The Optimist

March 8, 2013
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! You can call me “Optimist” and I’ll call you “Cavalier fans.” Come now, let us reason together.

The column you’re reading is a half-baked contraption called NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE, and each week we try to span the globe to cover the wide, wide world of sports. But this week, we’re talking Cleveland’s Big Three.

If you tuned in to read my musings on Britney Griner’s 50-point game or the No. 1 golfer in the world quitting on accounta of a toothache or even the final standings and stats from the cockfighting ring that got busted on Cleveland’s near west side this week – that’s tough luck! We’ll talk racing and golf and cockfighting some other time. Today, we’re talking 216 Sports.

opt_huddle_130308.jpgAnd what better place to start than with our beloved Cavaliers – who rope-a-doped for three-and-a-half quarters on Wednesday night, then –as they say in the horse-racing world – gave Utah a cold, going on a 12-1 run to close the game. Kyrie Irving scored 11 of his 20 points in the final five minutes and C.J. Miles dropped 12 points in his old team in the fourth quarter.

The win over Utah – coupled with Lakers’ comeback victory over the soon-to-be-Pelicans – got Kobe and Co. even closer to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which would the Cavs to get our greedy little meat-hooks all over L.A.’s first rounder.

The Wine and Gold are back in Flavor Country tonight – welcoming former Cavalier Jon Leuer and his Memphis Grizzlies to The Q for a Friday night affair. The Grizz are one of the West’s true heavyweights, having won 10 of their last 11. Tonight’s win will be a tall order. But I’ve got a good feeling that the Cavaliers might get explosive rookie Dion Waiters back from a mid-week bout with the Colorado Quick-Step™.

After Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington taste sweet victory against their old squad on Friday, the Cavaliers travel north of the border for their final meeting of the season against Toronto. The last time the Raptors saw the Wine and Gold in their gym, Kyrie Irving was calmly stepping into a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds to play for the 99-98 win. Those hosers never knew what hit ‘em!

Kyrie’s bomb capped both an 11-point fourth-quarter comeback and the first of two three-game win streaks before the All-Star Break.

Whether the Cavs will be making it three straight again this Sunday – overall and against Toronto – is up to the Basketball Gods.

We’ll discuss why the Football and Baseball Gods have treated Cleveland’s other sports teams like sinners in their angry almighty hands in just a few paragraphs. Right after we take care of our weekly chores.

As a natural optimist, I’m disinclined to waive the white flag. But I’ve checked, and March 8 is truly one of the boringest Days-in-History in the history of Today-in-History. Even the Visigoths and the Nazis took the weekend off.

About the biggest event that took place on this date was in 1983, when then-President Ronald Reagan famously labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” Infuriated by Dutch’s escalation of the rhetorical Cold War, Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev responded: “No, you’re an evil empire!”

opt_reagan_130308.jpgIn terms of today’s Birthdays, they’re also just so-so – unless you’re big into pianist, Dick Hyman. I am not.

Besides the famed American composer, there’s also Cheryl James (Salt of Salt-n-Pepa), Kenny “the Jet” Smith, strangely underrated actor James Van Der Beek, Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice, living Monkee Mickey Dolenz and, of course, the skipper of the U.S.S. Minnow, Alan Hale, Jr., who was busy smacking Gilligan around with his hat instead of trying to get with Mary Ann.

Unlike Today-in-History and Birthdays, I found myself overflowing with Current Events. I whittled it down to three.

First, there’s Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea to watch hoops with cuddly North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un.

opt_rodman_130308.jpgThe five-time NBA champion’s visit to Pyongyang actually prompted much discussion at the White House and State Department, where newly-appointed Secretary of State John Kerry said of The Worm: “As a diplomat, he is a great basketball player.”

Two days later, North Korean leaders vowed to nuke the United States, no doubt in response to the condition in which Rodman left his hotel room.

I also found myself sucked in to the story of the Florida man who was swallowed up by a sinkhole as he slept. Rescue crews have since given up on 37-year-old Jeff Bush, who is now entombed in the center of the Earth.

Whereas I find the story fascinating, my young associate – and Cavaliers PR Manager-guy, Jeff Schaefer – finds it absolutely terrifying, fearing that a sinkhole will one-day open up and consume him and his loved ones as they slept. He’s been researching sinkholes ad nauseam ever since – from the abyss in Guatemala that sucked up an entire skyscraper to Turkmenistan’s infamous “Flaming Doorway to Hell.”

opt_hole_130308_0.jpgI’ve told the kid not to worry about it. If that’s the way you were meant to go, when the hole tolls for thee, try to grab something meaningful on the way down and accept your fate.

Schaeffer’s irrational fear of sinkholes gives us almost no time for the Current Events story I really wanted to get to: the tale of Biscuit, the 37-pound cat from St. Charles, Missouri.

I admit, it was your standard “chubby animal” story. Biscuit’s owners could no longer care for her and she wound up in an animal shelter which received over 100 requests to adopt the feline fatso. Etc., etc.

opt_cat_130308_0.jpgBiscuit’s story got me thinking: WHY do I love stories about extra-fat animals? And I think it goes back to my childhood and the memory of this relatively harmless drunk guy who used to stagger up to the porch at my parent’s house with a morbidly-obese beagle named “Motivate” – all of which I found hilarious.

I know that’s not really a Current Event. I’m just trying to work my way through this journey called “life” – finding out who I am and what I’m about.

But what I’m really about is Cleveland sports. So let’s break it down in this week’s installment of News … Around … The … League

Free-Wheeling – As most Browns fans know, Tuesday marks the beginning of the NFL Free Agent feeding frenzy. And based on what the most intelligent members of that fan base – sports talk radio callers – our beloved Brownies need to spend like drunken sailors the minute Roger Goodell opens the store for business.

Despite the analyst’s in-depth knowledge, I’m not sure if I think that’s the way to go. Sure, the Browns have almost $49 billion in cap space. But there’s no need to blow it on a big-name guy just because he’s on the market.

Would I love to see the Browns land Cliff Averil or Paul Krueger? Sure. I love guys who can terrorize the quarterback. But I’d also be open to defensive guys like Connor Barwin or Rey Maulaluga or Brent Grimes.

opt_jennings_130308.jpgOn the offensive side of the ball, the hot name is Mike Wallace. But I’d rather the Browns ink a guy like Greg Jennings, and I’m basing it on my Luke Walton Theory. Mike Wallace is a burner and big-play guy. But Greg Jennings would help the entire offense – including an unsure sophomore QB and a pair of tempestuous young wideouts. Luke Walton isn't the most skilled 10-year veteran in the league. But he’s just what the young Cavaliers needed at this stage of their development. How many other backup small forwards rack up 12 assists in a game?

As far as the Browns retaining their own Free Agents, I fear that fan favorites Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson may not return. If it happens, I’m not going to like it one bit. But I’m going to try to understand because they’re the Browns – a cruel mistress whom I cannot resist.

Spring In Their Step – Even though I’m horribly stricken with Indian Fever right now, I want to keep my powder dry on the Tribe. I’ll do a proper season preview as Opening Day gets closer. (Although that day draws nigh – Cleveland opens the regular season on April 2 in Toronto and at home on August 8 against the hated Yankees.)

opt_swisher_130308_0.jpgBy all accounts, it’s the Spring of Love down in Goodyear, Arizona – where good vibrations flow back to North Beach on a daily basis: from reports of Ryan Rayburn and Nick Swisher knocking the cover off the ball to Carlos Carasco bouncing back to SS prospect Francisco Lindor impressing the entire organization to Justin Masterblasterson recapturing the mojo that made him a No. 1 starter.

Seems like it’s already been a blast down in Arizona. And Chris Perez hasn’t even started throwing yet.

I’ve got a feeling about the Tribe this season. They officially get on the warpath in early April, but I’ll preview the upcoming season in the next couple weeks. I just wanted Terry Francona and the boys to know that I’m thinking about them.

And that’s where I’ll leave today’s episode of News … Around … The … League -- with a bold, bright future ahead for North Beach’s big three.

I was going to write about my beloved Concrete State Vikings in the Verizon League Tournament, but they were eliminated before I could finish this sentence. And I don’t want to send you knuckaheads into the weekend with a loss.

If you’re out partying this weekend – maybe at the mint Bon Jovi concert at The Q or doing shots with a Cleveland city councilman – don’t forget to call a Call a cab or designate a driver. And that’s just my call. It’s Captain’s orders.

opt_rooster_130308.jpgUntil Cleveland can figure out a new location for weekend cockfighting, you’ve got no excuse not to devote your full attention to the Wine and Gold for the next three days.

By the time we next meet, Quicken Loans Arena will be swarming with rabid M.A.C. Tournament kids and their equally-frothing alumni. I’ll be in the Big D with the Cavaliers, but I’ll have someone send me The Q’s security blotter to give you all the updates.

In the meantime, all I ask is that you remember to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

One love,
The Optimist