I have been a long time supporter of all the Cleveland professional sports teams. In my older years, I have learned to not get so caught up in the drama that can accompany the games, good or bad. I admit, it is addictive and taps into emotions we never knew we had. This past year, just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water with being a part of the high of the spectacular Cavaliers basketball season….and after the they collapsed once again in the playoffs, I admit, the same feelings of disappointment returned that we all felt with past Cleveland sports heartbreaking and haunting moments like “Red Right 88“, “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, “The Shot”, “The Hit”, “The Choke”…….and this latest debacle of a performance against the Celtics that I am sure will be named soon.
For too long---and since Cleveland fans are loyal to a fault---we have seemingly embraced the idea of a professional sports championship (which I admit is long overdue!) as the be all end all cure for erasing our poor self esteem, civic pride and image too many of us have of our city/region---AND---as a cure for the national image as well. Many of us have centered all our hopes, dreams and economic success potentials around the ideology that if our teams are not winning it all, the we cannot be successful as a city/region and that the rest of the world must think we suck! The fact is, the rest of the world probably could care less about what our sports teams are doing if they came to visit Cleveland with a clean slate.
What has all this taught me personally? Well, I have concluded that many Clevelanders/N.E. Ohioans may want to start viewing other ways we can be champions; to stop solely turning to sports and sports figures for our heroes---or their successes or failures to define who we are as a people, city and region. When one turns to this arena for defining who we are, we set ourselves up for major disappointments, as we have seen. And, if we choke in the big one, all life as we know it seems to cease to exist!
I think it is time we set our priorities straight and in an attempt to do so---or at least find out where they are---in a moment, I will list a few questions of thought that many of us die-hard frustrated and tortured Cleveland sports fans may want to do a little soul searching and ask themselves. To assume if we are not winning the big one in sports, we are failures, really underestimates the diversity, intelligence, best-kept-secrets, and dynamics of this city/region.
How can we become champions in other ways?….. How about environmentally, socially, and economically? (seeing that these three categories upon which we have failed in the past, happened to be some of the biggest culprits of damaging our reputation)
Let’s think about it…… Hmmmmmmmmm…………
1. Sports championship, or champions and leaders in a new kind of environmental stewardship that demonstrates a 360 degree turn around from our polluting past---and such that will erase in the minds of everyone…any burning river or “mistake-by-the-lake” joke our city has ever had to endure? How about champions in cleaner waterfront/shoreline, riverbanks, and air?
2. Sports championship or attracting and embracing a new entrepreneurial population that will bring new unique ideas and visions for Cleveland? Champions in attracting new people who discover potentials in our city of which many locals have lost sight, and who will make our city more demographically diverse and attractive to new residents and businesses? How about being Champions in reducing crime and social dysfunction, that to many, is accepted as the norm? How about being champions in reducing rampant obesity? Afterall, a healthy population produces better widgets and is more productive in the economy!
3. Sports championship or champions in creating the finest rail transportation network in the country and greatly reducing the city’s carbon footprint and dependency on oil and creating a whole new host of jobs? How about taking advantage of the new wave effort in the world of achieving sustainability by becoming a world leader in attracting green jobs (green collar jobs!)?
4. Sports championship or making Cleveland a world destination city with many attributes and attractions for all?
5. Oh...and here is something that just might be a bit thought provoking: Sports championship or champions in creating a world class public school system that will turn out bright, critically thinking youngsters who will evolve into the kind of citizens the world respects--and who can help solve (instead of being so much a part of, for a change)...a world crisis such as climate change?
Indeed, all the above can be done even if the sports teams fail. All can help to raise the lack of self esteem that plots Clevelanders often, as its own worst enemy by creating the pervasive "woe-Is Me" and nobody likes us persona. If the sports teams go in the dumper, then it won’t matter that much because we will have so many other elements to offer that will make us a great place...and feel better about ourselves. Guess what? Cleveland already has many great attributes and more to come in the future, but because we often gets way too caught up in sports addiction, we fail to recognize the special or important things we take for granted here. Listing them all is for another article, another day.
So, back to the important lesson: Here is my plea: Cleveland/N.E. Ohio, instead of banking all life’s happiness and your perception of our area on whether LeBron stays or leaves.....whether or not we win a championship in sports and risk feeling miserable if things don’t go our way, why not take the time to discover the many other reasons we should be celebrating? (You are not the only city in the world with problems...or sports teams that have had bad luck!) Afterall, there are many ways we can be champions! Let’s take the time to discover just how many ways in which we can. I just listed a few ideas of my own in how I would like to see our city excel---or ways in which I feel it is already making important strides in the right direction. As for the sports, it will happen when we least expect it!
If you're still preferring the sports champions to many ideas I have mentioned in how we can be champions...OR, if you cannot think of an original idea of your own, then such a decision would only reaffirm my belief that many of us have a serious priority and sports addiction issue here!
I have finished slaughtering this sacred cow! Now, Cleveland... Go be a champion!