Cleveland needs a heart transplant

Tony Cox

Yesterday’s Plain Dealer carried a startling front page headline: “Cleveland struggling to believe in itself.” If this weren’t shocking enough, below the fold were stories entitled “Studies show most bachelors are unmarried,” and “Bear found defecating in woods.”

It’s no secret that Clevelanders – and their brethren throughout northeast Ohio – have a pretty nasty inferiority complex. Such feelings are understandable because, let’s face it, we’ve had it pretty rough over the years.

When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, sportswriters were gushing with romantic accounts of how that “heartbreak city” finally had a reason to celebrate. Puh-lease. What does Boston know about heartbreak? It’s one of the wealthiest cities in America, with a soaring economy and an overabundance of cultural opportunities. And, speaking of sports, they’ve had long-lasting dynasties in football, basketball and hockey.

If you want heartbreak, look to the shores of Lake Erie. Cleveland’s population is in decline, and its economy has – with a few momentary exceptions – been on the skids since the late 1960s. All the once-great ethnic neighborhoods are either dead or dying, and in a city where sports rank just below oxygen and water in terms of life-sustaining necessities, Cleveland hasn’t had a major championship in 42 years.

Yeah, we’ve had it rough. But we have to ask ourselves: Who is really responsible for Cleveland’s neurotic identity crisis?

The Plain Dealer article suggests that most of the blame might lie with Clevelanders themselves and their intuitive self-loathing. I am inclined to agree. People from other cities might look down on us, but nobody is tougher on Cleveland than the people who live there.

Northeast Ohio is a great place to live, work and raise a family, and we need to start acting like it. Sure, it’s not a gentrified yuppie-magnet like Boston, and it may not be a hip vacationers’ paradise like Miami. But our blue-collar environment should serve as a source of pride, not shame; braving another sloppy winter should fill us with a sense of accomplishment, not remorse. It’s not hard to feel like Cleveland is the laughingstock of the industrialized world, but it will only stay that way if those of us who live in the area continue to perpetuate this self-fulfilling prophecy of gloom and doom.

Most of my friends constantly talk about how they can’t wait to move away from northeast Ohio because it’s so “boring” and “depressing.” If these descriptions are true, they’re only true because we allow them to be. As college students, the project of rebuilding Cleveland is really ours to undertake. I understand that it’s necessary to respond to the dictates of the job market, but those of us who have a choice shouldn’t flee to a mild climate or a glitzy metropolis when we graduate, trying to find a place in a community that isn’t ours. Instead, we should stay here and work to make things better. The greater-Cleveland area is the 15th largest market in the United States, so there is no shortage of opportunities – that is, if Clevelanders are bold enough to seize them.

If Cleveland is ever going to rise above its reputation as “the mistake by the lake,” it’s going to take a drastic attitude change from its citizens.

But a championship wouldn’t hurt, either.

Tony Cox is a senior philosophy major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]