If network TV commentators don't have anything good to say about Salt Lake City during the All-Star game next month, it won't be for lack of effort by the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The bureau is showering the national media with gifts in advance of the game - including shot glasses that come with an explanation of Utah's liquor laws; wallets filled with free ski passes; beehive-shaped containers filled with honey; glass mugs stenciled with each reporter's name and filled with taffy; picture books of the Wasatch Front; and cassette tapes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing patriotic songs."Stop and think about it. You probably have negative feelings about some other city in the country," said Jeri Cartwright, spokeswoman for the bureau. "You may not be too excited if you were assigned to go there. All we're doing is trying to soften them up so they'll be receptive to what the city has to offer.
"A lot of people out there have bad perceptions of Salt Lake City, but those go away once they come here and experience the place."
Cartwright said 25 reporters covering the National Basketball Association's annual game are being sent one gift per week, along with news releases explaining the culture and history of the area, as well as an explanation of the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in-formation on how other denominations also thrive in the area.
Although 240 other reporters also will cover the game and its events, Feb. 20-21, Cartwright said expenses kept the bureau from mailing gifts to all of them. She said the gifts were donated and will go only to reporters from the NBC and TNT television networks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press.
The only player receiving a gift is Michael Jordan. The bureau planned to send him bright orange colored golf balls emblazoned with "I love Salt Lake." Carthwright said the balls are in response to reports that Jordan doesn't like having the game in Utah because the weather prevents him from golfing.
Officials are hoping the gifts will prevent the media from receiving the types of negative impressions some NBA planners had recently while visiting Salt Lake City to help plan the game. Some complained they found little to do during their free time other than sit in their hotel rooms.
Thom Dillon, executive assistant to Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Cor-radini and a member of a local planning committee, was assigned to acquire temporary memberships to local clubs for the planners' next visit.
"I guess you have to be educated as to how to have fun in Salt Lake," Cartwright said.
She said NBA officials also were alarmed at the heavy snowfall during the first part of the month.
"They thought, `Oh no, it's going to be like this for the game,' " Cartwright said.
The NBA has planned a series of parties and events in conjunction with the game.
But Cartwright said tourism officials are hoping for a big storm, which they believe would bring nationwide attention to local ski resorts.