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Like other places in the Midwest, dreams are born in Cleveland only to quickly hit the highway. The lack of vision and the black hole of creative energy in Cleveland will kill you if you let it. So you leave. Or you dig in and make the best of it. That’s the choice LeBron James has to make.
Despite the perception of an outpouring of affection from Cleveland residents, there hasn’t always been a lot of love for LeBron on the streets here.
Local media has taken gratuitous snipes at him, from questions about LeBron's paternity, his welching on promised swag, his buddy getting pimp-slapped at a nightclub to him being a bad tipper. If there is love for him here, I can’t tell, and you wouldn’t be able to either. When he wins, there's huzzas! all around. But when he doesn't, people stick it to him. Hard. That’s par for the course, but you gotta know that when home is where the hate is, it stings a little more. Cleveland isn't the kind of city that toasts its success stories. Instead it’d rather try to knock you down a peg by any means necessary, so you can drink Pabst with the rest of the losers here. It's the kind of place where sports stars get invited to hotel parties only to be robbed at gunpoint by wannabes. If you were once a promising young talent with the world on a string who decided to stay loyal to a hometown that constantly stabs you in the back, you have to be wondering now if you made the right choice.
On the ground, there really isn't much excitement here about LeBron’s choice, one way or the next. There’s some blogging, even a few yay-hoos downtown waving "WITNESS" signs. There was the "We Are LeBron" video a while back. And the kid who combined masochistic Jackass-ery and his love of LeBron to gin up pageveiws. People are talking about it, but no one wants to act too surprised when or if he decides to go elsewhere. This is the home of the Cleveland Browns, for Christ’s sake. We will pick up the pieces and carry on. It’s what we do. In the Midwest, successful people come leaving.
Whether LeBron stays or goes will say more about what kind of a Midwesterner he is than anything else. Is he the kind who uses Cleveland to grab a global audience only to hightail it out of town for brighter lights and bigger cities? Or is he the New Clevelander -- people like me and others-- who live Midwest and are determined to stay here as living, breathing success stories so the next generation of Midwestern dreamers will also be so inclined?
We will all be witnesses.
Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist for TheRoot.com, an author and a regular contributor to "Tell Me More."