the Stones. Then there is this from Terry: "The NFL was saying they need someone who can really deliver a big show.
"I said, wow, they don't think any of our artists can deliver a big show," she recalled.
Apparently, back in the '60s and '70s, the listening habits of the NFL's powers-that-be were a bit limited.
The pre-game show, headlined by Stevie, is the NFL's makeup call, its Band-Aid. He and the other performers were added way after the fact. Stevie, the Four Tops, John Legend, India.Arie, Aretha, plus Aaron Neville and Dr. John as an homage to New Orleans - all get their moments in the pre-game, some of them on live TV. And they all beat it before the headliners show up.
Smokey Robinson did a show Friday night in the city but won't perform at the game. Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, the Commodores and the Miracles headlined downtown last night, but also are absent today. The Temptations reportedly are performing in Virginia. Diana Ross sang the anthem for the 1982 game at the Pontiac Silverdome, but now she's nowhere in sight.
Stevie and Aretha have traveled from bitterness to acceptance, and Detroit and its sympathizers have followed their lead. They all did the league a favor by being so conciliatory.
But they did America a favor by holding the NFL's feet to the fire as soon as word got out about the halftime plans. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick voiced his displeasure right away. ("The NFL missed a golden opportunity," he was quoted as saying.) Local radio stations urged listeners to complain to the league office. The papers and newscasts pounded on the topic relentlessly. The Motown family and its offshoots let their anger be known.
The local organizing committee got an earful and made sure the NFL heard the outcry. The league scrambled like Michael Vick to get out of the mess. It got out of it well enough to convince most that this was, as Terry put it, "an oversight." In the spirit of the big civic event granted Detroit, the NFL has been forgiven.
But no one is forgetting. Not even Mick Jagger.
Read David Steele's blog at baltimoresun.com/steeleblog
Points after -- David Steele
There was a lot of concern that Kobe Bryant's 81-point game would send the wrong message to youth. Last week, a New York high school girl scored 113 points in a game her team won by 105 points. Kobe's game did send the wrong message -- to that girl's coach.
In terms of crucial players lost at midseason and drastically reducing Maryland's NCAA tournament chances, Chris McCray might be this season's D.J. Strawberry. The Terps could find out this week (at North Carolina State, home against Virginia and Duke).
Meanwhile, don't be surprised if the state's lone representative in the tournament is Coppin State. The country would fall in love with that story, especially since most of it witnessed Coppin losing in its region early this season.
The media restrained themselves admirably in taking cheap shots at downtrodden Detroit this week. Hope they're not saving it up for Turin.
Prediction that hopefully will be forgotten by 10 tonight: Steelers 23, Seahawks 21.