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Issue Date: December 2004 Issue


The Year in LeBron

The crowning of King James and 11 other things you may have heard about in the past 12 months.

LeBronisms

While tempted, Action News sports anchor Brian Duffy says his crew didn't try to identify the mother of LeBron's baby. "He said it was something private," notes Duffy, who refers to LeBron as "The Man" in production meetings. "So we didn't really bull into it too much."

LeBron's sponsorship deals (Nike, Bubblicious, Coca-Cola, Upper Deck and Juice Batteries) total less than the lottery: a mere $135 million.

Smoking was banned at Cavs games in 1989. LeBron, 4, had already been dunking on a toy hoop for almost a year.

LeBron scored fashion raves after wearing a custom-made white suit to the NBA Draft, complete with white shirt and white tie.

When LeBron met U.S. Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch in an Athens elevator, he trash-talked her, saying, "I could get a hit off you." Finch's agent reports she is still waiting for such a showdown.

Normally known for his on-court artistry, LeBron helped design the label and packaging for Coca-Cola's new POWERADE FLAVA23.

According to the Summit County Board of Elections, LeBron is not registered to vote.

Football scouts report that LeBron was good enough to play receiver at a Division 1 college.

Playgirl magazine's managing editor says they would be "open to the possibility" of LeBron posing nude in their pages, but declined to speculate on how much they would pay him. The photo session would most likely not require an evening-long binge on margaritas at Nuevo Acapulco beforehand.

LeBron was the NBA's No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft and the first Cavalier to be named Rookie of the Year.

Fans now consider Boozer selfish; LeBron is not. "I've never seen anyone have to put up with what [LeBron] did last year," coach Paul Silas told the Boston Herald during the preseason, "and to come through it the way he did is amazing. You've got an 18-year-old kid with all this media scrutiny and hoopla heaped upon him, and he talked team and talked teammates. Very seldom did he talk about ‘me.' It's all team. 'We want to win.' "

WOIO Goes Wild

As subtle as a bull in a china shop, WOIO Channel 19's Action News burst into homes across Northeast Ohio this year. Once indistinguishable from its competitors on Channels 3, 5 and 8, WOIO pulled what some called a desperate format change by going tabloid, cramming sex, crime and crashes into every newscast. Anchors now refer to crime suspects as "thugs" or "punks." Corrupt politicos and con artists are exposed in "Shame On You!" investigative segments. Area restaurants are ordered to "Clean Up!" in the station's popular "Dirty Dining" series.

Sensational? Yes. Boring? Never.

The station investigated Mayor Jane Campbell's use of city drivers to escort her daughters on shopping trips, was booted from City Hall and used Jerry Springer as a guest analyst for the Democratic National Convention.

"We're going to be just as aggressive as hell," WOIO's general manager, Bill Applegate, told Inside Business magazine in September. "We're going to beat the competition at every turn and we're going to create a product that's more creative than anyone else."

Apparently, it's working ... for now. The station's nightly 11 p.m. newscast jumped a spot from No. 3 to No. 2, according to Nielsen Media Research, with WKYC-TV 3 still the reigning champ.

The 'Lost' Lottery Ticket

There's tipping Luck's hand and then there's Elecia Battle.

Last January, Battle said she lost a winning lottery ticket — worth $162 million — when she dropped her purse in the snow outside a South Euclid convenience store. When Rebecca Jemison produced the ticket soon after, Battle sued the Ohio Lottery Commission to prevent it from awarding Jemison the prize.

Within days, however, as national and international media swarmed, digging up lawsuits and convictions from Battle's past, her story crumbled. Battle managed to avoid jail, but she did have to pay a fine and perform community service for making a false statement in a police report.

Nearly a year afterward, however, Battle says she only agreed to a plea bargain because she was weary of the whole ordeal. Certainly, the public wondered whether there was more to the story. After all, Battle knew things about the ticket that someone who had been there would have known, such as the specific machine it came from and the time it was bought.

"I didn't lie," she maintains. "I went to the store. I did what I did. -- I'm saving the secret for my book."

Smoking Under Fire

Remember when smoking was permitted on airplanes, in your office and at the movies? That's how we'll look back on lighting up in restaurants one day if the Clean Indoor Air Campaign is successful.

Launched about a year ago, the campaign's goal is for Cleveland to join the ranks of more than 200 cities, including Toledo and Columbus, that have outlawed smoking in nearly all public places.

So what would campaign leaders say to the estimated 26 to 28 percent of the population that smokes?

"We can appreciate that you've been used to being able to do this for a long time," replies Donna Korn, communications director for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. "But in the interest of everybody's health and the servers and the cooks, it's in everybody's best interest if they're not inhaling smoke." She adds that she is not "anti-smokers," just "anti-smoke."

With everything on the city's plate, Korn was told that City Council won't tackle the issue till early 2005. "We're happy to wait our turn to be paid attention to," she says. "I think that when they are presented with the facts … they would need to be supportive."

Suburban Shopping Boom

While downtown shopping is suffering, it's never been easier to spend cash fast in the suburbs. And we're thrilled to finally snag some retailers that every city of style should have. In Legacy Village, there's Crate & Barrel, Viking Culinary Arts Center and Restoration Hardware. In Westlake's Crocker Park, the first phase of which recently opened, we hail the arrival of H&M, slated for this spring.

For the uninitiated, H&M stores in New York City and Chicago are so packed you have to arrive early if you don't want to stand in line for half an hour. Their cheap-but-chic clothes won't last half as long as your wool trousers from Talbot's, but they will sass up your wardrobe for the season. (We found a retro-looking, pale pink wool coat with a faux fur collar for $129.)

Other Crocker Park newbies to Cleveland include Urban Outfitters and Steve Madden.

Meanwhile, the happy/ sad news is that some favorites have left The Avenue at Tower City Center for Crocker Park, including Banana Republic and J.Crew.

Trash Talk

It didn't go over well when the mayor announced that all the city's trashcans would be removed. (Sure, there's a budget deficit, but aren't some things simply good hygiene? Like when you wake up really late for work, you still brush your teeth, right?)

The resulting backlash prompted the city to announce an Adopt-A-Can plan, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Other than garbage-collection company Metro Disposal's offer to pick up 50 cans, most of the city's 1,300 charges remained orphans.

So, in the end, it was announced that city garbage crews would just have to work a little harder. Seems like that would have been a good strategy from the start.

Down But Not Out

Issue 31, a Cuyahoga County tax levy for economic development and the arts, failed at the ballot box March 2, despite an energetic grass-roots effort on its behalf. The five-year, 0.7-mill property-tax levy was to raise $20 million a year to lure and retain businesses, restore brownfields and support the region's many art organizations, with funds split 50/50 between biz and arts. But the issue was thrown on the ballot hastily, with only five weeks to explain its complexities to voters, and suffered from being sandwiched with other proposed tax levies.

On the plus side, Cleveland's cultural community discovered its political clout and is already exploring other means for securing public funding for the arts. After all, the arts employ as many as 3,700 people locally, and one study has found that arts organizations generate more than $1 billion annually for the Greater Cleveland economy.

Tim Couch Goes Long, Real Long

We're as guilty as the rest of them. In our 2000 profile of Tim Couch, we hailed him as "The Man With the Golden Arm." While his arm did indeed prove costly (the Browns paid him a $12.25 million signing bonus), it certainly didn't bring us any gold.

Still, we like the guy. He handled himself well during the showdown with Kelly Holcomb and, though he shouldn't have cried, we really shouldn't have booed him. After the Browns cut him this summer, he signed with the Green Bay Packers, but was released after suffering from a sore arm and failing to grasp the offense.

So what's he up to now? Neither he nor his agent wanted to talk with us about it, so we checked in with his old high-school football coach, Tim Koogler. "He's kind of hanging out in Lexington right now," Koogler reported in mid-October. "I think it's mainly him getting healthy before he gives it another go." Koogler, who recently spoke with Couch's brother, reports that five teams are interested in Couch. "We're all still behind him and wish him the best," says Koogler.

So do we.

This Isn't East Ninth Street?

Former Brook Park mayor Tom Coyne apparently got the month, date, time and city wrong for artist Spencer Tunick's nude photo shoot.

We're No. 1!

Unfortunately, the designation happens to be for poverty among America's cities with populations larger than 250,000. The August 2004 proclamation that U.S. Census Bureau figures show our city is the poorest in the United States was blasted across our morning newspaper and even highlighted in the vice-presidential debate.

Surely, Detroit is worse, we thought. Wrong. What about Washington, D.C.? No dice. The grim news, once and for all, signaled the final buzzer on Cleveland's image as America's comeback city and sent Mayor Jane Campbell scrambling to figure out how in the world one in every two children and one in every three people who reside in this city live below the poverty line.

Presidential Candidates Woo Us

George W. Bush, John Kerry and their running mates spent the election season fast-breaking through Cleveland in their full-court presses for the White House. Kerry came to Tri-C East during primary season, spoke at Stephanie Tubbs-Jones' Labor Day picnic in Luke Easter Park and chose the park next to Cleveland City Hall for his first joint appearance with running mate John Edwards. President Bush opened the International Children's Games in August, barnstormed through Broadview Heights and Kirtland and snacked at Chagrin Falls' Popcorn Shoppe.

If that wasn't enough to turn red-blooded Southerners and blue-state folk on the coasts green with envy, University Circle became the political center of the country for a day in October, as student activists, protesters, journalists and lots of Secret Service guys crowded Case's campus while the vice-presidential candidates went one-on-one in a campus gym. Afterward, 1,500 people crammed Wade Oval under klieg lights to hear Edwards speak. True to his love of secure locations, Vice President Dick Cheney chose the castle-like Grays Armory for his rally.

The Cavs Get Bamboozered

This year, we learned that someone could actually give Art Modell a run for his money at hightailing it out of town for a fistful of dollars (after punching our devoted sports fans in the gut with it, of course).

The suckers were Cavs management, who declined to pick up Carlos Boozer's $700,000 option for this season, making him a restricted free agent. The Cavs thought they had a verbal agreement with Boozer for a six-year, $41 million deal — the most they could offer under NBA rules. But CBooz became "Bamboozer" when he signed a six-year, $68 million offer sheet with the Utah Jazz on the same day he was named an Olympian. (Ah, you can almost smell the Olympic spirit.) "I'm a man of my word, and the only commitment I gave was to Utah, and I kept that commitment," Boozer told USA Today.

Art would be so proud.


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