Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s the Optimist again, bringing you the incoherent weekend ritual we like to call NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE from sunny Florida.
By the time some of you read this, the Cavaliers likely will have vanquished the Sunshine State’s two teams and be on their way to Tennessee. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Some of you have better things to do than read some silly sports column on the day after Thanksgiving. You’re probably playing in your annual Turkey Bowl. Or cleaning up the swath of destruction left by your grandkids. Or maybe you’re part of the retail carnage called Black Friday, fighting fellow shoppers for a Furby™.
There’s none of that silliness going on down here in sweet, sweet Florida. At least not where our Team Motel is located – overlooking a sun-drenched golf course, the wind gently blowing through the palm trees.
It’s peaceful now. But some of the younger players that were here last season are still a little spooked, being this close to that particular golf course. This is the place where, last March, after a 103-102 overtime loss to the Hawks, Byron Scott punished the entire team and several staff members by forcing them to watch Samardo Samuels swing a golf club.
And if you don’t think that motivation worked, you must not have watched Wednesday night’s wire-to-wire win over the Sixers at The Q.
Jeremy Pargo – yes, that Jeremy Pargo – unleashed a career-high 28 points, but also played rock-solid defense on Philly’s Jrue Holiday. A feisty Anderson Varejao doubled-up with 10 points and 19 boards and C.J. Miles got a new haircut – and a new lease on life. (Amazing how it always works! Women will never understand the healing power of the haircut.)
The Wine and Gold are going to need that momentum on this three-game roadie. Orlando has had the Cavs’ number for some time, and Miami and Memphis are the current heavyweights of their respective Conferences.
Kyrie Irving is still out, but Boobie Gibson hopes to return and bolster a rejuvenated second unit.
While Kyrie heals, I might consider asking him to debrief the squad on this weekend’s items, such as Birthdays, Today-in-History and, naturally, Current Events. I wonder how he’d feel about that?
Since he’s only working with nine digits, I’d go light on him in terms of Today-in-History and Birthdays.
It’s not that nothing happened on November 23 throughout history. It’s that nothing good happened on November 23. It’s kind of a bummer. Why can’t we humans get it together?! For every “Hands Across America,” there’s a Nazi war crime or a public hanging or hijacked plane crashing into the Indian Ocean.
Even the one positive “accomplishment” – the 1963 creation of the world’s longest-running science fiction drama, Doctor Who – doesn’t mean squat. Doctor Who nerds are the lowest form of nerd on this or any of their made-up planets. Even regular nerds pick on them.
And today’s Birthdays aren’t anything to write home about, either – unless you’re fired up to celebrate Trader Jack McKeon or Vin Baker or Maxwell Caulfield, the dude who tried the John Travolta part in “Grease 2.” I don’t see how you could live with yourself if you are.
We do, however, have a noteworthy person of interest in the rare Dead-on-This-Day-Still-Dead category.
On this date in 1990, former Indians catcher and two-time All-Star, Bo Diaz, was killed at his home in Caracas. And yes, he was smushed while adjusting his satellite dish.
When I read that this day marks Bo Diaz’ death, I was hoping to debunk the story that he actually died by having his cabeza crushed by a satellite dish. But upon further review, I’ve discovered that it’s the stone-cold truth.
Just once in my life, I wanted to debunk something. And I wanted to do it in front of all you guys. But I’ve failed. If you’ve come here for debunking, you’re about to leave disappointed.
At least we’re now completely sure that Diaz – who hit .313 for the Tribe in 1981and played in that year’s All-Star Game in Cleveland – bought it like a M.A.N., risking life and limb in high winds, trying to fix the satellite dish to his own house; not paying some installation stooge, though he easily could have afforded one.
Vin Baker and Maxwell Caulfield wouldn’t have been brave enough to try it. You’d have a better shot with some Doctor Who nerd.
I’d bust off a well-deserved Moment of Silence™ for Baudilio José Díaz. But we’re short on time and haven’t even gotten to Current Events.
Of course, this biggest Current Events issue of this – or any – Thanksgiving week is the Presidential pardon of two lucky turkeys, spared the axe while the third runner-up is snuffed, stuffed and served to the First Family. This year, Barack Obama (pictured, right) poured over hundreds of appeals and petitions for executive clemency, finally sparing the lives of Cobbler and his alternate, Gobbler – whose sentence was merely commuted.
The American tradition, which was begun by Harry S. Truman in 1947, has been carried on dutifully by our current President. But he doesn’t do it with anywhere near the flair of his predecessor. But I guess that’s a reality we’ve lived with for four years and will have to endure over the next four. Barry O is a brilliant guy who wants the best for our country, but he could serve TEN consecutive terms and not pull off some of the comedy ol’ George Walker Bush could.
I’m sure Obama made some joke about “moving forward” or “standing up and flying right” after cutting those feral turkeys loose. But W. (pictured, left) brought down the house when he did the Turkey Pardon.
(I’m told those of you reading this column on a “mobile device” won’t be able to see this photo. That’s too bad for you, because it’s awesome-to-the-max. Why don’t you losers get yourselves a big boy computer to read on? Or at least ask for one for Christmas.)
I’ll try to keep the good stuff in straight text for you mobile readers for the rest of today’s N.A.T.L.. Please refrain from texting or Tweeting if it all possible. It’s rude to the other readers.
All Charged Up – I know you red-blooded “rivalry” guys out there are frothing and seething and freething for some Buckeyes-Wolverines, Steelers-Browns talk, but keep your pants on. Please.
We’ve got more hoops to discuss. And for that, we head to central Stark County, where the Canton Charge – the Wine and Gold’s D-League affiliate – tip off their second season on Friday night at the Civic Center.
Last season, Alex Jensen’s squad was one win away from the NBADL Finals and this year, they’re looking to take the Whole Enchilda.
The roster is somewhat different, but it’s still loaded with young talent and some players you might see in the Show at some point this season. Forward Kevin Jones led the Big East in scoring and rebounding. Jorge Gutierrez was the Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Returning sharpshooter, Antoine Agudio, was one of the top three-point marksmen in the league last year.
The Charge are building something special in Canton, and with the Wine and Gold toiling away in the Sunshine State, there’s no better time than Friday night’s opener against the Maine Red Claws to check it out.
Enemies at the Gate – This weekend, two Ohio gridiron rivalries are revisited. One, still fresh and hateful. The other, on life support.
In Columbus, despite a bowl ban that will end their season the minute the game is over, the Ohio State Buckeyes look to complete their perfect season as they welcome the mangy Michigan Wolverines to the Horseshoe. Braxton Miller has proven to be one of the most valuable and electrifying players in the country and on Saturday, he’ll look to complete a storybook season.
On Sunday, our beloved, beleaguered Brownies welcome the hated Steelers to Browns Stadium.
Browns-Steelers was once one of the NFL’s greatest rivalries, but that was a long time ago – like the Mongolian Empire vs. Chinese Ming Dynasty. Back in the day, Genghis Khan and the Mongolians was the scariest crew in the yard, but now Mongolia just produces cashmere and barbeques and China is still China.
Even with Charlie Batch at the helm, it’ll be a tall order for our little Pumpkinheads on Sunday. But if they play defense like they have all season and Brandon Weeden can avoid turning the ball over, the Browns can lay the foundation of a rivalry reignited.
The only positive in a Browns loss would be the reaction shots of Jimmy Haslam, who might start chucking beer bottles or batteries from the owner’s suite.
As much fun as that would be to watch, I’m still pulling for a nice win for the Brownies. I’m sick of Steeler fans crowing. I’m sick of James Harrison accosting our quarterbacks and our fans. Mostly, I’m sick of this being a meaningless game on the schedule.
So gird up, fans of sport back in the homeland. It’s going to be a wild weekend. Cavaliers action. Canton Charge opener. Ohio State-Michigan and Browns-Steelers.
In-between ballgames in Florida, I’ll probably spend my free time like I did as a kid on vacations in the Sunshine State – chasing sand crabs and lizards around with a whiffle ball bat.
As for you knuckheads back in Ohio, please remember: Have a cab take you home if you’ve had one too many Christmas Ales, but please don’t try to manually adjust your satellite dish when you get there.
And if you can handle that, you’re next step is to …
Keep the faith, Cleveland