As the final buzzer sounded on the Miami Heat’s season and Lebron James’ hopes for his first NBA championship, a strange calm descended on the city of Cleveland. Just moments after the Dallas Mavericks hoisted the trophy ESPN’s Rachel Nichols looked to Cleveland for its reaction, only to find that the city was no longer there.
According to Clevelandologist Sam Farnstein, author of Cleveland, Why Did It Happen and Who Was Responsible? Cleveland has actually been dead since 1961, sometime between the East Ohio Gas Co. explosion and the Cuyahoga River Fires (please note the plurality of fire). For the next five decades, Cleveland, once lovingly nicknamed “The Mistake on the Lake,” existed in a kind of mundane purgatory, with no real purpose or clue what it was supposed to be doing. That is until Lebron James, the hometown kid who brought with him sunshine and hope, emerged out of Akron, Ohio.
The nation instantly took notice. The one they called King James had put Cleveland back on the map. Literally, cartographers started putting Cleveland on maps again.
“It was around this time that the city itself began to truly believe it was alive. The economy was happening, newspapers were being updated bi-weekly, and stoplights with all three colors on them became a Cleveland staple. I mean, people were even wearing sneakers again,” notes Farnsetein.
And then the inevitable happened. Cleveland’s prodigal son departed for South Beach, leaving behind him nothing but pain and anguish. Cleveland sank back into obscurity and watched with immeasurable resentment as James led Miami towards the championship he had once promised the city he no longer called home.
But things have a funny way of working themselves out. Cleveland seems to have found peace in the fact that James is now faced with the immense task of building a winning career on top a foundation of letdown and failure, much like Cleveland itself, which was built on top of four million Pepsi Lime soda bottles. And as we sift through those soda bottles searching for the all-but-lost story of a city that couldn’t stop catching on fire, we must take solace in knowing that where ever Cleveland is now, it’s in a better place– maybe even in Miami.