If there’s such a thing as a “hometown by the transitive property,” then Cleveland, Ohio, might qualify for me.
My wife Sharon grew up in Mentor, Ohio, a few miles east of Cleveland. Her father owned a clothing shop near the current site of Jacobs Field. In 1996, we got married at Severance Hall in Cleveland.
The Nineties were not great for Cleveland. Art Modell packed up and left with the Browns, despite years of dedicated fan support. The industrial base in northern Ohio was in constant retreat.
The loss of LeBron James in 2010 to Miami was much more than sports — whether LeBron intended it or not, it was seen as a rejection of a community. “The Decision” seemed to represent the mercenary nature of sports — business success trumped hometown loyalty.
So it was a great feeling to see LeBron return to Cleveland on Friday. (By the way, I love Cleveland although it’s been years since we’ve been back. Soon after we got married, Sharon’s family decided to move to Fairfax — although their decision did not attract the same attention).
The LeBron decision, on some primal level, also reverses the alleged “brain drain” from Middle America to our coastal communities. For years, we’ve heard that cities like Cleveland and Akron are (cue my least favorite phrase) “on the wrong side of history.”
Of course, that’s not true. Traditional communities have existing infrastructure and work forces which can easily accept new enterprises. They also feature lower overhead costs due to a depressed real estate market and labor market. Finally, they represent some of the most prime real estate in America from a geographic standpoint. (The south shore of Lake Erie is one of the nicest beach fronts in America). There’s a reason that 19th century settlers, or their Indian forebearers, chose to build a town there.
Not saying that LeBron’s “Decision Part Deux” weighed all these factors. But I’m glad he’s coming home to Cleveland.