The Optimist

December 28, 2012

Happy New Year, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist, and if today’s star-date is December 28, that can only mean that you readers and I have convened for the calendar year’s final installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

With Christmas behind us, I hope all of you got that new black luxury sedan, parked in your driveway with a big red bow on it. I didn’t, but that’s only because I specifically asked for socks and underwear. Next year, I’ll know better.

Last Friday, many of you were fretting that the Mayans were fixing to destroy the planet. Not me. The stupid Mayans couldn’t even kick the Conquistadors out of Mexico. What makes you think they could wipe out 21st century humanity – what, with our nuclear arsenal and knowledge of the martial arts?

Not only are we still here, but over the past week our beloved Cavaliers won back-to-back games for the first time since last March.

Last Saturday night, behind strong starting efforts by their young guns, the Wine and Gold snapped a 17-game Central Division skid – not to mention a nine-game slide to the mangy Milwaukee Bucks – with a 94-82 victory at the Bradley Center.

Cleveland followed up Saturday’s win with a dramatic decision over the Wizards on Wednesday night in D.C. – led by a surging Tristan Thompson, who de-knotted the game with a big boy’s three-point play late in regulation. Kyrie Irving’s free throws ensured the victory.

In both contests, the Cavaliers faced travel snafus. The Team Bus was grounded last Friday night, forcing the Wine and Gold to drive to Suds City on the day of the game. And on Thursday, following the win over Washington, despite the tires being sufficiently chained, the Team Bus was held for several hours before the good guys were allowed to make the celebratory trip back to Cleveland.

wig kidsSo, since our last meeting, Byron Scott’s squad has faced down the Bucks, the Wizards, Winter Frankenstorm Euclid and the Mayan Apocalypse. And it’s a good thing, too. Because Friday night at The Q is one of the greatest nights – if not THE greatest night – of any Cavalier season … Anderson Varejao Wig Night!

If there’s someone out there who doesn’t like donning an Anderson Varejao Wig, I haven’t met him. (And I don’t want to.) From regular fans to Freddie Mac and A.C. to the team’s illustrious, all-powerful owner, Dan Gilbert – who famously sported a Wild Thing wig in the Cavaliers 2005-06 team photo – there’s not a man, woman, child or beast who doesn’t love a Varejao hairpiece.

What makes wearing an Andy Wig more fun than, say, your average toupee? Why, just about everything, that’s all. I mean, look at how much fun Andy has while he’s wearing it! And therein lies the beauty of the Wig – you can channel Andy’s intoxicating lust for life while it graces your unworthy dome.

And aside from the promotional aspect of Varejao Wig Night, I’m just glad that we’re pausing to honor the long-time Cavs veteran.

I remember the first time I saw him in action. It was during 2004-05 Cavs Training Camp at Capital University in Columbus. Carlos Boozer bolted over the summer and the Cavs made a franchise-altering trade with Orlando to acquire Drew Gooden and an unknown Brazilian big who was the first pick in the second round.

Anderson VarejaoThat player turned out to be the Wild Thing – and I remember watching him drive Tractor Traylor, Scott Williams and Big Z out of their tree during practice at Capital. I called my father that night to tell him that this curly-haired Brazilian dude plays like no one I’d ever seen before.

Nine years later, Andy still plays the exact same way – giving everything he’s got all night every night. (While completely cheesing off his opponents in the process.) And once again, he’s playing at an All-Star level. He’s an exemplary teammate and one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet.

Kudos to the Cavaliers for honoring Andy. I hope that sometime later this season, we’re able to honor another classy veteran and all-around good guy, Daniel Gibson – perhaps with a big Boobie Night at The Q. I realize that promotion could easily be misinterpreted, but I’d still love to see the results if it were.

I don’t even mind that Varejao Wig Night has set us back in today’s N.A.T.L.. He’s worth it.

And as a Cavaliers big man, he’d understand that we’ve got a special Birthday to celebrate today.

Yes, December 28 marks the birthday of comic book icon, Stan Lee, albino rocker, Edgar Winter and suave, Oscar-winning actor, Denzel Washington.

But today, I’d like to send out good Birthday vibrations to the late, great Mel Turpin – who was born on this day in 1960.

In 1983, the zoftig center from Kentucky had an NCAA Tournament for the ages, and the Washington Bullets selected him with the sixth overall pick in the NBA Draft. Turpin was immediately dealt to Cleveland, where he played for three seasons.

Turpin was viewed as a Draft bust – mainly because he was compared with classmates, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton – and given derisive nicknames like “Dinner Bell Mel” and “The Mealman” because of his weight issues.

But overall, Turpin was a decent big man and played an important role in one of my favorite Cavalier seasons of all-time – George Karl’s 1985 squad that started 2-19 and went on to make the Playoffs, where they gave a heavily-favored Celtics squad all they could handle.

Mel TurpinHis last year playing professional ball was 1989-90 and, after retirement, he worked as a security guard. Tragically, at the age of 49, Mel Turpin committed suicide in his Lexington, KY home on July 8, 2010.

Normally, I don’t like to confuse you readers with a combination Birthday wish/Moment of Silence™. But I’m going to make an exception today for a former Cavalier. I hope you all can get with that.

Happy Birthday, Mel Turpin. I hope you’re up there somewhere, enjoying a celestial Big Mac or eating at Heaven’s all-you-can-eat buffet without the petty worldly pressures and criticisms that come with it.

As for you readers – please closeth thy cakeholes and removeth thy hats and/or Anderson Varejao wigs as we honor an ex-Cav …

Thank you.

Now we really are behind.

But that’s OK because there’s not much in the way of Current Events today, anyhow. Certainly nothing as fascinating as a well-dressed monkey wandering around an IKEA parking lot.

I was going to regale you readers with the tale of a pet chicken in Alma Center, Wisconsin that saved a couple’s lives by alerting that a fire had broken out in the attic of their attached garage. But I don’t think we have the time.

chickenToo bad. It was a great story. Apparently, the chicken broke into the couple’s room at 6:15 a.m. when the blaze broke out and fire alarms failed to sound. The chicken began clucking frantically as its owner, Brad Krueger, asked – (and I’m paraphrasing) – “What is it boy?! Fire?!!!

Somehow the unnamed chicken responded in the affirmative and led everyone to safety. The couple, the chicken and one pet cat escaped safely, although the conflagration claimed their house and tragically, their other pet cat.

We don’t do Moments of Silence™ for kitties here in News … Around … The … League. Not unless they’re really fat or have an excellent personality.

And besides, we’ve got the wide, wide world of sports to cover.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

In the Nick of Time – You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Cleveland sports fan than me. But I have to admit: We Cleveland fans are a fickle, moody and, often times, confused bunch.

Last week, our beloved Indians made a huge free agent splash – inking former Ohio State Buckeye and New York Yankee, Nick Swisher, to a 4-year, $56 billion deal.

Nick SwisherSome Tribe fans felt the Indians overpaid for Swisher. Those same fans complain that the Indians never spend on free agents.

Personally, I’m pumped and psyched for Swisher’s arrival. Is he Josh Hamilton? No. But he gives the Tribe some pop in right field, some much-needed veteran experience, a certain swagger they’ve been lacking and a player who wants to be here. Plus, he’s got a mega-foxy wife.

Over the past four years in pinstripes, Swisher, 32, averaged 24 taters and 93 runs driven in.

With new skipper, Terry Francona, the group of youngsters acquired in the Shin-Soo Choo trade and Swisher – I’m finally pumped for the 2013 Indians season. (Swisher’s tweet after he’d signed: “Hey Cleveland! Are you ready? Because I'm coming home! #RollTribe” didn’t hurt, either.)

Pitchers and catchers report, February 10.

Brown Out – We’ve already discussed the tragic deaths of Mel Turpin and the Krueger’s charred kitty. I’m not sure I want to send you sports fans into the weekend with the Browns.

It saddens me, but once again, the end of the season is nigh, and once again, the Browns-Steelers matchup means absolutely bupkis.

As of this writing, Thaddeus Lewis will be under center for our Pumpkinheads as they roll into Heinz Field to wrap up the 2012 season.

SteelersThis is nothing against Thaddeus Lewis and, more than anything, I hope he beats the living gumbo out of the Stillers. But it’s been hard enough to beat our rivals with our first- and second-string quarterbacks. Please forgive me if I’m a little concerned about rolling into Pittsburgh with our backup’s backup.

If the Brownies hope to close the season – and possibly the tenure of those on the coaching staff and in the front office – in style, it’ll probably take another Herculean defensive effort like the one Cleveland flashed in their November 25th win over Mike Tomlin’s squad.

Of course I’d love to see a Browns victory – if for no other reason than to shut up the Steelers' perpetually-obnoxious fan base scattered throughout my city. But if Big Ben Roethlisberger is made to suffer, then I suppose I can close the season out with a smile.

That’s all I have for 2012, my friends.

As you prepare to celebrate the New Year – or you’re just heading out for the weekend – please make sure you think before you drink. Everyone loves to kick it when the calendar flips, but you don’t want to start out 2013 in the back of cop car, explaining that you have Wernicke encephalopathy to the local fuzz.

I end most columns asking you to call a cab or designate a driver. But in this column, I’m telling you: Call a cab or designate a driver. Either one should have no problem transporting you with that silly lampshade on your head.

Here endeth the lesson, friendos. I’ll see you next year. And with all that time on your hands, there’s really no excuse not to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist