The Optimist

March 29, 2013
Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’ve been called “Optimist” – and I do this fakakta bit on Fridays called NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE. It goes a little something like this …

Our beloved, though recently beleaguered, Cavaliers face a three-games-in-four-nights gauntlet over Easter weekend, beginning with a home matchup against Philly on Friday, followed by a bus ride to the Bayou for an Easter Sunday tilt the with soon-to-be Pelicans and ending with a Monday night meeting against the Hawks in the ATL.

There. I’ve laid out the schedule. Now let’s talk about the squad’s zeitgeist, which, as the team’s Optimist, I’m keenly aware of.

For any number of reasons, Wednesday night’s last-second loss to the Celtics was every bit as painful as the one to Miami seven days earlier. Jeff Green sliced through the Cavalier defense after Boston had been granted a “replay timeout” – (which was bullbarsh) – to sting Cleveland at the buzzer. Now, the Wine and Gold find themselves mired in a six-game skein, struggling through March after closing the month of February winning four of their last five.

If all that isn’t enough to make the Wine and Gold madder than a wet hen going into Friday’s face-off with Philly, I don’t know what would. And I expect to see a surly squad this weekend – at home and on the open road. In the locker room on Wednesday night and on the practice court on Thursday, I saw a group of guys who’d had all they can stands and can’t stands no more.

I don’t like to guarantee wins on the road because I don’t want the Team Bus getting egged as we approach a visiting arena. (Coach Scott makes me clean it off.) But I have no beef with calling for an old-fashioned Guaranteed Win over the Sixers at The Q.

It’s nothing personal against Doug Collins’ club. But I have a feeling the Cavaliers bigs are going to be exactly that on Friday night. And unless Spencer Hawes can channel Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins – (actually a really cool visual) – I see Tristan Thompson and young Tyler Zeller having big nights in a big win.

If you don’t already have tickets for tonight’s victory, honestly, what the cuss are you waiting for?!

While you get good and girded for tonight’s battle, let us pause to reflect upon N.A.T.L.’s coveted Three Pillars: Todayeth-in-History, Birthing Days and, of course, Current Events.

I was going to cite some of the events that took place on March 29th through history, but it’s loaded with one bummer after another – from earthquakes to Nazi hijinks to burnings-at-the-stake. March 29th doesn’t have anything remotely as cool as last week’s celebration of the invention of the laser.

But today is a day that devout and pious Catholics like myself recognize Good Friday, or the Friday before Easter.

I won’t go into the religious implications of Good Friday in a secular, stupid column like this. But I will say that I’ve always loved Easter weekend for myriad reasons. The beginning of Spring. Coloring Easter eggs. My group of friends’ annual hoops tournament. Pretty girls in hats. Old photos of me and my brother in matching leisure suits.

Purely as a holiday, I actually prefer Easter to Christmas. I prefer its religious significance. I’ll take sunshine over snow. Easter has none of the pressure and all of the chocolate.

Today’s Birthdays are not too bad, although aside from Clyde Frazier (and maybe Lara Logan) each person is overshadowed by a horse.

March 29 is the Birthday of Monty Python great Eric Idle, pitching legend Cy Young, bruising Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell, Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Ferrell, tennis prodigy Jennifer Capriati and Jim Chones’ one-time roommate: former Cavalier, Walt Frazier. Today also marks the Birthday of probably the greatest horse of the 20th century – Man o’ War – who won 20 of 21 career races. After his successful racing career, in his 22 years as a stud, Man o’ War sired 279 foals. He died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 30; it took veterinary surgeons almost an hour to remove the smile from his face.

A guy that could probably benefit from a couple months on the stud farm is North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, who keeps butting in to my Current Events with his continued belligerent rhetoric. His bulbous heed is in the News all week every week – and it’s distracting me from what I really want to write about: an escaped ostrich-like bird in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

All week, it’s “settle accounts”-this and “sacred war”-that with this guy. You’d have thought Dennis Rodman’s trip to Pyongyang would’ve taught them that the USA has bigger issues on its hands than their constant sabre rattling – like that big bird that’s loose in Western PA.

The five-foot, 80-pound bird, called a “rhea,” escaped from its farm by jumping the fence earlier this week.

News-Herald scribe, Bob Finan, and I have been attacked by a wild turkey in the parking lot at Cleveland Clinic Courts. If I lived in PA, you wouldn’t have to warn me twice. Birds freak me out anyway. I’m confident enough in my masculinity to say that (if wasn’t armed, and maybe even if I was) and I encountered this bird that I’d run screaming like a little sissy-mary.

I don’t want to see your chubby cheeks in my Current Events next week, Kim Jong-un. We’re trying to run a sports column over here! And my father – not to mention Hawkeye Pierce, Hot Lips Houlihan and the gang – didn’t beef it out for an armistice in 1953 just to have you mucking things up 60 years later.

I hope by next week, both Kim and the unnamed rhea from PA have been subdued. As for right now, let’s move forward in this week’s News …Around … The … League

Buck Nuts – It’s that time of year again in which all small talk begins with the declaration, “Well, my bracket’s already screwed up.”

That’s because you didn’t pick Ohio State, dummkopf!

Do you get the feeling that this is the Buckeyes’ year? Do you sense that Madness is on their side? They’re winning magically, miraculously – like the 2002 OSU football team. And they’re one win away from the Final Four, taking on a team with my favorite nickname in the Tournament: the Shockers of Wichita State.

I have Ohio State winning the Whole Enchilada in my bracket, but there are countless reasons to root for the Buckeyes. From tenacious point guard Aaron Craft to versatile stretch-4 Deshaun Thomas to former Cavs assistant and Buckeye great, Chris Jent – one of the true good guys of the game.

Ohio State’s been knocking on the door of a National Championship for a few years now. This could be the year they kick it in.

Silent But Deadly – Before I cut you meatheads loose for the weekend, please indulge me in a small tribute for a large man.

Last weekend, my friend Big Jim Wilson passed away at the age of 50 from kidney failure. He was one of the most talented, funniest, fattest guys I knew. Some of you in the Akron area might know him from his radio show on WONE 97.5, “Big All Night.”

I know Big Jim Wilson from working with him at a radio station in Warren, Ohio. He was as naturally hilarious as he was kind-hearted. Back then, he split his paycheck with his blind friend, Tommy Lo – who served as his “intern” and walked arm-in-arm with Jim. (It sounds more Hallmark Channel than it was.)

Big Jim and Tommy Lo became cult celebrities and one of the station’s promotions was to have the dynamic duo deliver a box of 50 Hot Dog Shoppe hot dogs to a winning office in Boardman. Jim and Tommy claimed they couldn’t find the building, but really just drove home to Akron and ate the dogs themselves.

Big Jim was an infinitely talented radio man. He was a production ace, had a big, booming voice and an incredible sense of humor. He was on “Star Search” in the 80s, although he wouldn’t show anyone the tape because of the thunderbolt earring.

And although I’m not a “hug-it-out” kinda guy, I loved hugging Big Jim. He was perfectly fat and I never had to worry about our pelvises touching.

I’ll miss Big Jim – who lived a wild life and he lived a good life. He was a faithful husband who lived to see his daughter get married and his son follow his footsteps in the radio business.

Big Jim is unfortunately the third “Jim” that I’ve laid to rest in this column. If you’re reading this and your name is Jim, please do NOT get to know me. For any Jims I may have already had contact with, I’m sorry, but your chances of survival are very slim.

As for Mssr Wilson, I know most of you readers don’t know him, but please give the big man the due he deserves – closing up thy pieholes and removing thy hats and/or hairpieces for this well-earned Moment of Silence™ ….

Thank you.

I expect a wild crowd at The Q this evening. And if you two Green Men who some time dance under the basket stanchion near the end of games are reading, we could use the mojo tonight. Bob the Dancing Usher has been doing all the heavy lifting lately. I think it’s about time you guys get your act together.

As for the rest of you who don’t intend to watch tonight’s game in a lime green head-to-toe bodysuit, please remember: If you’re imbibing this evening, don’t forget to call a taxi or designate a driver. This is a big weekend for the Five-O.

Go in peace, Cavalier fans. Have a safe and happy Easter Weekend. And please remember to …

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

Shine On,
The Optimist