The Optimist

December 7, 2012

Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s me: the Optimist, checking in from an unseasonably moderate Minneapolis, Minnesota. How ‘bout we dig in to another half-baked episode of NEWS ….AROUND … THE … LEAGUE? It’ll be fun.

Anderson VarejaoMy sources tell me that the Wine and Gold have dropped three of the four games in-betwixt my last column and this here one.

Alonzo Gee’s put-back sealed a sweet win in Atlanta last Friday, but Portland topped the Cavs in double-OT the next night. Monday’s loss to the Pistons was downright depressing – not so much that our beloved Cavaliers lost by 10 – although that did suck. But more so that The Palace was almost completely empty.

That’s the difference between Pistons fans and Cavalier fans. When the going gets tough, we stick with the Wine and Gold. When the Pistons fall on hard times, they just stay home and burn their mattresses.

On Wednesday, the Bulls came to town and, unfortunately, did what the Bulls do when they play our kid Cavaliers. The way the Cavs seem to have the Knicks’ number at The Q and Clippers’ number anywhere – so too, apparently, does Chicago have ours. For now.

Tonight and tomorrow night and beyond, the Cavaliers can put all this ugliness behind them. On Friday, it’s a matchup of two of the best and most active big men in the league – Anderson Varejao and Minnesota’s Kevin Love – as the Cavs face the T-Wolves. With Cleveland’s starting backcourt still on the shelf, they’ll need another big effort from the Wild Thing.

PetersonI’ll be near our team’s locker room before and after the win to warn Cavalier players not to shake Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s hand. Sometimes, for kicks, he comes backstage just to crush visiting athlete’s hands with his Kung Fu grip. I’ve seen him do it.

After Friday’s presumptive victory at the Target Center, the Pistons roll into Cleveland on Saturday night where they’ll likely face the Cavs’ vengeance. But at least they’ll get to do it in front of real fans.

On Tuesday, of course, Kobe Bryant and the LakeShow come to The Q. It’d be pretty sweet if Kyrie Irving was active to face off against the Black Mamba – exspecially after their 1-on-1 wager from Team USA training camp. Either way, it’ll still be nice to beat L.A. for their shoddy treatment of our old pal, Mike Brown.

Mike Brown, who comes from a military family, knows that for Today-in-History, it’d be silly to recognize December 7 – a “day that will live in infamy” – for anything other than the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

I won’t write about the event at length, because who really wants to hear about America getting bombed? (Not me.) Suffice to say that the Empire of Japan was thinking that if they killed enough members of America’s “Greatest Generation” in 1941 that they’d only have to deal with Hippies and Baby Boomers and Slackers moving forward – ensuring global domination.

Too bad for them, the U.S.A. had plenty more – and America and the Allies went on to soundly defeat the Axis powers in World War II.

Nowadays, everybody’s friends, and it’s much better this way.

Our best and brightest Birthday boy served in WWII (and he has a Minnesota connection). He literally takes the cake on this day.

Sure, we can celebrate some big names on this day, like Johnny Bench, Ellen Burnstyn, Tom Waits, Larry Bird, Patrice O’Neal, and Noam Chomsky. You can even raise a birthday toast to Cleveland sports legends like former Crusaders goalie Jerry Cheevers and Tribe righthander Fausto Carmona or Roberto Hernandez or whatever his name is.

Ted KnightBut this day belongs to one Tadeusz Wladyslaw Konopka – or, as some of you know him, Ted Knight – who was born on December 7, 1923 in Terryville, Connecticut.

The late, great Ted Knight played Minneapolis’ bumbling top newsanchor, “Ted Baxter” on the Mary Tyler Moore Show – a role that earned him six Emmy nominations and two wins. He also starred in the short-lived sitcom, Too Close For Comfort.

But the two roles that immortalized Ted Knight were as “Judge Elihu Smails” – the short-tempered patriarch of Bushwood Country Club in the all-time classic, Caddyshack. It was, dare I say, one of the greatest comedic performances in film history.

The other, of course, was as the newsman simply known as “Ted” in the Southgate U.S.A. commercials of the 1980s.

Some of you young whipper-snappers may not remember those spots – or Southgate U.S.A. in Warrensville Heights, for that matter. If not, CLICK HERE for a fantastic 30-second Christmas spot to get yourselves caught up.

The great Ted Knight has a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and would easily have one on the Walk of Fame in Southgate, too – if Southgate had a Walk of Fame or if Southgate still existed.

Either way. Happy Birthday to you, Ted Knight – wherever you are.

All this birthday celebration has left us with very little column space to cover today’s Current Events. So I’ll just bust off a quick Public Service Announcement and we can get to the wide, wide world sports.

The PSA derives from another turkey attack – this time in Lansing, Michigan.

It’s a case of a wild bird called “the Traffic Turkey.” He’s been blamed for blocking traffic in Lansing since shortly before Thanksgiving and evaded several previous capture attempts – including efforts to tranquilize the creature. He’s since set up both a Twitter account and Facebook page – mocking authorities seeking an indictment.

I regaled you readers a couple weeks ago with the story of “Frankenturkey” on the loose in Farmington, Connecticut and – more frighteningly – the tale of a wild turkey that once attacked me, News-Herald scribe Bob Finnan, and Channel 19 cameraman Dan Wagner at Cleveland Clinic Courts after Cavs practice.

turkeyFriends, I know turkeys are succulent and if you see one, you’re probably thinking, ‘I’ll just walk over, choke this stupid bird out, throw his arse in the trunk and take him home for an impromptu Thanksgiving meal.’ But it’s not that easy.

Please leave turkey-slaughtering to the professionals. These birds are simply not to be trifled with. Take it from someone who’s lucky to be alive after an encounter with one.

The Traffic Turkey, Ted Knight and Detroit’s lame fans have put us in a total bind. By the time I cover all the stuff I need to, Dan Gilbert will be paying me some sweet, sweet overtime. But I’m going to go rapid-fire the rest of the way anyway– like speed-dating, only with sports.

So buckle up, butterballs! We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there. And we’re gonna do what they say can’t be done. All within the cozy confines of this week’s episizode of News … Around … The … League

Meee-OW!! – If I would have told you two years ago that Joe Thomas and Payton Hillis would one day be embroiled in a media cat fight, you’d have called me bat-shart crazy.

But here we are – with J.T. calling Peyton Hillis everything but a running back. And Hillis firing back, saying Thomas is behaving like a “crazy ex-girlfriend.”

Joe ThomasI know Joe Thomas kinda started this whole thing, but he’s A. the best in the business, who’s B. never missed a single snap in five years while C. making the Pro Bowl in each one and D. earning that monster paycheck.

Hillis wasn’t just another great Caucasian NFL running back, he could’ve been more. And Cleveland loved him.

I’d love to see Buster Skrine cracking Hillis for his ingratitude. But I fear he’s too little. So I’ll go with Phil Taylor from Baylor crushing Hills and maybe Jamal Charles a little bit, too.

Browns win an ugly affair – 26-9.

Higher Learning – I love collegiate sports.

No, wait, that’s not exactly true. Let me start again.

I love collegiate football and basketball and don’t like all other collegiate sports. And as a fan of college football, I feel it’s my God-given right to gripe about the sport. I made a list.

1. I hope Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o wins the Heisman Trophy. He was the best player on the best team. If Johnny Football wins it as a freshman, the rest of his career will either be painfully pressurized or totally anticlimactic. Colin Klein has a cool nickname, but he’s not Heisman material.

2. The hangover weekend of college football’s regular season produces the dreaded Army-Navy game – which is excruciating to me. It’s nothing against our brave men and women serving in both branches. It’s just that the game blows. I can’t tell which team is which. Neither one is ever ranked or has any star players. I’m almost positive they still ask each offense “Punt or Gain?” on fourth downs.

Army NavyI can consume almost all types of football: Gladiators football, Lingerie League football, the Canadian Football League, Australian Rules Football. But the Army-Navy game ranks just below WNBA action and just above, surprisingly, another football-related catastrophe: The Pro Bowl, in the pantheon of terrible televised sport.

3. If the NCAA is all about the kids, why do they allow head coaches to split before their team’s bowl game? I know the standard answer is “so they can catch up on recruiting.” But the NCAA governs recruiting pretty strictly (seemingly). Can’t they figure away around this?

Coaches take their kids the whole way, finally reaching their season’s goal – and for most of them, this is the end of the line at this high of a level – and the head coach books before the bowl game. It didn’t used to be this way. It shouldn’t be now.

Silent, But Deadly – This week, the celebrity-edition Grim Reaper did his thing on one of my all-time idols. I write this with a truly heavy heart.

On Wednesday, jazz icon and one of my all, all-time favorites, Dave Brubeck, passed away at the age of 91, on his way to a monthly checkup with his eldest son in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Brubeck formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1951 and became one of the most accomplished jazz pianists in the genre’s rich history. He was a teacher, a father and grandfather and a civil rights leader. At the peak of his fame, he canceled 23 out of 24 concerts in the South at Southern universities when they would not allow him to bring his black bass player.

BrubeckThe obits will highlight songs like “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” But if you want to give your ears an amazing treat, check out stone grooves like “Benjamin” or “Mr. Broadway.” And I’ll bet you’ll be moved damn near to tears if you check out “Koto Song” or “Thank You (Dziekuje).”

When I read on Wednesday afternoon that Dave Brubeck died, I had some of those waterworks at my desk. I’m comfortable enough in my own masculinity to admit that.

Dave Brubeck was one day short of his 92nd birthday.

He died – that’s what olds do. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Please closeth thy cakeholes and removeth thy hats and/or hairpieces – (or I’ll closeth and removeth them for you) – as we pause for this well-deserved Moment of Silence™


OK, let’s reconvene in a week. And let’s gird up for a couple big wins this weekend. We’re due.

Normally, I have a list of things for you to remember, but to close out today it’s just two.

One is to remember that it's easy to grin, when your ship comes in, and you've got the stock market beat. But the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his shorts are too tight in the seat.

The other, of course, is to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland.

Shine On,
The Optimist