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Good Luck, Kera 

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Some years ago, I was having lunch at a local café that was often frequented by NBA players. I knew the owner and liked his food. Catching a glimpse of the guys who were about to face the Utah Jazz a few hours later was just something that happened now and again. On one occasion, I was minding my own business when what looked to be an entire basketball team came in for some food goodies.

If not for the imposing mass of Shaquille O'Neal leading the way, I wouldn't have really known nor cared who they were. But this was Shaq, a veritable superstar since he burst onto the NBA basketball scene at age 20. I paid my bill, walked over and said, "Good luck tonight, Shaq" and walked off. "Good luck tonight," is my go-to saying when I see players—or even fans of other teams when they walk our city streets dressed in their recognizable team garb—and I always give a friendly nod. I am doing the Lord's work making people think Utah is full of nice and welcoming people. Which would be true if Utah were populated only by people like me, but it's not. I'm surrounded by asshats.

I've always believed outsiders should be treated with respect and, if they ever moved here, they could figure it out for themselves if they liked the place. I more than like Utah—I love it—or I would've left, but I also have nuclear-grade pain tolerance. It doesn't really matter because I can't prove my saying, "Good luck tonight," persuaded a single person to take up residence here. I said it to Danny Ainge once when he was sitting at the bar having lunch and a soft drink at Port O'Call. Danny didn't need any persuading to move here; he already knew the place.

However, I've concluded that I had an impact on him since his son, Republican Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge, is saying all the right things about COVID-19, decency and accountability these days. Danny must have heard my words as, "Go do what's right" and passed that down to young Tanner—whom, I believe, is the ideal guy to knock off Burgess Owens or Mike Lee in 2022. Of course, he'd have to get past whoever becomes the Democratic candidate in that race, but as has been proven about a thousand times already in Utah politics, that's not impossible.

Telling people, "Good luck tonight," has positive impact. Just ask former Chicago Bulls guard Steve Kerr. He was walking blindly down a Salt Lake City street one day, probably admiring the local empty parking lots, when I nodded and said "Good luck tonight, Steve," and kept on walking. He noticed that I not only knew his name but that I was carrying a City Weekly. It is not a stretch to assume he then picked one up at the corner, read it, and became reinforced in the notion that he'd not only be a championship head coach one day, but also a man who fervently speaks his mind on all matters related to racial equality, Black Lives Matter, decency and politics. He endorsed Joe Biden for president. 'Nuff said.

I've probably said, "Good luck tonight," to 20 Utah Jazz players over time. The only person it never worked on was Karl Malone. He's way out there.

Any scientist can prove that in the years since I told Shaq, "Good luck tonight," that my doing so aided his eventual evolution into a wise, articulate and loveable—in the ways that giant men are loveable—basketball commentator. After a big game last week, Shaq was seen by some to be dressing down our current favorite Utah Jazz son, Donovan Mitchell, in a post-game interview. There outta be a law!

So, of course, there will be a law—or at least a resolution. Old folks take what Shaq said as a challenge for Donovan to get even better, but you must remember the NBA was a tougher go 20 years ago, and even tougher 20 years before that. Today, it's a playful shoot around. It appears to me that Shaq's words are as powerful as my "Good luck tonight," since Donovan has taken off, further cementing himself as one of the best players in the league.

Republican Kera Birkeland, who represents the good people of Morgan, Utah, in the state Legislature, is a Donovan fan. She's also a sports official, so today, she donned a referee outfit and presented a resolution to her colleagues that can be distilled down to "Donovan is a good guy, and Shaq is a bad guy." For all the silliness of taking legislative time to introduce such a bill, Birkeland deserves some slack. Just over 37,000 people live in her district, with just 1% of them black. I think that's a stretch. There are more black players in the NBA than live in her district.

Yet, last summer, it was Birkeland working closely with and listening to Black Lives Matter activists, and she is now sponsoring HB154 that would require police officers who witness other officers violating procedures to report such offenses and defines parameters for justification of using deadly force. I couldn't care less about her Republican views on big government and lower taxes. She has plenty of company there. I do care that on this issue, though, and she has stepped on to center court and wants to play ball. Anyone fighting for equality on Utah's stodgy Capitol Hill are welcome in my book, so much so in this case that I will plan a trip up to Morgan. I'll have beers and a burger at Taggart's Grill to show my support. Good luck tonight, Kera.

Send comments to john@cityweekly.net.

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John Saltas

John Saltas

Bio:
John Saltas is a lamb eating, Bingham Canyon native, City Weekly feller who'd rather be in Greece.

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