On Milwaukee

I debated what to do about Hawks’ forward Josh Smith’s pot shots at the city of Milwaukee. J-Smoove’s social commentary is exactly as important as my basketball game and deserves about as much attention. That being said, living in Atlanta now and having been born and raised in suburban Milwaukee (what’s up Waukesha!) gives me unique insight on this issue.

To summarize, Smith’s deft commentary essentially boils down to: “There’s more to do in Atlanta than Milwaukee.” No kidding? Atlanta is one of the most livable, lively, active cities in America with world class museums, concerts, golf, restaurants, shopping, professional and college sports options, great weather and some of the most beautiful women anywhere. Milwaukee doesn’t have a lot of any of those. I moved from Wisconsin to the South, and eventually Atlanta, because of all those reasons and a dozen more. That being said, why would someone with the great fortune to live in Atlanta take shots at the city of Milwaukee? It’s like the jock in grade school targeting the kid with cerebral palsy in dodge ball; what are you proving?

Smith is obviously aping Bulls’ forward Joakim Noah’s recent comments regarding the lack of excitement in Cleveland. Apparently NBA players are on a satirical 20-year delay and find jabbing dried-up Rust Belt cities cutting edge. This just in, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, LA and Dallas are more hip than Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit and Pittsburgh.

What amuses me about both players’ comments is that when NBA players go on the road, here’s what they do: check into the hotel room, watch in-house porn movies, play video games and smoke dope. That’s it. You can do all of those things in Milwaukee or Cleveland just as well as you can in Atlanta or Chicago. I doubt either of them has ever been to a museum or park or taken a tour of architecture on their many visits around the league.

“Hey Mike,” Josh Smith said to Mike Bibby as the two checked into their Washington, D.C. hotel, “do you want to hit the Smithsonian aerospace museum before the National Portrait Gallery or after?”

Precious few pro athletes are intellectually curious or have any interest whatsoever in exploring the attributes of the cities they travel to. That’s fine. Athletes have been conditioned to be stupid and we don’t ask any more of them than to run fast and jump high. What Milwaukee does have to offer – an internationally important art museum, a nationally respected natural history museum, Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, the Harley-Davidson museum, the world’s largest live music festival – wouldn’t interest Smith anyway. Again, I’m guessing his road itinerary, like most of his colleagues, is check in, porn, PS3, bake.

The most idiotic comment Smith made is that he couldn’t find a good restaurant in Milwaukee. Anyone with room-temperature IQ and the Internet can find great places to eat in any city of size in this country. Here’s an even better idea, at the Pfister Hotel or whichever other $500 a night joint you stay at in the 404, I’m guessing there’s a concierge who’s lived in town for 30 years and knows every great restaurant in town. Ask him.

Because I’m an answer guy first and foremost, let me help out Josh and all of his teammates with two great restaurant recommendations for Milwaukee.
Balistreri’s for Italian and Mo’s for steak. Both of them are as good as anything you’ll find in the “A.”

I’ve lived all over the country in places considered great and dumps and what I’ve found is this, any place is what you make of it. If you want to believe in tired stereotypes and compare everywhere to the greatest places you’ve ever been, you’ll be disappointed. If, however, you take a sincere interest in exploring new surroundings – even if they disappoint at first blush – and determine yourself to see a place for what it is instead of what it’s not, you’ll almost always be pleasantly surprised.

One final suggestion for Smith about what to do in Milwaukee: go swim in Lake Michigan with ankle weights.

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