AL HAMNIK: Chicago's sports heroes can't be casual observers

2013-09-21T17:30:00Z 2013-09-23T17:50:08Z AL HAMNIK: Chicago's sports heroes can't be casual observersAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
September 21, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

The maddening postmortem never changes.

A youngster or elderly neighbor is shot to death on the mean streets of Chicago, caught in gang crossfire near their homes, innocent victims, and we get the same tired quotes from city officials and law enforcement.

"Illegal guns are responsible for the violence."

"When will the killing stop?"

"Gangs and drugs are taking over the city."

"No place is safe any more. This used to be a good neighborhood."

"Where are the police?"

"We need tougher gun laws. When will our lawmakers wake up?"

And so it goes, the same questions, the same cries for help, as tragedy after tragedy unfolds.

It was reported that through the first six months of 2013, the Chicago Police Department has spent more than $57 million on overtime and is now feeling a budget crunch, so residents are asked to tip off the cops, though many are too afraid.

And the killings continue.

I have a suggestion.

Concentrate on the city's underprivileged youth, the future gang bangers who lack direction and purpose.

We need Chicago's sports heroes to step up in the venues these kids closely identify with — basketball, baseball, football. They have the resources and connections. Theirs is not a job that ends with the final out, the final buzzer. It's ongoing as long as they wear their team's uniform and draw a fat paycheck.

Many pro athletes have a "favorite" charity which their agent sets up and arranges publicity for. The athlete makes an appearance here and there, signs a few autographs, cuts a check and then it's back to his comfortable life in the affluent suburbs.

Chicago youth deserves more than that. Sadly, a Derrick Rose makes a bigger impression than a firefighter or teacher, so we're left playing the athlete card.

Anything, to put these kids back on the right path.

Teams can't force their stars to go that extra mile. And so, I must ask:

Hey, Cubs' starter Jeff Samardzija, are you willing to help build a youth center and occasionally visit the kids there without a TV camera crew following you around like a lost puppy?

Hey, White Sox slugger Adam Dunn, fans have been very supportive during your struggles on the South Side. Can you make the rounds of city schools and give kids a reason for hope? If anyone knows about perseverance, it's you.

Hey, Derrick Rose, covered your news conference in tough West Englewood in 2011 when you spearheaded the renovation of a basketball court near your home. Unfortunately, it was more of a promotion for Powerade, which announced it would donate $25 to the park district for every postseason basket you scored.

You grew up amid gangs and gun shots, so a true hands-on involvement with Chicago's youth only seems fitting. Roll up your sleeves, Dude. If not you, who else?

Hey, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, your faces are all over TV. Your Bears jerseys are hot sellers. Appearing at some car dealership doesn't cut it. Street kids need to see you, hear you, close up. Your words carry that much weight.

But are you all listening? That's the question.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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