CLEVELAND – Come to Cleveland, where the economy is based on LeBron James, the streets are filled with drifters and broken-down homes can be had for the price of a VCR.
A comedian's sarcastic YouTube music videos trashing Cleveland have so unnerved tourism officials that they asked residents to fire back with videos of their own showing the city is not really the "Mistake on the Lake."
But take it easy, Cleveland. Mike Polk, 31, a hometown comic and video producer, said his two videos — which also maligned the city for such things as its abandoned buildings and polluted waters — were all in fun.
"I don't really believe all of the fish in Lake Erie have AIDS," said Polk, whose YouTube contribution to Cleveland's inferiority complex landed him a job judging the mostly feel-good contest videos.
The winner of the contest sponsored by the city's travel promotion agency, Positively Cleveland, will be announced Thursday.
Entries had to cost $2 or less to produce; be 2 minutes long, tops; and highlight favorite spots and the "unexpected side of the area about which tourists may not be aware."
The winner gets a Cleveland travel package, including a stay in a downtown hotel, dinner and passes to attractions.
Polk's favorite spots? The Playhouse Square theater district and corner music clubs.
But there's another inescapable part of Cleveland, including a dwindling population, shrinking manufacturing base, a high poverty rate and rampant foreclosures. Polk hits on many of the anti-highlights in the bare-knuckle video:
• Its manufacturing might? "Here's the place were there used to be industry," the song says against a backdrop of urban desolation.
• The resilient blue-collar population? "Cleveland leads the nation in drifters," the video warns.
• The city's economy? It's based on the Cavaliers' James, Most Valuable Player in the NBA.
Positively Cleveland played off Polk's "Hastily Made" video title with a "Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video Contest" and paid homage to Polk and "this video making the rounds out there. ... You know who you are, funny guys."
Samantha Fryberger, who promotes the city as director of communications for Positively Cleveland, said there were no hard feelings about Polk's video ribbing.
"We thought we would not get defensive about it," she said Wednesday. "We're not mad about it; we're just going to have a little fun with it."
Clevelanders unhappy that Polk knocked the city are silly to suggest he shouldn't point out shortcomings, he said.
"I love the city and or else I would have left a long time ago," he said. "But I'm also realistic and I'm not going to pretend like there aren't a lot of negatives around here."
Still, Polk offered Cleveland a glimmer of hope, ending one video with the chant: "We're not Detroit."