It’s second down. The Lions are up on the Packers 24-21 with just over a minute left. It’s the 1994 NFC playoffs and 70,000 Lions fans are screaming their blessed heads off in the stands at the Pontiac Silverdome. The roar, the stench of beer is overwhelming. No matter how loud your buddy shouts, you can’t hear a word he says. A blonde chick with waterfall bangs shakes her boobs live on the jumbotron.
This is life.
Down on the field, dreaded Lion-slayer and Pro Bowl quarterback Brett Favre steps behind center for the Packers. He stoops down and shouts out “hike” with barely a moment’s notice. The ball, and by proxy fate itself, is in his sweaty palms. He takes a few quick steps back and doesn’t like what he sees. No one is open. All 270 pounds of Lions defensive end Robert Porcher approaches like a freight train to his right. Favre rolls left into an open pocket and eyes a streaking Sterling Sharpe along the sideline. Defensive back Kevin Scott trails far behind.
Finally, an open receiver.
Favre launches the ball up into the stratosphere. The stadium lets out a collective gasp, and sure enough, the ball lands safely in Sharpe’s waiting hands in the end zone. Touchdown, Packers. Game over. The Green Bay, Wisconsin fans with their stupid foam cheese hats leap for joy, taunting the home crowd. The Lions make a last ditch effort to come back, but it’s too little, too late. The Packers win by four.
Flash-forward to 2013. On a cold, January morning, Silverdome owners Triple Properties deflate the stadium’s fiberglass roof – held up by air pressure – for the last time. Sure, there’s talk of reopening the Silverdome one day with a new, better roof, but who really knows? Pontiac is used to hearing false promises, like how every time General Motors slashed wages or closed a factory in the city, citizens were told it was for the better.
Yeah, right. Give me a break.
GM once employed over 30,000 people in Pontiac. I’d guess that number is down to maybe 4,500 people now, and that’s mostly white-collar jobs. You can imagine the devastation this wrought – boarded-up schools, rotting strip malls, and cracked, empty asphalt lots are common sights in 21st century Pontiac.
But at least – at least – Rocket Restaurant on Baldwin is still open. Here, starting at $8.49, you can get yourself a real Monster Burger, a couch cushion-sized sandwich that’s sure to clog even the widest of arteries. If you thought a one pound beef patty sounded dangerous enough, wait until after it’s been deep-fried! Yes, deep-fried, because that’s the only way this place can cook the patties fast enough for its impatient customers.
Like a fool, I ordered the Mushroom Swiss Monster Burger on my first visit, which comes loaded with melted Swiss cheese, mayo, mushrooms, lettuce, and grilled onions. It was bigger than my face, and sweet doesn’t begin to describe it. Grease and fat simply shouldn’t be this smooth coming down. It’s downright dangerous. Everything had a good flavor: the bun was fresh from a local bakery; the ground chuck patty tasted backyard barbecue perfect; and the Swiss had melted into irresistible goo.
Well, I guess If I had to be critical, I suppose the lettuce was paltry and limp, but who orders a Monster Burger for the lettuce? And OK, so the probably mayo came from a jar and the mushrooms were of the canned variety, but this is a greasy spoon, man! They only occasionally clean the tables here and they deep fry patties to save time! If you wanted mushrooms hand-picked by monks on an organic farm in the Himalayas, you should go to Berkeley, California, not Pontiac. I didn’t mind.
For the sake of the reading public, I arrogantly ate my Monster Burger in one sitting. I figured it had to be more entertaining that way. Oh sure, they’d quartered it for my safety, but do you think I’d heed such warnings and take the other three quarters home to share? Of course not! My stomach groaned, my chin dribbled, my senses faltered – and yet I pressed on. In the name of Jesus, America, oil drills, and the sanctity of marriage (amen), I devoured that sucker in less than ten minutes. The Man v. Food dude had nothing on me.
Initially, I felt reasonably normally. I was terribly bloated, but otherwise functioning fine. It wasn’t until I got back on I-75 South that I knew this experiment had gone horribly wrong. My eyes glazed over. Noxious fumes rose from the region of my gluteus maximus. I was about to be in for a long, long night. Why? I thought. WHY HAD I DONE THIS TO MYSELF?!?
Quick, someone grab the Pepto-Bismal!
You know what, though? If Pontiac can still dish out a burger this tough to conquer, maybe there’s some hope left for this town after all.
May we meet again, admirable foe.