The Optimist

January 4, 2012

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s me, the capo di tutti capi of Optimism. And if it’s the first Friday of the year 2013, that must mean it’s time for another slap-happy installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

If those of you who made a New Year’s Resolution haven’t already failed miserably, I can’t think of a better day to do so. You’re going to break sometime – who are we kidding? I say, enjoy today’s column and head directly to the refrigerator, fatso.

January is a stupid month to give up stuff, anyway. You’ve got a holiday hangover. The NFL Playoffs are just starting. It’s freezing outside.

Take my advice and go with the Optimist Fiscal Calendar – which recognizes the New Year as starting on the Monday after the Super Bowl. That way you’re not disappointing yourself and others with silly resolutions you can’t possibly honor.

I’m not sure if our beloved Cavaliers made any collective resolutions, but I hope one was to reverse the trend of dropping close ballgames. If it was, they briefly fell off the wagon on Wednesday against the Kings.

Dion WaitersByron Scott shook up the lineup, inserting C.J. Miles into the starting quintet and moving rookie Dion Waiters – last year’s Big East Sixth Man of the Year – into the second unit. Both players responded well, although I expect even bigger things once they find their footing.

On Friday, the Wine and Gold travel to Charlotte to take on the struggling Bobcats. The Cavs have owned the Bobcats at The Q since their inception – going 13-1 against them in Cleveland. But Charlotte is 7-3 against the Good Guys on Tobacco Road over the past six seasons.

The ‘Cats were in the midst of an uber-funk – dropping 18 straight before getting off the schneid on Monday against the Bulls.

Eighteen straight losses is a lot – and I felt their pain. I lived through the Cavaliers’ 26-game skein two years ago and it was excruciating – like being stuck in the Human Centipede – and not in one of the good spots at the front or the back.

On Saturday night, Coach Scott’s squad returns to The Q to face James Harden and the high-octane Rockets. The Cavs will need to have something left in the tank for this matchup, because Houston can light up the scoreboard. On several occasions already this season, they’ve topped the 200-point plateau – previously considered impossible in the shot clock era.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s focus on today and, more specifically, Today-in-History, in which nothing really happened.

About the only noteworthy event occurred in 1903, when Thomas Edison – yes, that Thomas Edison – electrocuted an elephant named “Topsy” at Coney Island’s Luna Park.

Topsy, a circus elephant who had killed three men in as many years, was sentenced to death at the age of 28.

After Topsy’s attorneys exhausted the appeals process, the circus actually considered hanging her. But the ASPCA protested. So Thomas Alva proposed pumping 6,600 volts of juice through the p*ssed-off pachyderm. The event was witnessed by over 1,500 people and Edison’s film of the event was widely seen throughout the United States.

Thomas EdisonOn that day, Topsy probably wished that she was back on the plains of Africa or, at the very least, that Thomas Edison had stopped inventing things after the phonograph. But either way, the poor beast met her maker on this date 110 years ago.

Zapping elephants – even extremely violent ones – is a total bummer heading into a weekend. So let’s shift gears and get to today’s Birthdays.

I suppose we could celebrate a few mediocre Birthday boys and girls, like Isaac Newton, Louis Braille, Don Shula, Floyd Patterson and Michael Stipe. But, really, what have those people ever done?

The real celebration should be reserved for Cavaliers Graphics Manager, one of my best friends, and a recurring character in dozens of Optimist columns over the years – Sir Marcus Podolak.

On this date, nearly four decades ago, little tiny 7-lb, 8-oz Mark Podolak was birthed at Parma Hospital – almost assuredly macking on the delivery room nurses despite being covered in placental goop.

Many of you readers may not know Mark, but maybe you do. He’s very popular. You also might have read about him in this column – whether it was mocking the Red Auerbach statue in Boston, taunting Wizards fans after the Cavs eliminated them in 2006 or on the many occasions where he and I participated in the tradition of chucking snowballs at cars passing Quicken Loans Arena.

PodesKnowing Mark like I do, I’m sure he’s ready to skip past reading this column, opening his presents or eating cake – and proceed directly to the spanking portion of today’s Birthday celebration. If you see him out tonight or at tomorrow’s game at The Q, please feel free to indulge him in this wish.

Podes doesn’t give a cuss if his Birthday gets in the way of Current Events. That’s just how he is. But we’re not leaving this segment until we get to them.

The first story that caught my eye was that of three Framingham, Conn. police officers who got busted egging their own superior officer’s suburban house last month. That Current Event appeals to me on every level.

But because I don’t want you readers spending the rest of the column thinking about Topsy the elephant getting fried by Thomas Edison, I thought we’d instead focus on a feel-good story involving some friendly tuskers at the Berlin Zoo.

Every year, after the holidays, elephants at the Berlin Zoo are fed donated Christmas trees. The behemoths, young and old, are attracted to the strong smell of pine trees – which they like to play with before gobbling them down.

elephantElephant keeper Ragnar Kuehne said the trees were donated by local vendors, saying: “The animals love it. For them, the Christmas feast is starting now.”

The zoo doesn't accept trees from the public, which could contain chemicals or leftover decorations – saying Christmas trees inside houses aren't as fresh and juicy as those at cold outdoor markets, which is just how the elephants like them.

Once again, leave it to the Germans to teach the world about compassion and tolerance. If Thomas Edison was running the Berlin Zoo, he’d have fed the elephants lumps of coal. (Before electrocuting them.)

I hope you animal lovers feel better after reading that heart-warming tale. Now you’re good and ready for the wide, wide world of sports in the remainder of today’s News … Around … The … League

We Want a Pitcher! – When I first heard that the Indians had signed Brett Myers to a one-year, $7 billion contract, I thought: “Why in the world would the Tribe give that much money to the lead singer of Poison?!”

But then Cavs Senior Manager of Digital Content & Operations (and resident Indians Optimist) – Brandon Jirousek – informed me that Brett Myers is actually a right-handed pitcher who’s pitched in 377 career games, including 249 starts.

Brett MyersTwo years ago with the Astros, Meyers went 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA in 223 innings. Last year, Houston moved him into the closer’s role and he saved 19 games before being traded to the White Sox.

The 32-year-old Myers is expected to join Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterblasterson and Zach McAllister in the Tribe’s starting rotation.

Myers has had some past transgressions – including a domestic abuse incident and a run-in with a media member in which he launched into a verbal tirade and threatened to knock the scribe out.

Domestic abuse is never, EVER acceptable, but I can’t blame him for wanting to smack down a reporter. I work with sports reporters every day, and I’d love nothing more than to punch most of them repeatedly in the face.

I’m loving what the Indians are doing this offseason and I’m counting the days until Spring Training. I’ve got a great feeling about this season and I think the Tribe is fixing to shock the baseball world in 2013.

Chip Off the Old Block – As of this writing, the Browns are still in search mode for the man who will fill the big shoes of former head coach, Pat Shurmur who, along with GM Tom Heckert, was shown the door after Cleveland’s 24-10 loss to the Stillers last Sunday.

The hot rumor, as most football fans know, is that the new Browns regime has Oregon coach Chip Kelly in their sights.

Chip KellyThis move is being met with some skeptimism by many Browns fans. They don’t believe Kelly’s up-tempo, spread offense will work in the snowy climes of Cleveland – and against the AFC North Division’s nasty, hard-hitting teams.

I’m not sure where I come down on this. On one hand, I agree with them. On another, I’d love to see someone jump-start the Brownies’ anemic offense that’s been boring me to sleep for over a decade. If I had a third hand, I myself would be leery of bringing in a guy who’s never coached the pros on any level and comes from a finesse conference.

All I want is someone to get my Pumpkinheads out of the cellar, and I think Jumpin’ Jimmy Haslam has the same concern. I’ll leave it up to the professionals running the show in Berea. But if they bring in another coach who’s over his head halfway through the season, I’ll be forced to re-think my blind Browns optimism.

You’ve been warned, Mssr Banner.

I didn’t want to end today’s column with a not-so-thinly-veiled threat. But I’m at wit’s end, here.

A couple Cavalier wins this weekend will soothe the savage beast. So join me as we gird up good and proper for a weekend of winning basketball.

Have a great weekend, knuckaheads. If you’re downtown tonight, you might want to check out my friend, Packy Malley’s 10th annual Capricorn Party at the House of Blues. If you’re a Capricorn, you get in free. If you’re not, you’ll be turned away with extreme prejudice. (Not really. You’ll just have to pay a cover.)

copsIf you’re having a couple shlookers, as always, call a cab or find a designated driver. If the Five-Oh nab you drinking and driving, you’ll get busted and you’ll have to sit in the back of the cruiser while they’re having all the fun – toilet-papering their sargeant’s crib or putting a flaming bag of dog poop on the mayor’s porch.

Enjoy some Cavaliers action and we’ll reconvene in exactly one week’s time. In that span, please remember to …

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

One Love,
The Optimist