Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Ruth: Cleveland on my mind

Can we once and for all put this lazy journalistic contrivance to rest? Please?

It has become something of reporting template in attempting to define Cleveland to remind everyone that the Cuyahoga River running through the city once caught fire largely because there were more combustible pollutants in the water than there was, well, actual water.

Reporters also love to point out then Mayor Ralph Perk accidentally set his own hair on fire during a public appearance.

It is true the Cuyahoga did catch on fire — back in 1969, 45 years ago. Perk's inadvertent attempt at self-immolation took place in 1972 — 42 years ago. It might surprise some Johnny Deadlines to know other things have occurred in the city since then — the good, the bad, the ugly and now the triumphant return of former pariah-turned-living deity LeBron James to the Cavaliers. And yes, there is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, too. Where else can you see Madonna's breast cones up-close and personal?

If this appears to be a bit defensive about Cleveland's image, I come by it honestly having been born and raised only a few miles to the south in Akron. And so there is some pride in seeing that the Republican National Committee has awarded its next presidential nominating convention to the ancestral homeland. Still, I cringe at the prospect of constant reminders of burning rivers and follicles from now until the summer of 2016.

Since no Republican presidential nominee has ever won the White House without carrying the key swing state of Ohio, selecting Cleveland for the GOP's big party would seem to be savvy politics.

This was really a no-brainer. The only other option for the convention was Dallas, which would have meant a nationally televised week of 20-gallon hats, bumptious yahoos and more weapons in public evidence than an ISIS morning roll call, not to mention junior Sen. Ted Cruz, R-The Yellow Poseur of Texas, getting more airtime than the ubiquitous Progressive Insurance's figurehead Flo.

For a political party desperately trying to define itself as more than a bunch of uber-sour 69-year-old white guys sitting around the 19th hole bar contending Richard Nixon got railroaded out of office, Ohio offers an alternative narrative that Republicans aren't altogether crazy.

Republican Gov. John Kasich accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. And Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is a supporter of same-sex marriage. It also doesn't hurt that both men are mentioned as potential presidential candidates. In short, Ohio is a somewhat politically moderate state if you don't count my Akron-area brothers who are so far to the ultra right they make the tea party look like a branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Aside from the news media's preoccupation with Cleveland's civic pyrotechnics, snagging the convention is important for the city to demonstrate its recovery after decades of economic strife as its industrial base crumbled and jobs evaporated.

Times have changed and Cleveland has rebounded as a financial services center, with young residents returning to a revitalized downtown. Now if we could just do something about the Cleveland Browns, who have spent less time scoring than if Belize had found itself trying to beat Germany in the World Cup.

Growing up in Akron, Cleveland was always the Big City. We only watched Cleveland television stations for news. The Cleveland Plain Dealer always found itself next to the Akron Beacon Journal at the front door. Autumn Sundays were high holy days dedicated to the worship of St. Jimmy Brown.

The Cleveland Indians were, well, to you Major League may be a funny movie. To us, it was a wishful fantasy.

For the moment, the RNC plans to hold its convention in late June or early July in an effort to close out as quickly as possible the party's primary process. This is a risky ploy, especially if someone like Cruz, the Joe McCarthy of the Brazos, grabs the nomination and gets a long head start as the GOP's answer to a chattering teeth novelty.

A cautionary note. The 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa was knocked for its heat and humidity. Fair enough.

But as any Buckeye will tell you, in northeast Ohio regardless of what the calendar says, it is possible to experience 90-degree temperatures, massive floods and 3 feet of snow in the time it takes to play 18 holes of golf. And that is only just a little bit facetious. Just a wee bit.

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