For various reasons, Columbus...
For various reasons, Columbus has long had an insecurity complex about being a 'second class city' or 'a cow town.' Some of these reasons are legitimate: For instance, ask a East or West coast (USA) resident to name a city in Ohio, and one is most likely hear 'Cleveland'- Columbus, despite being the Capital of the state and despite its larger population, is not on most folks radar screens. (I was once in Campinas, Sao Paolo Brazil and was amused to read in the local paper a blurb about a sinkhole that had opened up in downtown Columbus in which this metropolis of 1.5 million was described as 'a village.) Some are not so legitimate: For decades, many residents have bemoaned the lack a major league professional Basketball, Football or Baseball teams in central Ohio. This complaint overlooks the fact that Columbus is home to the much beloved Ohio State Buckeyes, who intermittently excel at their various sports and draw tens of thousands of partying fans to the vast OSU campus during game seasons.
To ameliorate this self-loathing, the city fathers have, over the years floated various 'high concept' projects designed to put Columbus on the map and give the population a sense of pride. With few exceptions, these ideas have been pretty lame. For instance, for a time in the Early 80's, Columbus- being the largest city named after that noted Italian-Portuguese explorer who, in 1492, bumped into an island over 1500 miles from Ohio - was on the shortlist of possible sites for the Olympic games of 1992- the 500th anniversary of the celebrated voyage. City fathers, however, balked at the billion-dollar price tag and pulled Columbus from consideration. In its place, as a sort of consolation prize, it was decided that we would host 'AmeriFlora', a national flower show. It was expected that this would draw visitors 'from all over the world' and pump money into the local economy. With the exception of piquing the interest of a few european flower afficionados (mainly Dutch and German) for the most part it failed to do this. For Americans, AmeraFlora was overpriced and a bit skimpy on attractions, so it tanked. Few American out-of-towners found its 10 acres or so of attractions- able to be given a pretty comprehensive look in a single leisurely afternoon- compelling enough. The city lost millions propping up the event.
In an effort to calm the desire for major league notoriety, we've been handed various sports franchises that, while interesting, do not inspire the waves of slavish devotion and pride that an American Football, Basketball or Baseball team would. Instead of a NBA team, we were handed a WBA team. Instead of an NFL franchise, we were given 'The Crew-' a well-regarded major-league soccer team and, at the time of this writing, the only stadium in the US dedicated solely to Soccer. (Sadly, 'The Crew' still only draws about 15,000 per game.)
As of 1999, Columbus is home to a NHL franchise: 'The Blue Jackets.' The story of how 'The Blue Jackets' came to Columbus is too long to recount here, but here is one anecdote that will give a hint as to the long comedy of errors that finally resulted in this major league team, and its shiny new stadium, winding up in our city. When it was finally announced, to much great cheer, that Columbus had landed an NHL franchise, a campaign was started to get folks vote for ideas for the name of the team-to-be. Various innocuous ideas were presented- most having something to do with either hockey, winter, aggressiveness, or Columbus history. People in Columbus are not without a sense of humor- sometimes self-deprecatingly referring to our hometown as 'COWlumbus'. From early on, the clear favorite was a suggested floated by one of the popular weekly entertainment papers: 'The Mad Cows'. This was intended to be a cute jab at the reason why Columbus landed the NHL team in the first place. T-shirts were printed with angry snorting cows menacingly bearing hockey sticks. People began showing up our minor league hokey team's (now defunct) matches bearing cow bells, and sporting spiffy udders. However, city big wigs, were not too fond of this self-mockery. When the time came to finally unveil the new team name we were faced with… uh… a grimacing, yellow, wasp-like… thing: the 'Blue Jacket' bug. 'What the hell is it?' people asked. 'It's a bug with an attitude!' Lame.
Other silly ideas have come and gone. One strangely touted example from the false-cache era of 'le bag' and 'le car', is 'Brushstrokes in Flight'- a 30 foot high semi-abstract sculpture by pop artist (Known for 'BANG!,' 'Grrrr,' and 'Oh, Brad…') and OSU alum Roy Lichtenstein. Unveiled to much local-TV fanfare, ot was intended to give Columbus a kind of classy-hip zing. But most people didn't get it (not that there was much to get). Worse yet, no one could figure out what to do with it. So it gradually moved from place to less noted place, to where it forlornly sits today, in the middle of long term parking at the Port Columbus, International Airport. Here's a picture:
Brushstrokes In Flight
We've also been blessed with a scale mockup up Columbus's caravel, the Santa Maria, which is embarrassingly ill-kept.
Despite all this, many folks in Columbus maintain a very realistic picture of their city. Its accepted that a NFL team would require an expensive stadium, and probably wouldn't really do that much for the local economy or pride. Columbusites weather these efforts at salesmanship with humor. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.