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Game On 

It's hard to be a tough guy in Cleveland.

The Game has been shot five times. But it was Scene Pavilion security guards who really pissed the rapper off. At a concert with Snoop in Cleveland, guards tried to wave The Game down with a magnetic baton on his way into the pavilion. Game threw a fit, or as he raps in his song, "Keep jibberin' jabberin', I'll pull a .38 Magnum and get the clickin' and clackin'."

Game got back on his tour bus and threatened to leave. Meanwhile, onstage, a DJ kept the angry crowd at bay. Apparently, he thought leading chants of "fuck the promoter" would keep the situation from escalating.

After half an hour, Game finally reemerged -- this time wielding a baseball bat. He explained that the bat was part of his act. "You can't even bring umbrellas in, let alone metal baseball bats," says Carrie Samek, spokeswoman for the House of Blues, which runs the pavilion.

Then again, who's going to argue with a guy who's "been bangin' since my li'l nigga Rob got killed for his Barkleys." Security let Game in with the bat.

When he took to the stage, Game explained the misunderstanding to the crowd. "They hate to see a nigga makin' money," he proclaimed. House of Blues insists that it just didn't want to see a nigga get his head bashed in.

On his way off the stage, Game tried to give the bat to someone in the audience, but was stopped by security. "We don't want anyone in the crowd to have a baseball bat as they're leaving," Samek explains.

Game and his record label declined comment. But, as he says on his CD, "Who don't love us? Every hood throwin' they dubs up."

Get your kicks for free
Once upon a time, when little Punch went off to college, the only thing the university gave her was an acceptance letter, an awful freshman roommate, and a bill that eclipses her aggregate life salary. She obviously chose the wrong school.

When prospective liberal-arts students recently arrived at Case Western Reserve University, they received free round-trip plane tickets to Cleveland, complimentary hotel accommodations for their parents, and their own iPod shuffles, at a cost to the university of more than $20,000.

"We're working hard to broaden the appeal of Case," explains Vice Provost Chris Munoz.

Despite the hefty price tag -- "We had a very good year in terms of resources," Munoz says -- university officials insist that these gifts were not bribes, but "tokens of appreciation."

"We wanted to convey to the students how we very much wanted them to consider Case," Munoz says.

Not surprisingly, students reported a "positive" response to the weekend. Chalk it up to the miracle of free swag. But Munoz insists that student reactions had nothing to do with the gifts.

"The real importance was the exchange between faculties and students," he says.

Kiss and tell
Cool Cleveland proudly proclaims it's the opposite of traditional media. Where rags like the one you're reading at the moment discuss what's wrong with Cleveland, the e-newsletter gushingly touts what's right.

But the brainchild of Thomas Mulready -- whose innovations include bringing back the porkpie hat as a fashion statement -- reached heights of fawning usually reserved for Mike Trivisonno with its recent interview of schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett.

Ace reporter Anthony Parker's opening softball question: "Why do you think the media doesn't acknowledge the good things you do, and instead goes after you with investigative stories?"

Take that, Carl Monday!

Bennett responds with a spectacular woe-is-me act: "I think the average Clevelander, the average person who lives in my community next door to me would have, and probably still does, believe that I have either stolen or abused dollars! And that's unfair . . . it's just unfair and it's inaccurate."

It would have been a perfect opening for a more negative scribe to ask about the district's inflated busing numbers, or its suspicious graduation rates, or the rising incidents of violence, or the sweetening of Bennett's contract while even more teachers are being laid off. Instead, Cool Cleveland remains on the fawning offensive: "What are some of the misconceptions you think the public may have of you?"

Mulready may not win a Pulitzer, but he's the favorite journalist of the business community. The Cleveland Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators will bestow its "Communicator of the Year Award" on Mulready in June.

Which should be just in time for his next exclusive, tentatively titled: "Ken Lay: Misunderstood Visionary?"

State the Obvious Award
Speaking of vigilant reporting, this week's State the Obvious Award goes to The Plain Dealer, which last week ran the sweltering exposé "Anti-war fervor fades at KSU."

Reporter Brian Albrecht offered breaking news on the 35th anniversary of the Kent State shootings. Apparently, students don't protest like they used to, and the National Guard is no longer required to shoot them.

Reinventing Akron
It's usually Hollywood celebs who hire people to tell them how cool they are, not Midwestern cities like Akron. But like an acne-ridden adolescent seeking approval from his cooler peers, the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce hired consultant Rebecca Ryan to assure it that, yes, Akron is cool.

It's part of the city's effort to stem the region's exodus of young professionals. Recently, Ryan presented the results from her yearlong coolness investigation. She organized her cool data into indexes that measured such categories as "after hours" -- or in layman's terms, good places to get trashed.

According to the study, Akron has enough bars to give it an above-the-national-average level of coolness.

So why, then, do yuppies and hipsters still prefer to get hammered on $7 beers in N.Y.C. instead of Annabell's $1 pints? Ryan's answer: because no one knows where the hell Akron is. Based on an informal poll of young people across the country, most people think it's an oil company in Odessa, Texas.

This, of course, is a good thing, says Ryan. It means Akron can still reinvent itself as the next Portland or Austin or maybe even Dayton. But she didn't offer any concrete suggestions except for, um, like, bike lanes, maybe.

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