The Optimist

April 12, 2013

Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist, and this here is a little number l like to call News … Around … The … League.

This is the final installment of the 2012-13 regular season, so sue me if I get a bit schmaltzy.

On Friday night, the Cavaliers welcome the red-hot New York Knicks – one game removed from a 13-game win streak – to The Q. I predict that the crowd will be pound-for-pound the loudest of the season and the game will be easily April’s best. By this time next Friday, it’s boom-boom, out go the lights. So this Friday, I’m thinking Cavs are gonna let it all hang out.

I know what’s happened this week. I was on the solemn Team Bus back from Indianapolis. And I was there when the filthy Pistons completed their sweep on Wednesday night.

But, lo, over these many years, the Knicks have always gotten the Cavaliers’ Irish up – especially at The Q. (But especially at the Garden.) New York handed the Wine and Gold one of the most painful losses of the year last time they were in Cleveland. It’s too late in the season for revenge and I’m not Guaranteeing a thing, but I’m predicting our young guns push all their chips in the middle on Friday night. I’ve had this game circled for some time.

Now for the schmaltzy part.

I’ve been all over this great land of ours aboard the Cavaliers Team Bus. It’s an unbelievable privilege. And I’ve been to every arena in the NBA, including some that don’t exist no more. And I’m not pandering in the least when I say that Cleveland has the best fans in the league.

(And also, hands-down, the best pre-game media dining. Other arenas’ chow is like low-grade dog food that’s still got marks where the jockey was hittin’ it.)

I won’t insult other gym’s fans in quite an abrasive manner, but they ain’t squad compared to Cleveland’s. The zealots in Salt Lake City and pie-eyed chowds in Boston come close. (They hate everybody!) But the league’s best belong to the Cavaliers.

We witnessed it this week. On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers blew a 20-point lead in the final nine minutes in Indy. On Wednesday night, the forgiving crowd at The Q, while not a sell-out, still sounded like one.

In just the past couple weeks, I’ve seen Playoff teams draw worse and generate less interest and enthusiasm. But die-hard Cavalier fans – (I’m looking at you, Joe Haden) – have clicked up with the Wine and Gold through thick and thin. Even another Playoff-free season hasn’t put out the fire. You’ll bring it on Friday night and again on Monday. Cavalier players notice. Opposing players notice, too.

Please hold your applause for yourselves until after we’re finished, however. Shoot! We’ve still got our housecleaning crap to get through …

April 12 didn’t pull its weight when it comes to Today-in-History – unless you’re a Civil War historian or, even better, recreationist.

If you were, you’d be stuffing your musket in celebration of the anniversary of its tip-off at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Yes, on this date in 1861, Confederate soldiers – cheesed off about losing their slaves – fired on Ft. Sumter for 34straight hours.

At one point during the early attack, the Union flag caught fire and fell. Lt. Norman J. Hall risked life and limb to restore the colors, burning off his eyebrows in the process, forcing him to wear bangs for the rest of the war. The South’s first shot of the Civil war was fired by Virginia secessionist Edmund Ruffin. The Union’s first shot in defense of Fort Sumner was fired by Captain Abner Doubleday, the cat who invented baseball.

Today’s Birthday boys and girls didn’t do anything as cool as Abner Doubleday did. (Even David Cassidy.) But there’s still some neat notables, like Herbie Hancock, David Letterman, Brooklyn Decker, Andy Garcia, Shannon Daherty, Youngstown’s own Ed O’Neill and Glenville’s own Ted Ginn, Jr.

Dead-On-This-Day, Still-Dead are boxing greats Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson. Boxcar Willie died on this day, too. I don’t know if Willie actually boxed at any point, but you probably can’t be a hobo for that long without punching a few dudes in the face.

I’m torn on today’s Current Events. I hate to give Kim Jong-Un another bloc of column space, although he is stirring things up. Maybe I’ll just mention that the Chinese people are growing tired of his shenanigans and have taken to labeling him “Fatty Kim the Third” or “Little Fatty” or my favorite, “Pang Xiong,” which means “Fat Bear” and almost makes the war-mongering butterball sound cuddly.

North Korea’s Little Fat Bear is all about ruining Current Events. He doesn’t care that I was all set to write about the Abraham Lincoln Impersonator Convention down in Columbus.

The 19th annual convention draws about three dozen Great Emancipator look-alikes who gather to discuss each other’s beards and how Daniel Day-Lewis was “just OK.” After lunch, the impersonators watch a play put on by grade schoolers and later play a two-hand-touch football game in full Honest Abe regalia.

I’d check in with highlights of the game next week, but the season wraps up on Wednesday night in Charlotte. And the next time you hear from me, it’ll be as emcee of the Tenth Annual All-Optimist Awards Banquet.

So let’s talk a wee bit of sports. Shall we?

Large and In-Charge – The Indians had themselves a rough opening week at Progressive Field. Between the fakakta weather and the Yankees drawing and quartering their starting pitchers, it wasn’t a strong week for our beloved Tribe. So I’ve decided to give Chief Wahoo the week off.

The Browns Super Bowl – the NFL Draft – is still too far away. And for many Pumpkinhead pundits, the pick (No. 6 overall) is still in-flux. Not for me. I’m calling for the Brownies to do the right thing and draft Georgia LB Jarvis Jones, and I always have. He’ll fall to the Steelers or Ravens and methinks we’ll be kicking ourselves. But we’ll see.

So instead, I wanted to alert you basketball fans that the Wine and Gold’s younger cousin – the Canton Charge – is immersed in the NBDL Playoffs. And Friday night’s matchup is a must-win.

The Charge fell in Game 1 of their best-of-three series against the hated Tulsa 66ers, 118-99. On Friday night, it’s Game 2 at the Canton Civic Center – with Game 3 if Alex Jensen’s squad can get the win.

The 66ers – who canned an insulting three-pointer in the closing seconds of Wednesday’s game – have the services of several NBA players, including Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, DeAndre Liggins, Andy Rautins and Rasual Butler. The Charge have no players on assignment.

But all is not lost for the Good Guys. The two teams have faced each other four times this year and the home team has won all four contests. The Charge was 2-0 at home in the Playoffs last year. And, most importantly, they’ll have a large, loud crowd in Central Stark County for tonight’s do-or-die matchup.

I predict big crowds and big wins for all the home teams tonight. (I’m including the Los Angeles Lakers – who host the Golden State Warriors and have a Playoff spot to acquire and a draft pick to surrender.)

Wherever you’re taking in your hoops or whatever you’re up to this weekend, please remember the time-tested advice: If you’re enjoying some delicious alcoholic beverages, please designate a driver or call yourself a cab. I don’t write this to lecture you. I write this because I love you.

Go in peace, Cavalier fans. And always, always remember to …

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist