I consider myself a Clevelander. I’ve been here for almost 14 years. I’ve lived through the winters, the world class health facilities healed my cancer, I’ve worked in the city, lived in the inner ring burbs, mourned when we lost another business, I’ve seen the hungry kids, frustration at lack of work. Most importantly I see the hope that Cleveland will overcome its past and be an example of another rust belt city making good.
I love Cleveland.
The one thing that makes me unCleveland is: I don’t idolize LeBron. It is cool he is back, he seems like a good man, but he is a man. He is a man perched on a pedestal that is so high, so narrow, and so thin it could fall any minute. The problem with idols is when they fall it hurts everyone around them.
LeBron revitalized the Cavs, but can he revitalize a city?
I should shut down my social media today and open it back up sometime when everyone isn’t posting about his return. The signs, the shirts, the commercials, it makes my heart crumple. He’s a great basketball player and I respect him. Other people in his position have done bad things with their fame and fortune. He keeps a level head.
But he is just a man. A man who can play basketball. But he isn’t the city.
I don’t want to see his banners, I don’t want to hear about the celebrities descending on Cleveland to see him play. I don’t want to hear about how he is going to pull Cleveland back from the brink. Does Cleveland only matter if the King is here to play?
He really is just a man who can play basketball, he can’t revitalize a city.
The only people who can revitalize Cleveland are the people in Cleveland. The teachers, the parents, the government officials, the thinkers, the creatives, the entrepreneurs.
The people who love this place and don’t leave when a better offer comes. The people who are trying to find a way to make a city relevant again. The people who are fixing up the lakefront and taking it back to the people. The people who are working hard to find a way to take care of the blight infecting this great city.
Because Cleveland is an incredible place to live. I love the diversity, the schools, the colleges, the arts and culture, the parks, even the pro sports teams, the restaurants, the beer.
and the pierogies
But most importantly, the people.
The people are what I love most about this city. In my inner ring burb I can walk down the street and hear a myriad of languages, cultures, lifestyles. There’s just something special about Cleveland that I haven’t seen elsewhere. We may grumble about the weather, the slow slide to craptitude that happens every fall, the sports teams that always miss it by a little, and the potholes. Despite all that, Cleveland is an incredible place to live and raise a family.
Last night my husband and I made our way downtown through the rain. We drink liters of beer while listening to a polka band and singing along to Neil Diamond, Jimmy Buffet and whoever else came up next. People were standing on their chairs singing and dancing, the buzz was so loud Michael and I couldn’t even talk. When we were sat at a table of strangers a voice called out, “Hey Mike and Jessica”
What city can you go downtown and run into people like it is a smalltown. I’ll tell you where,
This city doesn’t need, the KING, it needs people. People who are already here, dreaming big and working hard to rebuild this city. It’s fun to watch LeBron play and he’s doing great things in the Akron schools. He cares.
And sports teams do benefit cities. But can a sports team alone save a city?
Remember, LeBron is a basketball player, and although he cares about Cleveland, he is not a city builder.
Basketball doesn’t educate, it doesn’t feed, it doesn’t clothe, it doesn’t keep a warm roof over kids’ heads, it doesn’t get rid of the 12,000 abandoned buildings in Cleveland.
12,000 abandoned buildings. Just Cleveland.
Basketball is a game that entertains. But it doesn’t build. It doesn’t heal. It doesn’t change lives. It’s just fun to watch.
Where’s the banner for the organizations getting people off the streets into homes of their own?
The banner for the people teaching kids to read, tutoring them into greatness?
Where’s the banner for all those Clevelanders who keep this city going by adding opportunities and changing lives?
Those are the people we should celebrate. Those are the people who deserve the party. Like LeBron we shouldn’t idolize them, but we should thank them.
LeBron, is a nice guy who plays basketball. He’s a neat guy and for someone who because so famous at such a young age, I along with the world am impressed. I am glad he is back where he feels he belongs. Cleveland loves him and the energy in the city is palpable. We all love LeBron. I get it. I welcome him back because he must also see the promise Cleveland brings. The reasons why it is so great.
But he isn’t Cleveland.
We are. And sometimes I think we forget we are the ones who can save our city.