The Optimist

January 11, 2013

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m the Cavaliers’ king of wishful thinking, here to get you nerds Rocky Mountain high with another high-altitude installment of NEWS …AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

After practice on Thursday, we boarded the Team Bus, hell-bent for the wild, wild West and a five-game, nine-day roadie.

On Friday, the Wine and Gold take on George Karl’s high-powered Nuggets. On Sunday, it’s All-Optimist Second Teamer, Metta World Peace and the dysfunctional Lakers – likely still cheesed about the pistol-whipping they got in Cleveland back in December. On Monday, we make what could be our last-ever stop in Sacramento. Cleveland then heads up the coast to face J.J. Hickson and the new-look Blazers on Wednesday before wrapping up on Saturday night in Utah, in the Conference’s toughest arena – the Delta Center or the Energy Solutions Center or whatever the cuss it’s called nowadays.

Unfortunately for our Cavaliers caravan, we don’t have the Wild Thing in tow.

Andy’s back in Cleveland, healing nicely from surgery. And don’t you worry your pretty little heads – he’ll be snagging boards and man-hugging teammates before you know it. But without Varejao aboard the big rig out West – and with Big Z and Shaq retired – that meant the time-tested tradition (and awesome responsibility) of a veteran big man soaking his feet in the beer cooler fell upon the wheels of 21-year-old Tristan Thompson.

Kyrie Irving’s been sensational this year, and especially great of late – averaging 27.8 ppg over his last four games. He was the National B.A.’s best rookie last year and its best sophomore in 2012-13.

Tristan ThompsonBut the young man drafted three spots after Kyrie has also been on the fast track lately – taking his game to a new level in Andy’s absence.

Since Dec. 19, Tristan is averaging 13.1 points and 12.5 boards per contest. He’s doubled up in nine of his last 11 games and has more career double-doubles than anyone else in the league, 21-and-under. In an injury-plagued season for the Cavaliers, Thompson hasn’t missed a single game.

I say: Soak those sweaty dogs, Tristan Thompson!! Go ahead and drop in some Epsom salts and get one of the rookies to rub down them bunions. You’ve earned it!

Sure, Kyrie’s been good. But ain’t no way (Strength and Conditioning Coach) Stan Kellers is gonna let a guard soak his precious little tootsies in the beer tub.

Tristan has a young spirit, but he’s a bit of an old soul. That means he understands the value of tradition. The kid’s too humble for another three or four paragraphs about his big feet. He’d rather get to N.A.T.L.’s weekly cornerstones: Today-in-History, Birthdays (or Dead-on-this-Day, Still-Dead) and, of course, Current Events.

Not much happened on January 11 throughout time. It’s a cool day to play the numbers, but it doesn’t have a lot of historical significance.

In 1949 on this date, it snowed in Los Angeles. And in 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General made the shocking revelation that smoking is hazardous to your health. But probably the biggest event that took place on this date came in 1973, when MLB owners voted to approve the American League adopting the Designated Hitter rule – allowing washed-up sluggers to come over to the A.L. and chill in the dugout, injecting steroids into their buttocks while the rest of the team sweated it out in the field like suckers.

Uncle Dave doesn’t allow for any of that nincompoopery in pro hoops. You play both sides of the ball in the NBA.

DawkinsToday’s Birthdays feature a pair of former NBA notables. First is our old friend, Chris Jent, who had a rock-solid playing career with the Buckeyes, a cup of coffee in the league, and a few successful years coaching the Cavs before joining Thad Matta’s staff in Columbus. The other is Daryl Dawkins a/k/a “Chocolate Thunder” – who, in 1979, shattered two backboards in three weeks.

Dawkins, one of the first players to come straight from high school to the NBA, concisely dubbed his first backboard-busting dunk the "Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam.”

Dawkins also claimed to be an alien from the planet Lovetron, where he spent his off-seasons practicing “interplanetary funkmanship.”

Other luminaries celebrating birthdays on this date include Mary J Blige, former Tribe skipper Manny Acta, Canadian wrestler Abdullah the Butcher and the late, great Clarence Clemons – iconic saxophonist of the “E Street Band.” I don’t think any of these people ever shattered a backboard, but if anyone could’ve, it’d be The Big Man.

On a personal note, it’s also the birthday of my close friend, Jim Rawlins, who succumbed to the Big C a few years ago. He could serve beers using only his toes and, in pickup football games, when he was as open as Denny’s, would actually yell: “I’m as open as Denny’s!” J.R. passed away before he was ever able to earn a nickname as cool as “Chocolate Thunder” or “Abdullah the Butcher,” but I still love him anyway. And I miss him literally every day.

Jim wouldn’t expect me to get schmaltzy on his Birthday, and I’m not going to. Not with the serious Current Events story that we’ve got lined up today.

Normally, I’m not a fan of scatological subject matter. I’m better than that. But when the subject ventures into the realm of national security, I have no choice – as a stone cold journalist – but to cover it.

Of course, I’m referring to the recently-revealed 2002 incident in which “Today” show weatherman, Al Roker, confessed to producing a little "chocolate thunder" of his own during a visit to the White House.

Al RokerRoker, who had previously undergone gastric bypass surgery and dropped over 100 pounds, was in the press room at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. when he felt the need to pass a little gas. But the situation quickly escalated to solids, and before Roker knew it, he was ditching his underpants in the Lincoln Restroom and going commando for the remainder of that day’s press junket.

Men – both young and old – have experienced exactly such a conundrum, and we know that Roker made the only call he could have. (Women, especially really pretty ones, are fortunate to not have this bodily function.)

Kudos to Al Roker for copping to this embarrassing incident, which had no doubt perplexed the Secret Service for over a decade. The man underwent surgery, dropped almost an entire person in weight, sharted in the Leader of the Free World’s dojo and continued to comport himself like a gentleman.

It’s called “poise.”

Unlike many of our Current Events stories which end with wild animals terrorizing townsfolk or police cruisers getting crushed by disgruntled stoners, today’s profile in courage has inspired me to give it my all for the remainder of today’s installment of News … Around … The … League.

I hope you’ll join me.

ChudFrom Chip to Chud – OK, maybe that’s not exactly an appropriate headline to follow the Al Roker story. But it works, and I’m not changing it.

Last week, Browns fans were resigned to the fact that Oregon coach Chip Kelly was coming to Cleveland and bringing his fancy-pants spread offense with him. But after meeting with the Browns for over seven hours and discovering that they only have two different uniform combinations, Kelly broke off talks and caught the next flight to Eugene.

So this past week, Browns owner, Jumpin’ Jimmy Haslam, and his henchman, Joe Banner re-booted the interview process and brought in several candidates for an audition.

On Friday, they got their man: Toledo native, Rob Chudzinski.

Many Browns fans thought that the new Browns braintrust would make a sexy pick for head coach. Well, there’s nothing sexy about a guy named “Chudzinski” who goes by the nickname, “Chud” – and that’s fine by me. There’s a reason several major publications routinely rank Cleveland the “Least Sexiest City in America.” We’re a hard-working, blue-collar town. And we like our football team to reflect our ugliness.

As an aspiring tight end, Rob Chudzinski grew up watching the Browns, emulating Ozzie Newome. He ate dog bones during the heyday of the Dawg Pound. And he was the Browns’ offensive coordinator during their last double-digit win season.

Cam kidThe previous two seasons, Chud’s been the O.C. for the Carolina Panthers – mentoring Cam Newton, sharpening his passing skills to keep him ahead of that little kid who vowed become his mother’s favorite player.

Let me be the first to welcome Chud back to Ohio and wish him the very best as the Brownies new coach. There’s talent there and I’m hopeful he’ll know how to use it. (More importantly, how to win with it.)

I’m tired of the Browns losing and – as much as I detest giving ultimatums – if they continue to do so, I’ll have no choice but to keep buying season tickets and writing about them every week.

Luckily, our beloved Cavaliers aren’t so mercurial. The foundation is there and, if you have the patience and intestinal fortitude, you’re about to see the team blossom back into the perennial playoff team it was a few short seasons ago.

I know the holidays are past us and they’re locking the Christmas Ale away in an undisclosed bunker as we speak, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call a cab or find a designated driver if you’re imbibing this weekend. Remember: cops see you before you see them. Plus, they have guns and nightsticks.

Enjoy your weekend and a pair of Cavalier victories. I’ll check back with you in exactly one week. That means no parties. And if I find so much as a hairline crack in my Steuben crystal egg, there’ll be hell to pay for all of you.

Keep that in mind as you attempt to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine On,
The Optimist