A couple of years ago, Scene's former editor wrote an open letter to Stephen Colbert asking him to be the president of Cleveland.
Turns out Stephen had better things to do and couldn't take us up on the offer, but that didn't change the fact that Stephen was always welcome here.
Until now, perhaps.
The Colbert Report tackled the LeBron free agency issue last night and Stephen had this quip:
"We'll finally get the answer to the question: Would anyone choose to live in Cleveland for $30 million?"
Boo, Stephen. We hereby rescind our offer. Watch the video below.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Basketcase - Stephie's Knicks Hoop-De-Doo|
On a sunny afternoon in the opening days of summer break, half a dozen middle-school kids rode their bicycles in loops around the lone basketball court at Impett Park, in Cleveland's comfortably middle class West Park neighborhood. The court was of no use to anybody else, not since it had been destroyed by unknown vandals in the dead of night.
Back in April, residents and cops speculate, somebody hitched a truck to the thick steel poles that supported the backboards, then made like a tractor pull — bending one hoop almost to the ground and the other to about half its regulation height. The culprit left tire tracks, but little else to go on. The police report declares it "criminal damaging, vandalism to city property."
But aside from snickers and the occasional knowing smile, nobody in West Park said a word. The crime was investigated only in the technical sense, because a Cleveland parks worker making the rounds took note of the damage and called it in.
"They did an excellent job investigating," says one neighbor, a tongue-in-cheek response to the police's obligatory knocks on neighborhood doors to see if anyone saw anything suspicious. Of course, nobody did.
For years, residents warily eyed the crowds who gathered at what had been the only public basketball court in mostly white West Park. A short walk from toddlers' swings and a tee-ball field was a hotbed of adult basketball — heated games with often heated language, and accusations of illegal activity.
"It's not kids in the neighborhood," says one nearby neighbor, who can eye the court through the chain-link fence of his well-manicured backyard. "They are ... how should I put it? They don't belong here. I'm not prejudiced. But these bozos would constantly 'F-you! F-you! F-you!'" He says he's seen drug transactions there. When he speaks of it his voice rises into an angry simmer. It's his backyard we're talking about. He's got granddaughters.
"They ruin it for themselves," he says. "I think everybody finally got fed up with the language, and one person took it upon themselves to remedy the situation. Does anyone know who did it? Noooooooooooo," he says with the sarcasm of a man who knows exactly who did it.
The vigilante groundskeeping at Impett Park is emblematic of battles that have taken place over basketball courts across the region, especially in neighborhoods where poverty rubs shoulders with the middle class and the friction of culture clash can set off sparks. After decades of pick-up games in city parks from Lakewood to Euclid, cities have quietly removed their courts in favor of skate parks, grassy fields — anything that might be less likely to attract the wrong crowd.
I am not big on collecting sports memorabilia. I have baseball cards, of course, but those are different.
When it comes to signed balls, posters, autographs, bobbleheads, bats and the like, I've never really cared much. I stood in line once at MC Sporting Goods when I was 12 or so to get Leroy Kelley's autograph on a Browns hat. I probably stood there for at least two hours to have the Hall of Famer scribble on my hat. When I got home, I immediately stuck it in a closet and forgot about it. I have no idea what happened to it now. So, yeah, not big on the collecting.
My collection as it existed one week ago consisted of the following items: A Bernie Kosar action figure, two Cleveland Force media guides from the 80's, a bobblehead of Bernie Mac from Mr. 3000, a basketball my girlfriend gave me autographed by Larry Hughes and Anderson Varejao, and two illios by Rob Ullman.
What changed one week ago? A special delivery from Eric Peterson.
It all started on Thursday, June 3, when I got this email.
"If you know anyone that would appreciate a signed baseball from the Indians starting pitcher - 10 Cent Beer Night - 1974 please let me know. I live in Colorado and was informed that my dad started the game that ended in your memorable venue."
Hell yes!, or some variant of that phrase, was my response. And that was even before it occurred to me that Fritz Peterson was the starting pitcher for the Indians on June 4, 1974, and why I wanted that ball for another reason.
That name should ring a bell immediately for baseball fans. Fritz Peterson, of course, was half of the famous Yankee wife swap story, in addition to being the starting pitcher on Ten Cent Beer Night (and having the all-time lowest ERA at old Yankee Stadium). With those credentials, how's he not in the Hall of Fame yet?
Eric is his biological son. He only recently found out his dad had been the starting pitcher that day. With all the other stories about his dad out there, you can understand how this one might have fallen through the cracks. A friend told him, he had his dad sign a ball, and he sent that ball to me. Yes, I'm gloating. It now proudly joins the Cleveland Force media guides in my small collection of memorabilia.
A big thanks to Eric and Fritz for the wonderfully surprising gift.
Follow me on Twitter: @vincethepolack.
Cleveland, LeBron, blah blah blah, begging, LeBron, etc. There, you are caught up.
July 1, the day NBA players can officially become free agents and talk to other teams, will be marked by a free performance by the Cleveland Orchestra on Public Square. In conjunction with the More Than a Player squadron (Dave Gilbert, WKYC, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission), the orchestra will perform a special piece for LeBron while up to 20,000 (that seems like a pretty generous estimate) fans wave placards in the background.
If that wasn't enough hoopla, the cast from "Hot in Cleveland" will be sending a special video message to fans in Cleveland. Yes, Betty White is now going to hop on the "stay in Cleveland, LeBron" train, which is pretty cool, I guess. Sure beats any celebrity New York could drag to a phone for an interview.
Details are all over on this page should you care.
While the world continues to turn solely on the power of the internet's speculation regarding LeBron James — we fully expect the world to stop turning once it's over, really — this pool table, autographed by LeBron James and the entire Cavs roster (what year, exactly, is unsure), is the perfect accessory to the Chosen One madness.
Who wants a $35,000 autographed table that you wouldn't want friends playing on lest they scuff it or ruin one of the signatures? Someone rich, that's who. Which means not you.
Anyway, it's there for the taking. One of the odder pieces of LeBron autographed memorabilia I've ever seen.