The Optimist

February 8, 2013

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m the Optimist. That strong, musky odor tells me that you’re Cavalier fans. With that settled, let’s fire up another installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE. Wanna?

It’s a cold, snowy, windy, scary day here on North Beach, as Blizzard Nemo blows through. If you don’t have to go out tonight – say, to The Q for tonight’s festivities – I strongly recommend barricading yourself indoors. Slip a bit of Jameson’s in your hot cocoa, kick up your dogs and relax with some A.C. and Freddie Mac. (Or Dr. Jim Chones and John Michael, for those of you without television sets.)

This is the final episode of the unofficial first half of the 2012-13 season. Next week, I’ll be checking in from the All-Star Break in Houston. As you know, the Cavaliers are sending quite a contingent, me among them.

RookiesFour baby-faced Cavaliers will be taking on one another in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge – the same event a duo of Wine and Golders dominated one year ago. After a presumptive repeat performance, young Kyrie Irving takes center stage. He’ll be shooting in the Foot Locker ® Three-Point Contest on Saturday evening and could very well be the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference All-Stars one night later.

But we’ve got team business to tend to before the mid-season classic. The Cavaliers are in the middle of their longest homestand of the season – a seven-gamer that stretches through the majority of the month. And they’re off to an exemplary start.

On Saturday night, a cold-blooded Kyrie netted nine of his game-high 35 points in the final two minutes of an epic 115-110 win over Kevin Durant and the reigning Western Conference Champs. Three nights later, the Wine and Gold absolutely pistol-whipped a road-weary Charlotte Bobcats squad by 27 points.

On Friday night, the Cavs welcomes the Orlando Magic, a team that caused Cleveland so much anguish just a few short years ago when they set an NBA Playoff record, hitting on roughly 99 percent of the three-pointers they attempted in the ECF series.

But, like the Cavaliers, Orlando is a different animal now. Stan Van Gundy was dismissed for failing to find a single sportcoat that fit right. Dwight Howard, as we all know, is now toiling in L.A., getting shamed by the Black Mamba for sitting out with a misplaced backbone.

Besides being without the services of the Dwight-mare and Stan Van, the Magic – losers of 11 straight – are also without Big Baby Davis, J.J. Reddick, and Arron Afflalo.

SophomoresOn Saturday, the homestand rolls on, and the assignment gets much tougher, as the Cavs welcome old friend George Karl and his red-hot Nuggets to The Q. Exactly the opposite of Orlando, Denver comes in winners of eight straight, including a 34-point waxing of the Bulls on Thursday night.

It should be an entertaining weekend on the corner of Huron and Ontario. But before we get to the back-to-back victories, let’s take care of the N.A.T.L. triumvirate: Today-in-History, Birfdays and, of course, Current Events.

Last week, I really pumped up February as chock-full of big dates. But February 8 is just ‘eh.’

Sure, it featured deadly avalanches, deadly earthquakes, deadly plane crashes, submarine sinkings, medieval regicides, Delaware’s rejection of the Thirteenth Amendment and a stampede at an international cricket match between Australia and England that ended with dozens of serious injuries to players and fans and a British naval captain having his top hat pulled down over his eyes.

But probably the best tale from February 8 is that of the “Devil’s Footprints” in 1855.

That event took place in Devon, England, when – after a heavy snowfall, on a night just like tonight – a trail of two hoof-like marks stretched in the snow for over 40 miles, scaling rooftops and rivers. Devon residents claimed Satan came through their town that night.

Whether the story is true or not really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s a great story to tell if you’re looking to spook someone on a snowy night like tonight.

I don’t prefer scary stories. I’d rather think about the residents of Devon waking up the next morning and saying “Blimey!!” or “I say!!!

Gary ColemanToday’s Birthdays are rock-solid and I think it’s safe to say, if they were all alive and able to get together, it’d be a helluva party. They include the great Jack Lemmon, Kimbo Slice, Neal Cassady, Mary Steenburgen, James Dean, Nick Nolte, Ted Koppel, Vince Neill and Gary Coleman.

And though I don’t normally do shout-outs or christenings or bar mitzvahs or anything like that, sometimes I have to pause for a personal friend. That is Connie “The Cone” Okada out in Seattle.

The Cone – mother of two great kids and whose hubby, a native New Zealander, once tried talking to LeBron about soccer outside the Cavs locker room – is the type of friend every person should have. If I start getting too busy and floating away into orbit, she always reins me back in, even if it means yelling at me, which it always does.

There’s no better gift I can give the Cone than what Seattle will be getting as Uncle Dave rides into the sunset: her beloved Supes back next season.

Happy Birthday, Cone!! Nice job putting N.A.T.L. way behind schedule.

Now I’ve got almost no room for my follow-up story from last week’s Current Events, a follow-up to the previous week’s Current Events: the story of Iran shooting a monkey into space and said monkey returning to Earth as a completely different monkey, sans a distinctive mole and differently colored hair.

Some in the international community claimed that the launch was a fake and that the actual primate died during re-entry or even that there wasn’t a launch at all.

This week, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad upped the ante, volunteering to be the first Iranian in space. “I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists,” Ahmadinejad said this week, visiting an exhibition of space achievements in Tehran.

IranI have to admire his determination and it’d take a pair of brass ones for a sitting President to get launched into space. Maybe he’s got the right stuff. I just hope they don’t have another monkey-type mishap and Ahmadinejad doesn’t come back to Earth looking like John Tesh.

(Or do I?)

I hope we’re done with all this silliness. Space travel stopped being cool when Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon and the guy who said “Game over, man!!” splashed down at the end of Apollo 13. If Iran and North Korea want to shoot anything else into orbit, they’ll have to do so without me covering it.

Because they hate my freedoms, both nations have ruined the timeline for this week’s News … Around … The … League. A couple weeks ago, I didn’t break it down and don’t think I will again today.

The wide, wide world of sports is pretty dead, anyway. But that’s a blessing for those of us looking to re-gird our loins for the second half of the season. The zone betwixt the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game is a bit of limbo.

But once All-Star Sunday wraps up, the floodgates re-open. Spring Training. The Trade Deadline. The Daytona 500. March Madness. And the preferred perennial sport of many Clevelanders: mock drafting.

The young The Tribe’s home opener is less than 60 days away and they seem to have a new lease on life with manager Terry Francona, free agent Buckeye, Nick Swisher and a new TV deal with FSO.

The Browns head into the spring with a blend of disparate leadership so stacked with potentially explosive scenarios that, as my friend Brother D explains, it has to work!

CavsAnd finally, our beloved Cavaliers looked as though they’ve started to turn the proverbial corner.

This week, we got a glimpse of what the Wine and Gold can do. And the world will get a glimpse one week from tonight when four of the Cavaliers’ starting five suit up in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Kyrie is playing as well as any point guard in the East and scoring as well as anyone in the league. Tristan Thompson is a 21-year-old double-double machine who can go with either hand and is quickly developing an offensive repertoire. Dion Waiters is the best rookie in the Eastern Conference. And Tyler Zeller is looking like a rock-solid big man for the next decade.

The News Around The League this week is that for the first time in a while, I’m getting that genuine gut feeling that the Cavaliers are back.

The bench is packed with crafty veterans like Luke Walton, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington and the Ace of Speights. The starting five has four rising stars and one of the league’s better defensive stoppers. And they’re all being led by an experienced, well-respected coaching staff.

That’s this week’s News. And it’s good.

That’s all for this week, friendos. You know the drill: If you’re getting pie-eyed, I command thee to find yourself a designated driver or call yourself a cab. You might even get lucky and get Travis Bickle or the Reverend Jim Igantowski or that Spanish fox who drove “Bootch” in Pulp Fiction.

Either way, Saturday morning You will thank Friday night You.

Keep on truckin’, Cavallieros. And please remember to ….

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

God Save the Queen,
The Optimist