Our deadly Chicago far beneath NBA’s royalty: Telander

Written By BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist Posted: 07/09/2014, 02:22pm
Array SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 26: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks complains about a call during their game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on March 26, 2014 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Some things stop you in your tracks, even if you’re just a sportswriter.

Over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, 13 people were killed and 58 wounded from gun violence.

We’re talking from Thursday to early Monday morning.

Stunned local and national news outlets compared Chicago to a war zone — an ongoing war zone, that is, because the carnage never seems to end and the same editorials about reckless gun violence in this city seem to be produced month after month, year after year.

I almost chuckled, ruefully.

Chicago is worse than a war zone.

In the small areas of greatest danger — pockets of the South and West sides — a warm summer night creates something akin to a free fire zone. The enemy is anybody, everybody.

The United States lost 120 troops last year in Afghanistan — to all forms of violence. We lost 301 soldiers in 2012, 412 in 2011 and 496 in 2010, the height of the war effort for us in Afghanistan. In the 14 years we have been fighting in that country, as of June 24, 2014, we have lost a total of 2,233 troops.

Chicago dwarfs that carnage.

Just since 2009, there have been 2,418 homicides here. And counting. We average somewhere between 400 and 500 killings a year, so do the math. In a decade, we’re sending nearly 5,000 citizens to the graveyard, mostly from gun violence.

It’s crazy. Incomprehensible.

The vast majority of the victims and shooters are black males under the age of 35. Kind of like the demographics of the NBA.

It makes one wonder if the great, coveted Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and other NBA free agents are aware of what goes on here in Englewood and Auburn Gresham and Roseland when the guns are out.

It makes me wonder if they would care at all, as they make up their prissy, mercenary minds about which team and community deserves their services, about how things roll here. Makes me wonder if they should care.

It’s not their problem, you know. And they’d have no need ever to be in a bad part of Chicago — except for those random public-service and charity visits concocted by the Bulls or the players’ handlers for the goodwill benefits and daylight, well-protected camera moments.

That’s how it is.

We live in a more stratified country — and city — than seems possible under the graces of democracy. The destruction of the middle class and the possibilities it once promised continues unabated, for reasons that are complex and also simple — machines do the grunt work and, increasingly, the mindful work, too — so that young, poor folks are left only with dreams. And tiny little worlds of machismo and bullets.

It’s fitting that Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave his speech of disgust after the bloody weekend on an outdoor South Side basketball court. He asked where the parents were, the community, the gun laws.

Chicago Police chief Garry McCarthy had sent out hundreds of extra policemen for the holiday — the first Fourth of July to fall on a Friday in six years — and it made no difference. Or, if it did, you hate to think how many killings there might have been.

Bulls star Derrick Rose is from Englewood, the heart of the infestation, and it still seems a marvel that he made it out of the neighborhood physically unscathed. After all, none of this killing is new. I remember too well when Ben Wilson, the No. 1 high school player in the nation, was shot and killed not far from Simeon High School, which he attended.

Rose went to Simeon, too, and he wore jersey No. 25 during his career there to honor Wilson.

There were protests about gun violence and huge street marches back then, but nothing changed. That was nearly three decades ago, and here we are.

One of Rose’s best friends growing up, Arsenio Williams, a college player who came back to Englewood after school to do charity work, told me the only sure way to avoid the violence was to move away, to leave Chicago.

Not long after we talked, he was shot seven times in a drive-by. We talked again as he recovered at Christ Advocate Hospital.

‘‘It’s a trap,’’ he said of the situation for poor black males. ‘‘You’re gonna die. You’re trapped.’’


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