The Optimist

January 19, 2013
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s me, the Optimist, checking in from the nation’s Great Basin with another star-spangled installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

I apologize for being so far off schedule this week. But West Coast time has again thrown me way off course. The problem is: I’m nocturnal. So by the time I get going, it’s tomorrow.

But that was yesterday, and tomorrow is now today. And tonight, our beloved Cavaliers wrap up their last West Coast junket of the 2012-13 season with a matchup in Salt Lake City – birthplace of America’s one true indigenous art form: jazz.

The roadie got off to a tough start, with the Wine and Gold dropping the opener last Friday in Denver and a pair of tough outings in California.

But the young Cavaliers righted the ship on Wednesday night in Portland.

In that thrilling 93-88 victory, 20-year-old Kyrie Irving led Cleveland with 31 points, 21-year-old Tristan Thompson added 19 points and 14 boards and Tyler Zeller, on the day before his 22nd birthday, pitched in with 11 points and nine rebounds.

On, we try not to draw too much attention to individual players, preferring instead to adhere to our team motto of “All for One, One for All.” Putting all our metaphoric eggs into one player’s basket didn’t work out too well before. But in today’s column, I’m going to shine the light on a pair of exemplary Cavaliers.

January is a weird, larval month. It’s just the year’s way of biding its time until February, when we get to the Super Bowl and the All-Star Game and pitchers and catchers reporting and the Dayton 5000 and the Academy Awards™. And by the time you get through all that stuff in February, you’re primed to cruise right into March Madness.

It’s not January’s fault it sucks.

About all January is good for is NFL playoffs and lobbying for Cavaliers who would likely dominate All-Star Weekend 2013 in Houston. And while several members of the Wine and Gold might eventually make the trip, I’m specifically thinking of a pair of point guards: Kyrie Irving and Jeremy Pargo.

Kyrie IrvingKyrie Irving will almost assuredly be returning to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on All-Star Saturday night – an event he and his Draft classmate, Tristan Thompson, dominated last year. Both rookies led their teams in scoring, combining to go 22-of-24 from the floor. Irving – the game’s MVP – was 8-of-8 from three-point range.

This year, I expect the Cavs dynamic dyad to return – perhaps with this year’s rookie class of Zeller and Dion Waiters in-tow.

But I’m also expecting that Kyrie will be named as a reserve to the big boy’s All-Star team. Aside from Rajon Rondo, who was voted as the squad’s starter this week, there is no point guard in the Eastern Conference who is more deserving.

Kyrie’s been fantastic all season, and especially great of late. He’s tallied 30-plus points in four of the Cavs’ last eight outings and has done so six times on the season. He’s snagged three or more steals in seven of his last eight games. On the year, he’s averaging 23.3 ppg – almost five points more than his prolific rookie campaign.

The other Cavalier guard who deserves All-Star consideration is Jeremy Pargo – who himself is lobbying to be a contestant in the Slam Dunk Contest.

There aren’t any stats to support Pargo’s bid. Granted, he’s not a big name in the NBA. But the young man can throw down with great vengeance and fuuuuuurious anger. I’ve seen it.

Sure, the league could go with a guy like Dwight Howard and his silly Superman charade. Or we could watch Nate Robinson unsuccessfully attempt 27 dunks, the basketball equivalent of being stuck at a buddy’s house while he’s learning a song on guitar.

Jeremy PargoJeremy “Buck” Pargo won’t need props or theatrics or nearly that many attempts. He’ll crush home one stylish jam after another, forcing NBA legends and fans at the Toyota Center to put up 10’s across the board.

Pargo has the two biggest qualities to win the Dunk Contest: He’s a power dunker and a natural showman.

I’m hoping Uncle Dave’s All-Star minions will see the light and the midseason classic will be packed with Cavaliers.

But now Kyrie and Jeremy and the Mountain Time Zone have put us way behind schedule. Luckily – as previously mentioned – the month of January blows.

I checked both days – January 18th and 19th – and hardly anything happened on either day throughout history. I would call them the Worst Dates in the History of Earth, but they’re barely worth the capital letters.

The only notable thing that ever happened on January 18th is the invention of modern hockey. On the 19th, it was the invention of tighty-whities in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The most important person celebrating a Birthday on the 18th is Jesse L. Martin, who played “Detective Ed Green” on Law & Order. January 19’s best and brightest is Jeff Van Gundy, who’s not even the funniest-looking or best basketball coach in his own family.

Thank God for the saints – who we can always count on to bail out a boring Today-in-History.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Henry.

Unlike your standard, Bible-thumping saints, Henry – who organized the Church of Finland in the early 12th century – has the two achievements that qualify him for News … Around … The … League status: 1. He performed some pretty sweet miracles, and 2. He died with his boots on, so to speak.

We won’t go through Henry’s whole story, but statistically speaking, he raised a little boy and a little girl from the dead on separate occasions. He helped a blind person see, a paralyzed person walk and once saved a ship’s bacon during a storm at sea.

HenryYou’d think all these good works would’ve led to a peaceful, honorable death and maybe a nice memorial in the church gym. But not for St. Henry, who got in a beef with a guy named Lalli, who chased him down – (on skiis!!) – and killed him with an axe.

But according to legend, when Lalli tried to remove Bishop Henry’s cap as a trophy, his own hair and scalp came off. Lalli then ran into the lake and drowned hisself. The End.

This week’s Current Events story features a young man who will likely never be a saint, unless he starts curing blind people or saving ships right quick. He’s more likely to get killed with an axe – though I’m assuming that, in itself doesn’t win you any points with God or the voting board in Vatican City.

Of course, I’m referring to Bradenton, Florida resident Charles Ross, who was busted outside a movie theater giving random people wedgies last week. The 21-year-old was later booked into Manatee County Jail on battery charges and released Monday on a $750 bond.

As a former high school athlete, I’ve witnessed all types of wedgies in my day – although, thankfully, have never been victimized.

But I remember some the smaller guys getting it bad. These were usually the guys who the head coach let play nose tackle for a few practices on accounta he was so scrappy. One day, he’s the cock-of-the-walk. The next, O’Bannion and the other seniors have him dangling in a locker stall by his underpants.

But that’s high school hijinks. Most movie-goers don’t come out of the theater expecting a wedgie or a Melvin or a wet-willie or even a purple-nurple.

wedgieI’m glad the fuzz busted this clown in Florida and, moreover, I hoped he learned his lesson. A $750 fine is one thing. Getting tossed in the hoosegow over a silly prank is quite another. I’ve watched “Oz” before, and I’m certain that I’ve never seen those types of wedgies in high school.

Either way, I’m ready to move past all this violence – moviegoers with shredded shorts and saints being whacked with an axe.

I’m ready to talk some sports, but I’m warning you now. There will be no discussion of either Lance Armstrong or Manti Te’o.

Both situations are bizarre and disturbing and are likely to change by the end of this sentence. Both athletes might be worthy of ridicule or sympathy, but I’m not the guy to give it to them. Actually, the best point I read about both situations is this: Maybe we should stop making heroes out of athletes every time they go through adversity that normal people do every day.

And with that, let’s turn our attention to the remainder of today’s N.A.T.L., shall we?

Upheaval in Berea – Let’s not kid ourselves. The only other big news in local sports is surrounding our beloved Pumpkinheads, who have been moving fast and furiously since the season ended.

On Friday, the Brownies hired Mike Lombardi as their VP of Player Personnel. I’m not in Cleveland, but by all accounts, this didn’t exactly excite the fan base. Personally, I remain open-minded.

BannerThe Browns also named Ray Horton as their new defensive coordinator and Norv Turner to head up the offense. These moves were likely more popular with fans.

My biggest concern isn’t player personnel guys or even offensive or defensive coordinators. It’s the other changes that have me worried.

This week, First Energy secured naming rights to (what used to be) Cleveland Browns Stadium. I understand that the rights are in effect for 17 years, which makes me feel better. We go through the NBA each year, and it’s getting hard to keep track of the arenas that change their name from one season to the next. I still call the arena here in Utah the “Delta Center,” but its name – I think – is EnergySolutions Arena.

I’ve also heard fans clamoring for a uniform change – which I understand the Browns will attempt in 2014 – and for the team to put field turf in at First Energy Stadium.

Maybe I’m just old. But tradition is important, especially with a franchise like the Browns. Once you break tradition, it’s tough to go back.

I don’t think the uniforms or the field or the name of the stadium has been the problem. The team on the field has been. Put it this way: Nobody complains about the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Green Bay Packers changing their “boring” uniforms.

Know why?

Because they win.

Bubba BakerI can’t express my feelings about these potential moves any better than former Browns defensive end, Al “Bubba” Baker, who recently said: “Do you know who cries for change? A wet baby.”

I hope Joe Banner and Jumpin’ Jimmy Haslam know what they’re doing. God knows I’m rooting for them.

But we can figure all this out when the Team Bus rolls back into town following tonight’s win over the Jazz in Utah.

I’ll see some of you nerds back at The Q when the Wine and Gold welcome the mangy Celtics to town on Tuesday night.

In the meantime, you only have one more weekend night, so remember to catch a cab or find a designated driver if you’re having one too many to drink. If the cops bust you drinking and driving, it’s off to the clink for some of those adult wedgies I warned you about a few paragraphs ago.

As for the rest of you, we’ll reconvene on North Beach in exactly seven days. Please remember to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Sincerely yours,
The Optimist