This time, it happened during the All-Star Game on Sunday, when Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal started bantering about it. Shaq said he had never eaten so much room service in his life, while Barkley said something about everyone going to heaven here.
First, this was ironic coming in the middle of a game that may have been the most boring of all time. One of the coaches, Denver’s Michael Malone, called it “the worst basketball game ever played.” It had all the excitement of a pre-game shoot around.
But, all that aside, the worst part was that locals fell for it again. As soon as Barkley and Shaq spoke, social media lit up with people defending the city or, alternately, agreeing it was boring. The mayor got involved, which is OK because her job is to defend the city.
So what? It’s working.
During the past 37 years, the state of Utah has grown from 1.66 million people to almost 3.5 million. It was the fastest growing state in the decade of the teens. The state has, for 15 straight years, ranked as having the top economic outlook in the nation, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Rich States, Poor States” report. Unemployment currently is at 2.2%, and the Department of Workforce Services said the state added 40,100 new jobs last year.
Tripadvisor just ranked Park City as the third best skiing destination in North America.
Quit agonizing over how some people judge us. Honestly, the state ought to ditch all the “greatest snow” stuff and just advertise the place as boring. That seems to work.
Back in 1988, Los Angeles Times writer David Lamb wrote a front-page story that described Salt Lake City as, "A Perry Como kind of place, an America of the '50s holding out against the beat of heavy metal." He described how, “Walking the streets of Salt Lake, it’s difficult not to feel wholesome, maybe even a little bit holy.”
There’s that going-to-heaven thing again. I was always taught as a child that this was a good thing.
If you never heard of Perry Como, he was a popular singer in the 1940s and ‘50s, with a relaxed style and a soothing voice. He liked cardigan sweaters. People might have looked at him and under-estimated him. A few critics didn’t like him, but a lot of folks did — enough for him to have a successful career that spanned six decades.
Variety reports that, in his book, ““The Philosophy of Modern Song,” singer-icon Bob Dylan described Como as a “downright incredible” performer.
“When he stood and sang, he owned the song and he shared it and we believed every single word,” Dylan said.
So, a chill guy who killed it onstage? Cool. I’ll take it.
As I said, we’ve heard all this before. During the NBA playoffs of 1994, Denver’s Brian Williams said he would go straight to Europe if he were traded to Utah. Mario Elie said he was getting worn out just sitting in his hotel room.
In 1997, Derek Harper of the Mavericks supposedly killed a trade to come to the Jazz, who were bound for the finals that year, because he didn’t want to live here. Former Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson took media members on a pub crawl before the Olympics, just to show you can get a drink here.
Still, the image persists.
So, why do we keep getting riled by this? Really … who cares?
Palmer DePaulis was the mayor back when that Perry Como reference appeared. He told a reporter, "We're the problem. We're obsessed with our own image." He was right.
Como has been gone for 22 years now, but he probably would tell the city to just keep singing, and make sure the cardigan is buttoned correctly.
After all the big events, all the growth and all the prosperity, the proper response to comments like those of Shaq and Barkley is “Thank you.” Just make sure everyone spells the place correctly so people can find it.