Edson: Great Memories of the Falling Pontiac Silverdome
Not many people are shedding tears this week as the once 80,000 seat Pontiac Silverdome begins its final demolition.
That’s because not much went right inside the Silverdome for the Detroit Lions or the Detroit Pistons. So it was fitting on Sunday that the first attempt to implode the structure failed.
But while the Lions and Pistons struggled at the Silverdome, I have some great memories of several events there.
1979 NBA ALL-STAR GAME: This was the highlight of all my years at the Silverdome. The 1979 NBA All-Star game was held there and I covered the game. In the days leading up to the game, reporters had access to all the big names at the time: Pete Maravich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving to name a few.
There were several players with Michigan ties: Bob Lanier (Pistons); Rudy Tomjanovich (U-M); George Gervin (EMU) and Campy Russell (U-M), not to be confused with the great Cazzie Russell.
Dr. J, Julius Erving, and Abdul-Jabbar were surprisingly easy to interview. The biggest disappointment was the attitude of the surly Maravich – a wizard on the court and a sulking, spoiled person off the court.
The game took place on Sunday, Feb. 4, 1979 at the Silverdome with 31,745 fans looking on. I was sitting courtside on press row and watched as David Thompson scored 25 points and took home MVP honors (that we voted on) in the West’s 134-129 win.
1983 MICHIGAN PANTHERS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: This was the first full season of the United States Football League and it was capped off by a championship for the Michigan Panthers. Since the USFL didn’t want to go head-to-head with the NFL, the season was played in the spring and summer. The championship game was played on July 17, 1983.
The Panthers defeated the Philadelphia Stars 24-22 at the Silverdome as former U-M star Anthony Carter sealed the victory with a 48-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Bobby Hebert.
There was talk of a Panther dynasty after that, of course. But the team came up short in 1984 and the league disbanded after its second season.
2000 N’SYNC CONCERT: This was one of my proudest moments as a dad and uncle. We bought three tickets for an N’Sync concert – featuring Justin Timerlake – for July 18, 2000. Our youngest daughter was 15 and one of my nieces was 13.
I wasn’t a huge fan of N’Sync but I was asked (probably told) to drive to the concert because I had been to the Silverdome many times to cover sporting events.
Well, it was quite an experience. They had a big curtain covering one half of the field and the concert was held on the other half. So there were close to 40,000 screaming kids as N’Sync took the stage, repelling down a makeshift helicopter. It might have been the loudest the Silverdome ever sounded.
After the concert, we got in the car and looked at the massive traffic jam heading toward the main entrance. Luckily, from the days of covering the Lions and Pistons, I knew of a back gate exit that led directly to I-75. I was one of only a handful of cars who knew about the exit that night and within minutes we were on I-75 north heading home.
I turned to ask the girls what they thought of the concert and they were fast asleep. So it was a quiet ride home.
But it was a good way to wind up what turned out to be my final visit to the Pontiac Silverdome.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.