Every March, basketball fans in Spokane turn their eyes to the campus north east of downtown. For years now, Gonzaga has been a perennial darling of the NCAA tournament. Now, a former Spokane resident appears to be holding that fandom against the city, calling us a desperate town, relying on the Zags' success.
An article appeared Tuesday morning on The Guardian's website, titled "How Gonzaga became the central hope for the struggling city of Spokane."
Turns out, it was written by someone who used to live here. Cody Delistraty describes his childhood spent reading and not caring about Gonzaga basketball. Now that he's older and living in Paris, he doesn't look too favorably upon his former home. That's fine, not everyone loves where they came from. But, the assertions he makes to back up his claims are flat-out wrong.
Like saying Spokane is built "on a tiny lump of a hill."
He describes seeing Gonzaga coach Mark Few at a mega-church in Spokane and how it was filled with "a mass of singing white people." He calls few "an extremely tough man to pin down" and compares him to a Parisian art dealer. Does he mean the same Mark Few who is seen at youth sporting events and grocery stores all over Spokane? If so, that guy we see dropping his kids off at the school down the street is also, according to the author, "the central - perhaps the only - source of hope for a struggling city."
No pressure, Coach Few. Just win the NCAA tournament and save us!
The article attempts to show that Spokane has no reason for joy or prosperity without it coming on the backs of the Gonzaga mens basketball team. He talks about the Zags as holding Spokane together, from his father eating pasta and listening to games on the radio to "the yelling fans who paid five dollars for upper-level seats."
Yeah, you're not getting five dollar seats to Zags games. Unless you know someone, you're not getting tickets at all.
His portrayal of Spokane as a long-dead dystopian wasteland includes what Spokane Police call inflated and inaccurate crime statistics. He says it's dangerous here, but Spokane Police say he combined property crimes and violent crimes to make it look worse than it really is. He also cites the 10 murders in the city last year, but doesn't bother to compare that to any other similar-sized city in America (on in Washington, for that matter, where Tacoma had 18 murders last year.)
A Spokane Police Officer told me today that he's lived all over the world and he chooses to build his life here because it's safe. And, he's the guy seeing the crime first-hand every day.
Delistraty also describes Riverfront Park as though it's an abandoned amusement park in Chernobyl. "The carousel is now closed most of the year, the Ferris wheel now rusted."
He doesn't bother to mention the park is undergoing a massive renovation to completely remake the heart of downtown Spokane. Nor does he mention the hundreds of people moving into apartments and condos in downtown Spokane. Or the entirely new neighborhood of Kendall Yards, bringing upscale housing, restaurants and jobs to the city.
He didn't find anything positive because he wasn't looking.
Delistraty did manage to make one correction to his article after several people pointed out a glaring mistake. The earlier version mentioned Spokane taxpayers shelling out $25 million for McCarthey Athletic Center at GU. Not even close. Next time, he should fact check these things before he goes to print.
There are more factual errors in the article than I can keep track of. This should at least give you an idea. You can read and find more for yourself, like a game of Where's Waldo, but with facts.
I don't know why he chose to write this story this way. I'm not sure exactly what audience he's trying to reach or what picture he intended to paint. But, presenting these as "facts" is not only ridiculous, it's irresponsible.
If nothing else, it has brought out support online for our plucky little city. Community leaders and long-time residents have jumped online to talk about why they love it here. Others have provided corrections on inaccuracies we hadn't even noticed. All reminders that communities are made up of the people who live here and choose to stay to make it better.
Now, about those five dollar Zags tickets...