To Cleveland, With Love
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To Cleveland, With Love

A Cleveland local's reflection, coming off of a World Series loss, on why the city is a special place

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To Cleveland, With Love
The New York Times

On Wednesday, November 2nd, I, along with many of my hometown friends now scattered around the country, tuned in to what promised to be one of the biggest moments in Cleveland sports history: the Indians had made it to Game 7 of the World Series. Unfortunately, the result was the same as it was 19 years ago, when I was just 6 months old: a heartbreaking loss for Cleveland. However, after having mentally prepared myself for the self-deprecating, disappointing, "what-could-have-been" posts on social media, I was pleasantly surprised to see an outpouring of pride for our city, and even humble concessions and messages of congratulations to Chicago fans. I then realized that this is truly what makes Cleveland Cleveland.

That makes sense to me, but of course, doesn't mean much to the unassuming outsider. Allow me to elaborate. If Cleveland were a person, it would be that coworker of yours that you see throughout the day, showing no signs of anything wrong, in a great mood, only to find out in the most casual conversation later on that her car broke down and she lost her wallet that morning. Cleveland is that friend who has the old, incompatible phone, and laughs off the fact that he can't see any of the emojis you text. Cleveland is that dysfunctional family down the street from you, the one you thought was super weird for a few years before you actually met them and realized they're the funniest, most down-to-earth bunch of people ever. By all this, I mean to say that we have long been an object of pity, or at the very least, belittled, and yet through it all, we persevere and stay true to our roots. In fact, we proudly defend where we're from at every opportunity.

We've long been infamous for the river that caught fire and a football team that is, as of Sunday, 0-9. But here's the good news: not only do we not see our hometown as the popularly coined "Mistake on the Lake." The river has been cleaned, and as for the Browns, this season's attendance has averaged around 92 percent — which is truly a testament to the fans, who have already been granted their wish for championship once (nearly twice) this year and could have easily chosen to ignore the Brown's just as one might cast off that outlandish relative who stopped showing up to Thanksgiving.

Having lived in a suburb of Cleveland my whole life, I never truly appreciated how special its energy is until I came to college. When I say energy, I don't mean it in the same sense as do people from bigger, more tourism-fueled metropolises. Rather, I refer to the unique sense of loyalty Clevelanders possess for a city that I'd say is very much on the upward slope of a banal or even ridiculed existence. It seems like the rest of the country is finally starting to catch on to Cleveland's potential, this imminent greatness that we locals have earnestly awaited for years.

I grew up attending games, musicals and plays, orchestra concerts, and holiday celebrations downtown. Taking field trips to the Great Lakes Science Center, the Cleveland Museums of Art and Natural History. Boating on the lake, walking our dog through the Metroparks, and eating at a handful of incredible restaurants. My family traveled fairly regularly, and I enjoyed our trips when we did, but each time the plane touched down at Cleveland Hopkins, I basked in that comforting familiarity of home.

That all said, when I came to college, I expected everything about home as I knew it to suddenly seem insignificantly small. Being from Ohio doesn't strike up much of a conversation upon first meeting someone — there isn't that instinctive background knowledge as there is when someone tells you they're from Los Angeles or (even a specific borough of) New York. But I'm realizing that Cleveland, with its eclectic blend of diverse populations and urban infrastructure, feels very close-knit for a city, and thus offers those who take it a chance to fully engage with and appreciate it for what it is.

And as much as I want to believe that this pride I have is unique, I know that a lot of what I'm saying most certainly applies to others' hometowns. So for those of you who don't look favorably upon where you're from, I urge you to reflect and find at least one thing from home that makes you smile. Then, share it with others! Just within the U.S., the multitude and complexity of regional cultures astounds me, and I think it's a pity if we don't acknowledge it.

While I don't know what my future holds — I haven't completely ruled out moving back someday, but it's definitely not at the top of my list — I will always view Cleveland as one of my homes, and as a team for which I'll always be rooting. This is bigger than sports, although I certainly am grateful to the Cavaliers and Indians for providing me with something tangible to which I can connect my love for where I'm from.

So I suppose I can consider this a thank-you letter to the city that shaped me into a more resilient and passionate person than I would have guessed. Thank you: to the city that is a work-in-progress, and imperfect, no doubt, but is nonetheless happy with itself. To the city that can take a joke, that can make a joke about itself. To the city that's taught me sometimes — most of the time, maybe — things don't go your way, and life goes on — but also, that sometimes, things really do go your way, and it's okay to celebrate that. And thank you to the people who have helped show me how fun it is to be a part of its vibrant community.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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