For the last 40 years Cleveland has been the punchline of many jokes. From economics to sports, Cleveland hasn’t exactly been a shining star. The old saying goes that Cleveland is the “mistake on the lake”. With a river that caught fire, a lost generation of steel workers, sports teams that have failed, and star athletes that have left us for greener pastures, Cleveland’s last 50 years have been forgettable to say the least. However, as I type these words here in 2014, something is different. This isn’t your parents Cleveland, this is the new generation and this is our Cleveland.
When I graduated college in 2008, I was one of a very few that returned to Cleveland to start their lives. Now, need I remind you, the summer of 2008 was the height of America’s housing meltdown. Businesses were laying off employees, no one was hiring, and there was no place for a 22yr old kid with a Political Science and Urban Planning degree. I tried to work for the government, but old Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo ruined that for me. In case you don’t remember Dimora and Russo worked for Cuyahoga county, and they were essentially stealing money. Bastards.
Then something happened, and suddenly things in Cleveland started to change. There wasn’t a certain event, however things started happening. A new government regime took office in Cuyahoga county, a convention center was built, along with a new casino. A few businesses left downtown, but unlike the past they were being replaced with businesses moving back into the city. Old and empty warehouses started being revamped and filled with 20 and 30 something’s that needed downtown housing. In the last 6 years Cleveland has started to reinvent itself. This is also home to the Cleveland Clinic which is a top 5 hospital in the United States along with University Hospitals which isn’t too far behind. Not to mention the food scene in Cleveland which is rising faster than ever, and led by our own Michael Symon. Who creates a Bacon Milkshake? Michael Symon does. It’s delicious.
With all this being said, these are all things that only Clevelanders can understand. Until 2014, and now things have really changed. Cleveland landed the Republican National Convention for 2016. Now whether you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or other, this is huge news for Cleveland. Out of every city in the US the Republican Party chose Cleveland. Part of this is because Ohio is a huge swing state for the Republicans, and without Ohio they can’t win, but it also means we have the facilities to host such a huge event.
So, I have been rambling on for about 4 paragraphs and I haven’t mentioned sports yet. I decided to save that for last. Sports are going to be the reason the national perception of Cleveland changes. It all started with a text from Johnny Manziel saying “let’s wreck this league”. The most polarizing figure in college football is a member of the Cleveland Browns. On Monday July 21st, a report came out for the best-selling NFL jerseys so far this year, and without even playing a snap in his NFL career, Manziel is #1 in Jersey sales. Johnny “football, money” Manziel is our guy, representing our city. This is huge, as ESPN, the NFL Network, and FOX will be here non-stop showing our city and talking about our city.
Phew, life is good. Cleveland has Johnny Manziel and the RNC for 2016. Just when we thought things couldn’t get much better, a bombshell is dropped on the sports world and LeBron James decides to come back to the Cleveland Cavaliers!!! LeBron left the bright lights and powdered streets of Miami (that’s a cocaine joke) to come back home. Now, the most hyped NFL player in the last 20 years, and the best basketball player in the world will live and play sports in Cleveland. Eat that Detroit. The next person, who compares Cleveland to Detroit, needs to be punched in the face and then dropped off in downtown Detroit for a few hours. That will teach them a lesson. Excuse my anger, but I have been to Detroit, and it isn’t even close to Cleveland in terms of success and rebuilding.
Cleveland has finally gotten over the steel business hole that it has been in for decades. The world has been evolving for years and Cleveland has just recently caught on. I have always had faith in this cities opportunity to reinvent itself, which is why I never left. The time is now, and the RNC, along with LeBron James and Johnny Manziel, will show the world how great Cleveland really is. As the national pundits come to Cleveland to report on politics and sports, they will stay in our hotels, eat our food, explore our museums, and embrace our new identity. This National attention will change the perception of Cleveland to outsiders. It will also help Cleveland retain its young talent. Colleges all over the country will have students graduating and heading the Cleveland to live and work. We will no longer be the “mistake on the lake.”
I love this city, and finally, people across the world will see Cleveland for what it is; a place to call home and a place to live.
Written by Rick Giavonette
Follow me on Twitter: @CST_RickG
Photo Credit to Rick Giavonette – I’m still hearing that guy is awesome.