[“Sabbath is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks at intersections of work and life.]
More than Sports
I sometimes tell myself that I’m done with newspapers. They deal in stale news, often slanted in a way that goes against my values. I tell myself to stop wasting money, and then it happens: An investigation of a corrupt politician or members of his family. A profile of someone doing good in the community. An editorial that makes me think about things a different way. The Chicago Sun-Times still offers information and opinion that is relevant, often vital. Roger Ebert consistently delivers such writing in his movie reviews, editorials, and blog posts. So does Rick Telander.
Telander is more than a sports columnist. He thinks about issues and challenges his readers to engage hard subjects. Last year he wrote a series on football and brain injuries that was fascinating and painful at the same. Now he is back with a new series, a study of Murray Park in Chicago’s Englewood community, the part of the city where basketball star Derrick Rose grew up. Telander visited the area frequently last summer. He found the land that Michael Harrington called the “Other America,” a real place most of us choose not to see.
Reading about gang shootings, it’s often easy to forget that people live in areas like Englewood. Telander introduces us to those people: teachers, park superintendents, police officers, and postal workers. In today’s installment, he confesses that he quickly adapted to a community where people were shot and killed. Only the most unusual murders get noticed. Shooting is part of everyday life.
Kids escape through basketball, dreaming of being the next Derrick Rose, the kid who was able to leave the neighborhood. Telander profiles some of Rose’s friends who have chosen not to leave the community because they want to make it better. At the end of today’s installment, one of Rose’s childhood friends is trying to calm a group of young people. A car rides by and shot are fired. The peace maker was shot seven times (His story will be continued in tomorrow’s paper).
To his credit, Telander reports without judgment. Often, he lets people in the community tell the story in their own words. In the 1970s Telander wrote a great book called Heaven Is a Playground. His profile of Murray Park describes young people on playgrounds, but no one would call it heaven. At the same time, it’s too simple to call it hell. Some, like Derrick Rose, have left the neighborhood and live better, safer lives. Others choose to stay and fight to change it. Telander introduces us to the range of humanity in Murray Park, and we are richer for the experience. Without newspapers, we wouldn’t have such stories. Our lives would be simpler – in the worst sense of that word.