This City Should Talk

bill utter

BY Bill Utter

February 17, 2020

Public Affairs

For those who aren’t basketball fans you can be excused for missing the NBA All-Star weekend festivities that wrapped up Sunday night. Our Bulls and college teams have struggled in recent years (save Loyola’s magical run) so basketball does not dominate the headlines.

But if you are from Chicago and love the city, warts and all, you should understand that even on this icy weekend we were an All Star. The national media lenses were pointed our way and liked what they saw. It was a basketball focus, of course, but it was more than that. It went beyond the usual clichés about pizza and hot dogs to capture part of the real Chicago.

The TNT network’s broadcast of the game opened with a tribute to the city. Chicago’s own Common was featured in a clever video shot in front of a giant scale model of the city. Everyone from Buddy Guy to Barack Obama to WNBA’s Candace Parker shared their own Chicago story.

From there, the action turned live as Common walked on stage at the United Center to continue: “If this city could talk, it would say ‘hey man, you from Chicago.’” He mixed unexpected shout outs (slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and John Baptiste Du Sable, our Haitian-born first resident) with images of former Mayor Harold Washington and Jazz icon Louis Armstrong. And he called out our city’s basketball legends and the neighborhood playgrounds where they got their start.

The rest of the focus turned to the game, but it was enough to remind the nation about the richness and diversity of Chicago. It proves once again that there is real value in taking on these opportunities for the national spotlight. The key is to make the cost worth the benefit.

We all dodged disaster when the 2016 Olympic bid went to Brazil. Imagine the financial hangover we’d all be experiencing right now on top of the real fiscal crisis we already face. But not all of these high-profile events require that kind of public backing. Starting with hosting soccer’s World Cup in 1994, we’ve shown that we can be a star and should not fear the whole world watching our city.

The last time the NBA All-Star game was played in Chicago it was 1988, at the old Stadium in a very different west side neighborhood. We should not wait another 32 years for a return visit. This city should talk. We’ve got a lot to say.

Banner image Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images).

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bill utter

BY Bill Utter

February 17, 2020

Public Affairs