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All-Star Game ointment won

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 4, 2009 - If you haven’t viewed Austin, Texas, mayoral candidate Brewster McCracken’s television commercial that totally trashes the city of St. Louis you should find it on YouTube .

You might be insulted, but he says a lot about the past, present and future of the Gateway to the West in 30 seconds, and it is stuff that need be heard.

Of course, St. Louis has the Cardinals and other “big-league” sports, something that Austin will most likely never possess.

St. Louis just hosted the NCAA Women’s Final Four in April and greeted the Men’s Final Four in 2005.

And the biggest baseball game short of the World Series will be here on July 14. Major League Baseball is bringing the All-Star Game to Busch Stadium.

Yippee.

For every city that is doing better than St. Louis, our civic leaders can proclaim that the All-Star Game is here. Everything is fine, right.

Wrong.

I’m already growing weary of an All-Star Game that will not take place for another 10 weeks.

Unfortunately, it is coming to St. Louis at a time when all elected officials and residents should be focusing on the city’s shortcomings. The city can pass itself off as successful to Major League Baseball, thousands of visitors and millions watching television on that Tuesday night in July.

The Regional Chamber and Growth Association will boast about the tens of millions of dollars that the All-Star Game will bring to the area.

But by Thursday morning, the world will no longer be watching, and St. Louis will still be in critical condition when it comes to economic development, race relations and education. Huge corporate-sponsored tents and fancy parties that will be presented to America for three days will be replaced by a softball diamond and the broken promises of Baseball Village.

Metro will still face dire circumstances and thousands of St. Louis residents will have no way to reach their jobs outside of the city limits because bus routes have been slashed. Commissioner Bud Selig will praise St. Louis for the marvelous job it has done as host.

Mayor Francis Slay will take bows and again make the argument that St. Louis is world-class and can host any major convention or event in the nation. Of course, that’s his job, and I don’t blame him.

But the All-Star Game ointment is not enough to sooth the ills of the city.

If the people of the city of St. Louis are tired of the “same old same old” what better time to peacefully protest?

Amy Goodman of PBS’ Democracy Now spoke last week at Left Bank Books' new downtown location. Through real stories of real people, she passionately described the impact that common folks can have when they choose to speak up, when they decide they want to be heard. This tiny woman stands so tall when she details the power of activism and peaceful demonstrations.

I am not suggesting that the All-Star Game or the events surrounding it be disrupted. But peaceful protest is just as big a part of America as baseball ever will be.

St. Louis will be on stage in July. There is no reason that residents should not use the opportunity to get across to those who run the city – whether they are elected, appointed, corporate giant or favored citizen – that it is time for St. Louis to be all it can be.

The All-Star Game is nice. But in reality it is a diversion from the problems that plague the city. Be it just two days, it is 48 hours that the powers that be can brag on a place that Brewster insults as backward and forgotten.

Quite frankly, I wish he would move here and consider running for some office. We need his kind of vision and leadership more than an All-Star Game.

Alvin A. Reid is a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly. 

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