Everyone who ever reported for a news organization knows what it feels like to have a story bumped for a more newsworthy tale. Try getting that story out later to see if it will gain any traction the second time around.
It seldom does. The reporter thus heads to the nearest bar while the public goes about their business like nothing happened—and since they didn't hear the story, it didn't happen.
That's what took place this past week. Utah hosted the annual NBA All-Star Game and, by all appearances, there was nothing else happening anywhere else in the world of equal news stature. Every reporter in town had NBA tags in their stories. Every newscaster breathlessly gushed at all the very tall, dark and handsome men being sighted all over town. The All-Star Game and tangential events were center stage of nearly every news story for a week.
Utahns are incredibly self-conscious about what outsiders think of us. Utahns are perpetually like Sally Fields, mushy at the Oscar podium, seeking the validation that the world actually loves us—that it really, really loves us. When we are mocked—as was the case this week when Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal spoke the unflattering truth about "boring" Salt Lake City—we don't handle it very well.
On one hand, we dig our Red State meat hooks into the rest of America. On the other, we want America to love us anyway. It consumes us to the point of full distraction.
Thus, most Utahns missed a big story this week. While Utah was busy wondering why Charles and Shaq would dare say bad things about our home state, many big stories got past us. One such was that in northern England—an area once part of the Roman Empire with legions commanded by the emperor Hadrian—a wooden device unearthed there in 1992 and considered to be a darning tool was reclassified.
Turns out, it was not a darning tool. The object is a 2,000-year-old dildo.
I'd rather revel in the discovery of a well-preserved Roman sex toy than to be aggrieved about Shaq having to order so many room service meals this past week because Salt Lake City has such a dreary dining and nightlife scene. Prior to the arrival of all those All-Star Game patrons, Utah and city leaders went to great lengths (as they always do) to present the lie that Utah is normal when it comes to booze.
Remember the 2002 Olympics, when liquor compliance turned a blind eye but then went back to bashing local clubs once the snow melted?
Think about it—a dildo that doesn't need batteries, isn't constructed of environment-harming plastics, wouldn't trigger an airport luggage alarm and lasts 2,000 years? That should be front page news, people! If I were in charge, I'd have put some pop-up risqué displays all around downtown.
Our fair city doesn't lack in adult-novelty boutiques, and it's clear that more than a few Utahns (and likely the entire sexually uptight, gay-and-trans-hating right-wing Republicans of the Utah House and Senate) keep those shops alive by spending on items other than saucy greeting cards.
That wasn't the only big story we overlooked. Did any of you venture to the west side of the old Rio Grande train station to see the community of homeless persons encamped there? By the looks of things, those folks had every creature comfort except community safety, protection from the elements, fresh water and toilet facilities.
It was very jarring to see folks tossing money hand over fist just a few yards from folks who don't have the means to toss a warm blanket. But, yes, let's worry about our hurt feelings because Charles and Shaq made us "uncomfortable."
Our city and state officials remain sniffing jockstraps and are so quick to deflect from the real issues. So, here's a simple solution for them: Next time there's a big event in town, give me a call. I'll take Shaq out to eat. I'll smoke a cigar with Barkley. We'll pound shooters while avoiding the Utahns who are just trying to "go to heaven."
It's what lots of local companies do already, they keep designated drinkers (DD) on staff so that when an out-of-state guest comes in and wants a lap dance, a martini and maybe a dildo, they just call on their company DD and a good time is had by all. Everyone wins.
I'm sure I could enlist hundreds of others who can commit to doing a real public service—and we'll do it on our own dime—all the while laughing at the mocking travesty foisted on Utah drinkers while dutifully protecting Utah's precious public image wrought by decades of ill-informed, theocratic do-gooders making liquor policy.
Barkley doesn't hate Utah. He also knows how to drink here. In 1993, the NBA All-Star Game came to Salt Lake City. Our City Weekly hangout then was the now long-gone Port O'Call, and every night, we sat and drank at the same corner round table. The single night we missed was Feb. 20, 1993, when we were asked to give up our seat for Barkley so he could properly celebrate his 30th birthday.
So, we did. The next night, he scored 16 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.
Barkley never complained a peep about our liquor or smoking laws. So, council members, mayor and governor, next time you need an assist, just holler. I'll do my part, so you don't have to (I've never seen any of you hanging out in downtown Salt Lake, BTW).
Utahns can then get back to thinking about dildos and the insufferable mess that Utah has made of our homeless community.
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