As a resident of Northeast Ohio, I’m like everyone else around here; my reason for living did not evaporate July 8, 2010 — no matter what the national media say.
That was the day LeBron James, a young man of great talent and pitiful manners, waited for the sun to set on Lake Erie before he told an ESPN infotainment show that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat.
His announcement triggered a temporary outrage not seen in these parts since Art Modell sneaked out of town with our entire football team in 1996. LeBron started talking about himself in the third person, and most of us yelled at the TV set or someone we loved and then went to bed.
But a few Cavs fans and one team owner did silly things that ended up on the local news and the Internet, thus fueling the national media’s insatiable appetite for evidence of our inner Eeyore.
Poor, poor put-upon Cleveland. You’d think our rallying cry was a long-winded sigh.
As I write this, 83 days have passed in Cleveland since LeBron took his talents south. Around here, posters came down but life bubbled up during this precious movement of time. Untold numbers of people broke up and got engaged, finalized divorces and said “I do.” Babies were born; grandparents were buried; and more than a few humans were brought to their knees by miraculous news. Kids outgrew school clothes and their reverence for parents, and hundreds of kittens and puppies found new homes. We said goodbye to fireflies and hello to football, and lately we pause for canopies of showoff leaves acting as if they don’t know what’s coming next.
I don’t expect the national media to cover these small moments of glorious proof that life goes on in Cleveland. I would, however, appreciate it if they’d stop hopping off planes and writing drive-by analyses of what they think ails us. We’ve got all kinds of things going wrong and a lot going right around here lately, and none of it has anything to do with LeBron James.
Earlier this week, New York
reporter Jonathan Abrams wrote national media story No. 4,738 about how Cleveland is struggling to recover from its breakup with LeBron. At the risk of sounding proud and sensitive, I object to Abrams’ depiction of us as a sorry mix of pride and sensitivity. Don’t confuse parental disappointment with a juvenile’s sense of justice.
I also would like to point out that one grudge-bearing barbershop owner with a life-size LeBron decal on his floor does not prove we’re caught up in a cycle of relentless despair over the departure of a single 25-year-old, no matter how gifted he may be.
There’s a bigger issue here: Why do so many reporters and pundits from other places like to depict us as washed up and warmed over in the Midwest? Too many narratives about our region begin with landscapes of cornfields and rusted factories and end with ruminations about our low self-esteem. These tales of our looming extinction are really annoying to all of us still very much alive.
Maybe you have to live here to stomach the brisk brew of humor and pathos steeped in the history of people leading quiet lives of everyday courage. Our unwillingness to boast looks like a curious disease to New Yorkers, who courted LeBron with their usual chest-thumping bravado of superiority while ridiculing a Cleveland video of local celebrities singing for him to stay, please.
Well, sure, New York, call us polite. And it’s true we sometimes suff er from a stubborn pride. We do wear disappointments like hair shirts, scratching and twitching our way through too many days.
But we do have a lot in common. Big things. Our time zone, for example. I’ve lost count of how many of you have asked, “What time is it in Cleveland?”
“Same time as it is in New York,” I always say.
Sometimes you want to argue about that. Being a Midwesterner, I usually leave you to your assumptions. Grows smile crinkles around our eyes. You may have the cutting edge, but we share the same blade.
Just so you know, your 2 o’clock is our 2 o’clock, every day of the year.
But our Cleveland will never be your Cleveland, I proudly say.