The Optimist

by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor
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Hola, friendoes. I’m an Optimist; you are Cavalier fans.

It’s not easy, people. And nobody said it would be.

Just because three other NBA Semifinalists have already swept their respective foes, that shouldn’t mean squat to me and you.

Last year at this time, the Cavaliers had finished off what was left of the Detroit Pistons and dipped themselves in the four-game healing waters known as “the Atlanta Hawks.” Then came nine days of not knowing what to do with themselves. Orlando came into Cleveland –battle-tested after a seven-gamer against Boston – and … well, you know the rest.

The journey to the NBA Finals is a long and winding road. And it’s taken some strange, ugly, and beautiful turns over the weekend. My head is still spinning from what happened on Sunday afternoon.

Rondo turned in a Tiny Archibald-esque performance at the Garden, propelling him to instant one-name status along with the likes of Cher, Charo, Tebow, Bono, Dirk, Oprah, Enya, Elvis, Prince, Liberace and TheBron.

I’m sorry. That little guy is good. And he’s been kicking our butts. Eighteen rebounds? Baseline giant-killers in the Diesel’s grill?!!

I declare him to be

Rondo’s been finger-rolling in our face!

And I don’t think I like it.

But I take a deep breath and consider that the Playoffs are about adjustments. And we must put our faith that Cleveland’s esteemed coaching staff – (offensive coordinator Mike Malone, defensive coordinator Melvin Hunt and special teams coach Hank Egan) – will solve this conundrum called “Rondo.”

And take comfort in the fact that the Wine and Gold have mismatches brewing of their own. Antawn Jamison can have his way with K.G. in space and something tells me the Diesel is just getting warmed up (and the team is feeling more comfortable around him).

We can talk about these and other matchups, right after we turn to the Optimist Mailbox for this extra-gonzo letter from our Parmanian friend. (WARNING: This letter is not for the faint of heart, and our more sensitive viewers might want to skip right to the game recap. When I read it, I thought I might puke or pass out or both.)

Dear Optimist,

When did our beloved Cavalier fans get so soft?!

We are in the battle of professional lives, and they are worried that we couldn't win TWO IN A ROW IN THE BOSTON GARDEN? Do they think bulbous Larry O'Brien trophies are yanked from vines – like overripe, mouth-watering melons? This will be a Championship run FOR THE AGES! Ghosts of Bulls past, and Celtics present, and Magic and Lakers future will all be slain!

If you don't have the stomach for the fight, then move to Boston, where, if they haven't won a championship in a few years, they slaughter a goat, then win four Super Bowls, two World Series, and an NBA championship. If we want these kinds of riches for our city’s coffers, then we better be willing to get our hands dirty.

Mark my words, something will be slaughtered on Tuesday, and it won't be a goat. But as in any slaughterhouse, remember this: there will be blood.

Bort Stein, Esq.
Parma, OH

Good God, Bort! Way to turn a playoff basketball game into a Sam Peckinpah movie. Sheesh!

For the record, readers: I don’t condone physical violence of any sort – not even against the Celtics. When I was a kid, my father told me, “Never hit anyone in anger, unless you’re absolutely sure you can get away with it.”


Once again, our Profile in Courage finds us in the offices of the Cleveland Cavaliers, LLC – where this band of brave souls are expressing their Playoff Beard in a unique way – via the Fu-Man-Championship™.

The four horsemen are most of the Cavaliers Web Team. (Not pictured, little Sarah Jamieson, who’s growing a Fu-Man-Championship on her heart). They are, from left to right: Brandon Jirousek, Jeff Lillibridge, Flash Matt Haltuch and promising rookie, Nick Adams.

Look at these four clowns! Two of them are married and one’s engaged. You don’t think their old ladies are breaking their collective cannoli at home over this follicle jackassery? Do you think it’s easy walking around, looking like a militia member or a Village Person or whatever these boys are going for? I’m not sure what their look is, but it ain’t Hulk Hogan – that’s for sure.

You go, Web Team! It’s not easy rocking a Fu-Man-Championship in today’s world, but that’s why they’ve been singled out for their stones.

(If you have a personal tale of your unique rally whiskers, drop me a line in the Optimist Mailbox and I’ll highlight your plight.)

(Ed. note: If emails are any indication, my readers fall into one of three categories: college kids, total basket cases [like Bort], or some combination of the two.)

But in his defense, our friend from Parma is speaking figuratively – as in “our blood boiling” over that loss on Sunday, and what the Cavaliers intend to do about it Tuesday night.

And I see Tuesday night coming down to two words and a letter: mano y mano.

That’s right, tonight you can strip away all the talk of matchups here and mismatches there. Tonight, it’s a good old-fashioned shootout between TheBron and his longtime foe, Paul Pierce.

Sure, Rondo does his thing and yes, the Diesel continues his postseason ascension. But by the time the middle of the fourth rolls around, both teams are watching their stars work their magic. With two minutes to play, Pierce leads Boston with 38; TheBron leads everyone with 40.

Mo Williams cans a pair of free throws to draw Cleveland to within a point and Numeral 23 puts the Wine and Gold ahead with 19 seconds remaining with his 41st and 42nd points.

On the final possession, however, it’s the young King’s defense that wins the pivotal Game 5 – crushing Ray Allen’s baseline floater halfway to Loudville. The Celtics get the ball back, but with only 1.1 remaining, Pierce’s 18-footer draws back iron.

The Cavaliers go on to win the most important game of the season in dramatic fashion, as the sold out Q erupts at the buzzer with the Wine and Gold on top – 109-108 – to take a 3-2 advantage in the series.

I don’t know if that result had the appropriate carnage for Bort Stein, but I’ll bet the rest of you will take it.

Tonight’s win gets Cleveland one win closer to putting Boston down and one win closer to the Larry O’Brien trophy.

There’s no room for Nervous Nellies at this point in the season, so when that ball goes up at approximately 8:06 p.m. EST, I expect all y’all to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist