CLEVELAND, Ohio — As Michael Rotman strummed his guitar and played his original song “So I Play,” his voice boomed throughout the Cleveland Metropolitan Conference Center.
Rotman was among three winners selected Saturday at the Cleveland Power of Sport Summit’s Performing Arts Competition, where seven finalists shared their love for sport through art. Rotman, who lives on the East Side and grew up in Cleveland Heights, received $1,500.
A longtime guitar player, Rotman wanted to show his love for Cleveland in the song. He remembers some of the city’s most infamous sports moments like “The Drive,” and “The Shot,” but he’s optimistic about the city’s future.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to use my writing as a force for positive change,” Rotman said. “In the song, it says, ‘The facts are straight, so much civic pride. The future looks so great the past can hide.’”
The last time Cleveland hosted NBA All-Star Weekend was in 1997, before LeBron James came to the league and made his stamp. The Cleveland Cavaliers had a decent record of 42-40 with coach Mike Fratello during the 1996-97 season, but multiple rough seasons followed. Aside from the 1997-98 campaign, when the Cavs lost in the first round of the playoffs, the franchise didn’t finish above .500 until the 2004-05 season, James’ second in the NBA.
Now, the Cavs are thriving, with All-Stars Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen helping lead the team. Rotman loves how the Cavs embody the city’s spirit.
“I feel like the Cavaliers right now represent Cleveland because they play as a team,” Rotman said. “And that’s what everyone was talking about today in their writing.”
In addition to the music category, the competition also featured poetry. Steve Furlow-Munn won $1,500 as the first-place winner in the adult poetry category, and Leila Metres won $750 as the winner in the youth poetry category.
Furlow-Munn, an outreach and admissions manager at Cleveland Job Corps, played football at Benedictine High School and one season at Hiram College. He wrote a poem named “Dad,” touching on the influence of his father and how playing sports growing up helped him learn different life skills.
As he accepted his prize, his natural positive energy came through when he called for the other poets who performed to come onto the stage with him.
“I learned a lot just by being competitive and learning teamwork and learning how to lose, but also learning how to win,” Furlow-Munn said.
Metres, a sophomore at the Mastery School of Hawken, runs track and has been writing poetry for as long as she can remember. She was glad to express her love for running and poetry as she shared the space with the other artists.
Her poem, “I’m Not Scared of the Dark,” highlighted how joining the track team freshman year helped her find herself. One of her favorite lines from the poem is, “I might be scared of the dark, but I was never scared of the work.”
“One of my coaches had told me that basically track is one of the only sports where the success that you get is really just a direct result of the training you put in,” Metres said. “And that just shows a lot to me because I think that’s how a lot of things in life are. The more that you put into it, the more you’re gonna get out of it.”