On Cleveland (and LeBron)
By: Jim Gricar, Halstead Property President originally from Cleveland.
I was born in a suburb of Cleveland in 1966, two years after the Browns won the 1964 Championship. That’s the the last time a Cleveland franchise won a title. As a lifelong Cleveland sports fan, I, like many of my brethren, have never experienced the collective joy of my hometown winning a sports championship. It’s been 50 years (Which doesn’t seem right because I’m only….Oh, yeah: I’ll be 50 in a couple years…)
But back to Cleveland. A city with storied sports franchises, all of which excelled before the ‘modern era’, Cleveland is a sports town. I remember every other Sunday, piling into the car with my Dad and brothers and sister to drive downtown to the old Muni Stadium, with its horseshoe opening onto Lake Erie, for Browns season home games. The Browns were the ‘Winningest Team in Football’ (the bumper sticker on my Dad’s fake-wood paneled station wagon said so itself!) but all before the invention of the super bowl. We didn’t care though: we’d sit there and freeze, season after season, waiting for a division title (Hell, a wildcard!) Even years later, after my family had moved to Columbus, we’d make the two and a half hour drive back ‘home to Cleveland’ every other week. Sadly, we never had to make post season travel plans….
Which brings up a point: Although I was born in Cleveland, I left when I was 6. So for all intents and purposes, I grew up in central, not northeast Ohio. But all my cousins and Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents stayed in Cleveland. And so driving up for Browns home games meant not only seeing the game, but seeing the rest of my family too. For me, being from Cleveland is the same as being of Cleveland: the place where being a sports fan taught me about hard work and disappointment but also resilience and pride. Good and bad, Cleveland is a great city, worthy of celebration, not scorn: Its history, its art and music and culture, its friendly/slightly gruff citizenry and even it’s down-on-its-luck reputation formed me then and inform me to this day. When people ask me where I’m from, I always say Cleveland. Proudly. (And get ready if you venture into the whole ‘mistake by the lake’ stuff…)
Fast forward to today, when the possibility of a franchise championship seems theoretically real with the return of LeBron. Sure we were all furious with ‘The Decision’ four years ago. For me, mostly, the way he handled it, not the decisions itself. Who can blame a kid who grew up in hardscrabble Akron and went pro straight out of high school for wanting to spend a few years on a contender team in good weather? Cleveland’s attributes are many; the winter weather ain’t one of em’. But all is forgiven, as it is in every sports town, when the bum returns home to be a hero. Cleveland’s joy isn’t just that a championship now seems possible, but that someone like LeBron has chosen us. We needed it.
In his announcement that he’s returning to Cleveland, which in both form and substance were just the tonic the city needed after the departure circus of four years ago, LeBron said that his relationship with Northeast Ohio means more to him than just basketball, and he hadn’t realized that four years ago. I know what he means: it took me awhile to realize what a special place I’m not only from, but of. Thank you LeBron, for the reminder. Welcome Home.
And now a trophy please!
Visit our website to learn more and connect with Halstead Property President, Jim Gricar.