To put it mildly Akron hasn't had the greatest of years. Like all rust belt cities the economy has been brutal on Akronites, unemployment still hovers around 10 per cent. While the industries that used to define the city, like rubber and cereal, have declined in importance and tech companies have begun their ascension to the local economic pantheon. But that change is one that many people aren't equipped to survive in. The Rubber City is changing before our very eyes, and change can be brutal for people to cope with.
Thankfully there is sport. Sport at its basest level is escapism. A chance for people to escape into a netherworld where all is fair and equitable and where the very best of the human experience can be encapsulated in moments of sheer brilliance that coalesce with the confluence of disparate elements often unlooked-for and always, always unexpected. It is those moments that sustain people. They are life giving manna, the thing that can sustain you through the long, dark and cold winters that a guaranteed when you live in a city who's whether patterns defy prediction and appear to be governed by spite rather than by and conceivable pattern of meteorology.
And it is in sport where the year has been less than kind. For a start people that live Akron have little choice but to root for the teams of Cleveland. That means the Browns, Indians and the Cavs.
So the joy and comfort that other people can take sports...not so much in Akron. I know plenty of people who have swapped the Browns and the Indians for the Cowboys and the Yankees or for the Steelers and, well, just the Steelers. And I get it. In other places switching sporting allegiance is nothing short of an act of treason. In Akron it is an act of psychological triage. So there is little joy to be had from sports in Akron, and it has been so for quite a while. Then came The Decision.
And just like that Akron's chosen son became a pariah. The shock of that event hung over the city like a dark, dank cloud until fall started. Then and only then could the dark dank cloud cease to be about "the decision" and instead be about the Browns and depression, it's the natural way of things. Now, 8 days after LeBron's return before a vitriolic army hell bent on his ruin and the subsequent demolition of the franchise he turned into a Phoenix, which put the city in a glass case of emotion, the people of Akron have something to cheer again. The Zips have returned to the College Cup Final for a second year in a row. And they have done it with a pleasing style of play, playing the game the right way. The people of Akron may be Joy Camels, wondering through the desert of sporting despair, always waiting and searching for the next Oasis that will enable them to continue on. Tonight is such an Oasis, and people should drink there fill. Even if the Zips fall short against Louisville this weekend is something that should be remembered and enjoyed by all Akronites.