The Optimist

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Citizens of Cleveland,

How many times have you said these words? “I never win anything.”

That’s because you never have. And neither have I.

Over and over again, for nearly five decades, you and I have been kicked in our collective jimmy. And we never win anything.

That’s how I felt when the Cavaliers folded their tents against the despised Boston Celtics nearly five months ago. And when LeBron checked out 57 days later, I’d had about all the jimmy-kicking I could stand.

So I did what any crushed, demoralized Optimist might do – I threw all my crap into a bag, grabbed my passport and moved to Mexico. I crossed the border near Fort Hancock, TX and set up camp in Zihuatanejo, where I planned to buy some worthless old boat and fix it up new.

As you can see, I never shaved my Playoff Beard™ or, for that matter, bathed, flossed, or clipped my toenails. My diet consisted of Pepto-Bismol for breakfast, a bottle of Cuervo for lunch, and the worm for dinner. And I probably would have continued along that path towards self-destruction if "it" hadn’t happened. But it did.

I won something.

What I won was two (2) tickets to “How Sweet the Sound” – the nationwide search for the greatest gospel choir in America. And it was taking place right back here in Cleveland, at Quicken Loans Arena. And the last time I was in that building, some bad, bad mojo was in the air.

The last time I was at The Q – back in mid-May – the Cavaliers were favorites to win the franchise’s first championship.

Despite some sluggishness, the Wine and Gold disposed of Joakim Noah and the pesky Bulls in five First Round games. And after Mo Williams shocked Mike Brown and the Celtics with a game-changing dunk in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semis, it looked like this might finally be Cleveland’s year.

But then came the infamous Game 5 in Cleveland. My readers and I implored LeBron to crank his Angry-o-Meter up to (and beyond) 11 – to eat thunder and crap lightning. But instead, as we all know, the erstwhile “Chosen One” turned in an anemic 0.4, which, if my calculations are correct, matches the anger and intensity of your common household pussycat.

As the 2010-11 Cavaliers season approached, the only way for me to return to The Q was to face my fears. And, to be honest, I needed some churchin’ up, too.

Back across the border I traveled. Armed with nothing more than a canteen of water, a satchel of salvia and a copy of Street and Smith’s Pro Basketball Preview, I traversed the country, searching for what it means to be a true Cavalier – pausing occasionally to eat a powerbar or make a No. 2.

When I finally made it back to The Q for “How Sweet the Sound,” I was treated to what can only be called a “life-changing experience.”

I’m not a churchy type, but I am a Catholic, and we’re not allowed to have ANY fun in church. So watching this spiritual celebration was exactly the epiphany that I needed.

Each of the choirs from across the region were truly amazing. But when the Calvary Sanctuary Choir from the United Pentecostal Church in Cincinnati took the stage, they quite simply blew the roof off the mutha. They brought an energy into the building that, unfortunately, the Cavaliers never even approached last spring.

(If you’re in need of some inspiration, CLICK HERE to watch their prize-winning performance. At first, these folks might seem a little bit square – [I thought the same thing.] But do yourself a favor and stick around for the entire five minutes. [You have five minutes. Everyone has five minutes.])

I’ll wait here …

I had heard that Pentecostals could bring it. But I assumed it would be by speaking in tongues or wrestling some snakes. But they didn’t do either. And nearly 10,000 people at The Q still went ape-S!

So what does all this mean? Mentions of Mexico and gospel music?

It means that I have been reborn as a Cavaliers fan. I was blind. But now I see!

I see that TheBron is just “LeBron” – a young man from Akron who’s really good at basketball. He gave us seven good years and made a Decision that was his choice to make. He was never the god we made him out to be, but he’s not a bad kid either. More than anything, LeBron disappointed me. I mean: you’d rather help THEM win a Championship than help US do it?!

Winning a Championship anywhere else will never compare to winning one in Cleveland. Numeral 6 knows that in his heart of hearts.

As for the artist formerly known as the Large Lithuanian, I also have nothing against him personally. But he’s a big boy and he knew that joining LeBron would break our hearts.

Per his agent’s request that Z get a job with the Cavaliers after he retires, maybe the all-powerful Dan Gilbert will bring him on – (not bloody likely) – but I can tell you that I sure wouldn’t. Jawad Williams, for example, could have bolted Cleveland to suckle at the teat of the Heat. But he knew better than to take sides against the family. That’s a guy Cavs fans can roll with.

And this year’s squad is a group of guys that Clevelanders can get behind. They’re led by a true leader – Coach Byron Scott – who I met for the first time on Friday afternoon. The man oozes confidence. He had just gotten off the treadmill and his shirt was literally soaked in it.

Here in the homeland, we’ve spent the last few seasons as favorites to win the NBA title. Cleveland? FAVORITES?! What the cuss do you and I know about being favorites?!!

This is the way it’s supposed to be. Cleveland is supposed to fight for its victories. We’re natural underdogs. We’re mutts, we're mongrels. We've been kicked out of every major sporting championship event since 1964!

Last season, a Tuesday night win over the Knicks or Pacers or Bulls wouldn’t have meant squat. This season, a Tuesday night win over those teams will be huge. That Tuesday night win will be a blast!

Get behind the squad that gets behind you. Most of these guys are from further away than Akron, and they love this team as much as you do. Don’t be discouraged, Cleveland. As Winston Churchill once said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Or you can go with the British Bulldog’s other famous quote – and my personal favorite – which says that “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

At the time of this writing, I have Tuesday night plans to keep cultivating these good vibrations at The Q. There's an artist by the name of “Roger Waters” performing and his act includes “breaking down The Wall.” I don’t know much about either, but it sounds pretty darn uplifting to me!

We’re underdogs again, little dummkopfs! And this year, it really is one for all and all for one. But I promise that the Wine and Gold shall rise again.

As long as you remember to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist

You can follow The Optimist and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsOptimist.