The Optimist

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Guten Morgen, meatheads! It’s me, the Optimist, rhetorically asking: How hangeth the hammer?

“Guten Morgen” is how Germanians say “Good Morning.” I write this because I really hope you readers are getting to today’s column this morning – pre-10:30 a.m., around the time MacDonald’s zealously stops serving breakfast.

If you’re reading later this afternoon or Wednesday night, please continue. It’s a big game – what, with the World Champion Lakers in town.

But if you get to this early – or, preferably, before you get to work (or class; I’m looking at you, nerds) – get in your car or walk down to the corner of Huron and Ontario.

Once there, simply procure a ticket for Phase I of what could be to be the greatest duo-sport double-header in the history of Quicken Loans Arena. Maybe Cleveland, Ohio.

Phase I begins when the biscuit drops at 10:45 a.m. – a special early start for the surging Lake Erie Monsters, winners of three straight, 11 of their last 14, and currently within just two points of the filthy Manitoba Moose for First Place in the AHL’s North Division.

Stacked with tough hombres, the 75-year-strong AHL has seen the likes of Clarence “Screaming Buffalo” Swampton, Tim “Dr. Hook” McCracken, Andre “Poodle” Lussier (who’s lived in semi-seclusion in Northern Quebec ever since the unfortunate Denny Pratt incident) and, of course, the man whose rookie season was filled with litigation, notoriety, a subsequent deportation to Canada (and that country's refusal to accept him) – Ogie Ogilthorpe.

But the real reason I’m encouraging you non-AHL-historians to come downtown is because Wednesday morning is the Monsters annual “Student Education Day.” Or, in layman’s terms: 5,000 little kids – including approximately 3,200 third-graders – going absolutely APE-S for two-and-a-half hours of Monsters hockey!

I’ve been in the arena for this event in the past, and it is as insane as it sounds. Throw t-shirts into the crowd? The place goes berserk. Play “Cotton Eye Joe”? The place goes berserk. Show the video clip of the chicken dancing on a turntable? The place goes berserk.

Last year, those little maniacs blew the roof off the mutha and the score was literally 0-0 after three periods.

I know some of you are thinking, “Hey Optimist, I already deal with (what feels like) 5,000 kids going ape all day, every day!”

Yes, but the beauty is that, on Wednesday morning, none of them are yours. They’re their teacher’s problem! All you have to do is kick back – (or go nuts with them) – and watch Coach Quinn’s red-hot Monsters kick some Texas tail in one of the most entertaining sports environments you’ll ever experience.

By the time it’s over, those little kids won’t care that the Monsters just took two straight over the Stars with the 4-3 win. They came to The Q believing the Monsters would win, and then everything just worked out. It’s the same faith that tells them Santa can shimmy down a chimney and the Tooth Fairy exchanges cash for teeth.

That’s some good base energy for the building’s big day. And if you believe in it, you’re prepared for Phase II.

Phase II, as you might expect, is a much more difficult task. (That’s why I’ve included some self-help techniques later in the column to get us through it.)

There’s no sugarcoating the fact that the Lakers gave the Wine and Gold an epic stoot-slapping back in January. The Cavaliers got thumped by two points less they scored as an entire team. They embarrassed Coach Byron Scott in the city where he’s a legend. And, with all due respect to young Manny Harris – who I really like as a kid and a ballplayer – the Black Mamba never got above third gear.

On top of that, figure that the LakeShow comes to Cleveland madder than a wet hen after having dropped their last two games by an average of 17 points per.

A Cavaliers victory would seem nearly impossible.

But because I have a brain similar in size and emotional capacity to those children at the hockey game, I believe the Wine and Gold can shock the world heading to the All-Star Break.

I believe Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions can outplay Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. I believe an inspired Baby Bull can outplay a frustrated Andrew Bynum and that Antawn Jamison can battle Pau Gasol to a draw. The Cavaliers, like most teams, don’t have a player to match up with the Black Mamba. But I believe Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon can combine to frustrate him the way they did two Christmases ago in L.A.

I can’t pretend to expound on the whys, wherefores or even the final score. And I certainly can’t Guarantee anything. But the warm weather started blowing through Cleveland today. And it might just be one of those nights at The Q.

What gives me the chutzpah to predict such outlandishness?

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The aforementioned self-help technique I told you guys about earlier.

As many of you know, I’m a big Phil Jackson fan and often write about his much-publicized ability to bend a spoon with his mind. And even though Jackson will be decidedly out-coached by Byron Scott on Wednesday night, I thought a little Zen mastery might help you Cavs fans shake that “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Of course, this exercise will require two things – your brain and several tablespoons.

Because I didn’t have time to travel to Tibet before tipoff, I looked this process up on the World Wide Web. I’ve omitted a couple details, but you should be able to figure it out. (It’s not like changing the oil on your car; you’re just bending a spoon with your mind.)

Okay, so the process goes like this …

1. Go in your drawer and pick out 10 or so spoons and lay them out on the table. Use your feeling and let them tell you which spoon will bend.
2. Pick one that is fairly thin to start out with.
3. Hold the spoon vertically and look at it and ask it to bend. Or say: “You will bend for me.” Really believe it.
4. Start your meditation. Breathe in and breathe out. Breathe in energy from the universe and imagine it as a golden ball above your head.
5. Breathe out negative feelings and put the recycled air into your solar plexus.
6. Keep doing this for about 15 breaths while massaging the spoon just below the bowl of it.
7. Make yourself lightheaded, concentrating on your breathing and producing energy and thinking the spoon will bend.
8. Look at the spoon for about two seconds and think “You will bend for me” while still breathing. Breathe faster and hype yourself up …
9. Look out the window or at something for about 1 second and start to bend the spoon, saying very loudly: “BEND! BEND! BEND! Soon, you will notice that the spoon becomes like rubber.
10. Your spoon will feel like rubber and it will bend for you.
11. After you have bent the spoon around two or three times, lay it down and wait about 1 minute. The spoon will harden again.

Of course, Coach Phil Jackson doesn’t scream “BEND! BEND! BEND!” when he’s working his Zen magic. Jax could do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle while tying a spatula into a knot. He doesn’t need all those silly histrionics.

But it might help fledgling telepathists like you and me.

When your mom comes down the basement to yell at you about all the screaming and bent-up silverware, telepathically command her to calm down and communicate that you’d like some blueberry waffles, right away.

There you have it.

If you knuckaheads and I can bend kitchen utensils with our little walnut-sized brains – just think what J.J. Hickson and the king-sized Cavaliers can do if they put their minds to it, even against the reigning World Champions.

When they do, it will mark the completion of both Phases of an incredible two-sport double-header at The Q. I don’t have a Phase III. I know most cool plans come with three Phases. But not this one.

Our beloved Cavaliers head into the All-Star Break, riding a wave of positive emotion after upsetting two Los Angeles teams in five days. Our beloved Lake Erie Monsters head to Manitoba in hot pursuit of First Place.

I’ll see you on the other side, you spoon-bendin’ sons of a pup.

Until then, all I ask is that you …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

The Optimist