All In, June 19, 2016

‘Tis the season of gifts.  Summer starts today.  Last night was the first ‘strawberry moon’ in 70 years – in my lifetime; full moon on the solstice.  And the Cavs are the NBA champs.

I am not a basketball fan.  My preferred sport is baseball – its timelessness, the absence of do-overs, letting the moment stand, the beauty and rarity of an unassisted triple play, the green of the grass in that bowl of space …  I could go on.

But I am a Clevelander and how can I not be a fan of the Cavs at this moment when they gave this city a spectacular, redeeming gift.

I have always championed my city – even in its darkest days.  I have defended it on airplanes when the guy behind me got vocal about ‘having’ to come to Cleveland for a meeting.  Smiled smugly when staff from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations left Severance Hall after a Cleveland Orchestra performance shaking their heads in admiration and saying “I’ll never hear Schubert played like that again in my life.”

And though I have not been a follower of basketball, I have been keenly aware of the community impact of this game at this moment in my city’s life cycle.  We are on the rise – this time, I believe, for real. So the promise – the hope – of finally putting our 50 year long sports disappointment to rest was important to me.  And so I watched the game.  Rather, I flipped back and forth between the game and whatever was on PBS, because I am a wimp when it comes to being a witness to potential disaster.  (I can’t watch figure skating or gymnastics in the Olympics for this reason  either.) But I watched the final moments of Game 7.  I felt I owed it to this amazing team – and in a way, to LeBron, to stick with them to the end, no matter the outcome.

I will make no attempt to comment on the game itself – that would be foolish, because, so many others have done such a beautiful job of it. In fact, I have always been impressed with how stunningly beautiful and moving much sports writing is.  Take the essay “Is this Heaven?”  in this morning’s Times by John Hyduk. As a rabid fan of just plain, good writing, I must say that there’s a lot of sports writing that touches the human in us as profoundly as that of any other genre. Roger Angell, of course, Jonathan Schwartz, Roger Kahn and John Updike as well, to name a few on the national/international level.  But local writers have their day too; Bill Livingston and Bud Shaw often write stunningly evocative columns.

And if you are a fan of baseball and beautiful poetry, I recommend Steve Brightman’s chapbook, ‘In Brilliant Explosions Alone’ published by Night Ballet Press.  From the Press’ website; It is a “breakdown of the 2008 season of former Cleveland Indians pitcher Jeremy Sowers…it is a chapbook about individual struggle with expectation, the desire for success in the field in which you show talent, and about how others perceive you in that struggle.”

Well, this is more than I intended to write this second day after the glow of our Cav’s great gift to my city.  I couldn’t restrain myself from adding my kudos and my excitement to this moment though.  I’ll just end this brief post with two baseball poems I’ve written – one a haiku. Read them here: Aria  and Benediction.

 

Cool Grand Rapids

This article was originally posted on the Cleveland Foundation Website on June 3, 2011

About the title of the blog – later. First …

Last week the Global Cleveland Summit provided a terrific forum for brainstorming ideas about how Cleveland can create an environment and message of welcome and opportunity to the world, and a culture of optimism among locals. I did not get a chance to sample all the sessions offered throughout the day, but did sit in on one that I thought spoke very interestingly to the cloud of self doubt and “it won’t happen here” attitude that seems so pervasive in Cleveland.

The session discussed the SOMO Movement – social and emotional learning – and provided research on something called “learned helplessness.” It seems that the majority of people (and animals, according to some icky scientific research) who experience a series of negative reactions to efforts they make, “learn” that nothing will change and, in fact, end up choosing failure even when options for success are presented to them.

I think Cleveland has been “learning” to choose failure for a very long time, but the cycle is hard to break. We are stuck in what’s familiar and, as Shakespeare said, we’d “rather keep those ills we have than fly to others we know not of.” A perfect description of learned helplessness.

Silly, isn’t it? And stupid. Which one of us has not learned and gotten better as a result of past failures? Why are we so reluctant to try something we haven’t done before – or let others try new things? Have we believed in failure so long that we are paralyzed by the unfounded certainty that whatever we try will automatically fail? Are there just too many people here who have never been anywhere else and so have no basis for comparison?

I did hear some sane and forward-thinking comments from some of the community’s older leaders while at the Global Cleveland Summit:

“The only thing wrong with Cleveland is February and March.
But then there’s one bad season everywhere. No mud slides,
hurricanes, floods, forest fires here.”

“We (the old guard) should put out the hors d’oeuvres, pour
the drinks and let the young people get on with it.”

Last week I toured the city with a Brit who has worked all over the world. She was agog at Cleveland’s beauty, culture accessibility, and livability. She said no one in Europe, Asia, or Africa has a bad opinion of Cleveland; they just have no opinion because they don’t know about it. She thinks Cleveland should market itself as “the lifestyle city.”

Now for that title. For one example of a town that seems to have no problem putting itself and lots of its young and unconventional faces out there on its own behalf, right along with the Mayor singing “American Pie,” check out this fun, sweet and very engaging YouTube video. Talk about a welcoming community.

 

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