The Optimist

May 11, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! As many of you know, I’m an Optimist. And with the onset of another Cavaliers offseason, Friday means NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE day! (And maybe a nice fish fry, time permitting.)

Working in the world of professional sports – like the athletes themselves – one learns the value of routine. And regular readers of my weekly N.A.T.L. column know that there’s a certain formula that we like to follow so I don’t make a total mess of the place or injure myself.

In short: I’ll bust off this opening segment with a big picture look at the happenings over the past week. Usually, I’ll toss in a couple big-name birthdays – like today’s lineup that includes courageous former U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords, surrealist painter Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech and, of course, Christoph Schneider, drummer of the flame-throwing German industrial metal band, Rammstein, which almost blew up the building my beloved Cavaliers play in last week.

DaliThis opening segment might also feature a watershed event that went down on this date in history – like Minnesota being admitted as the 32nd state or the official tip-off of the Mexican-American War or Deep Blue whipping Garry Kasparav’s arse in chess. But not today.

After this segment, we’ll cover a series of non-Cavalier topics that might include the Tribe or Browns, a glimpse at the Optimist Mailbox or a Moment of Silence™ in which we honor celebrities (or extremely talented or obese animals) who have recently passed away.

There. Now that you new readers realize that this will be a rigidly-structured affair, you can wrap your mind around what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Unfortunately, since we spent this entire opening segment discussing the ground rules of the opening segment, there’s just not enough valuable column space for any more content or current events.

That means we can’t give adequate coverage to the story of Florida high school science teacher, Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, who faces dismissal for strapping the “cone of shame” on her students as a means of discipline.

The cone of shame – unlike the Ribbons of Shame – is the inverted plastic collar placed on animals to prevent them from licking themselves following surgery. Our very own Moondog was forced to wear the cone of shame after injuring his eye when Pacers forward David West punched him out before an April 11th affair. (More on this later.)

MoondogI don’t know much about high school science students, but I can tell you that Moondog gets downright ornery when he’s unable to lick himself.

This kind of teacher behavior – even in Florida – will not stand. It’s better than having your knuckles rapped by Sister Mary Elephant, like I did back in the day. But it’s definitely not kosher in the year 2012.

I won’t discipline you readers with either method if you don’t pay attention to the rest of today’s column. It’ll be your loss. But please don’t spoil it for the rest of us – (and spit out that gum!!) – as we dive into the first offseason installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE


PLAYOFFS?!! – In years past, right about this time of year, I’d be grooming my fuzzy-wuzzy Playoff Beard™ and girding my loins good and proper for a prolonged postseason run.

I’m ok with another year in the Lottery. I realize that the Wine and Gold are in the midst of a reconstruction effort and, when the Cavaliers do return to the playoffs, it’ll be with a squad that’s locked and loaded for the long haul. The bounty Cleveland should come away with this offseason will go a long way towards that end.

While we wait, the postseason rumbles on.

The Spurs barely broke a sweat vanquishing Gordon “Wet Willie” Hayward and the Jazz. The 8th-seeded Sixers dropped the shorthanded Bulls in six games, the Pacers beat the Dwight Howard-less Magic in five, and the hated Celtics sent Atlanta packing despite Al Horford’s heroics. OKC derailed the World Champs and the Knicks fell out before Jeremy Lin had a chance to change out of his street clothes.

World PeaceAs we head into the weekend, the Clippers try to hold off the Grizzlies and win a playoff series for the first time since Billy Crystal was a ballboy and the Lakers try to close out the Nuggets so All-Optimist Second Teamer Metta World Peace can celebrate another layup by giving James Harden a wood-nap.

For those of you who absolutely need a team in the tournament at this time of year, I’d like to recommend a temporary adoption. It doesn’t make you any less of a Cavalier fan to adopt a needy playoff team that might tickle your whiskers. Even I’ve professed my team-crush on squads like the TrailBlazers and Rockets.

Maybe it’d be easier if I let an old friend explain …


AndyDear Optimist,

I admit I have been lax in our communication over the past half-decade. You have my most sincere apologies. I considered renewing our correspondence after the sad, empty disgrace that was "The Decision," but no words really felt like they had meaning in the wake of such treachery.

Plus, there were dark times all around. The Cavs had their free fall in the year after. The Pacers relied on Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy for extended minutes. An ex-Celtic coach turned TJ Ford's exciting, breakneck game into an exercise of futility and resistance.

But now, exciting times are here again! The Pacers are in the second round to face TheBron's Miami Heat. I have no idea about your interest in schaudenfraude, nor am I certain of the spelling of any German word, but I would guess one would at least have a passing interest in seeing the Heat not succeed, even if one were not the type to express such a sentiment through open letters in Comic Sans font.

So, I extend you an invitation to help me cheer for my team in the playoffs, as you once did when we offed Celtics legends Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz so many years ago. If this surrogate fandom no longer tickles your fancy, I can offer these bona fide facts about my squad:

1. We have a brainy head coach who resembles Count Dracula. I want the NBA to require him to wear fangs and a cape to every game, just to freak people out.

2. We have former All-Optimist Second Teamer Dahntay Jones chomping gum and smirking at people, goading them into irresistible technical fouls.

3. We have budding thespian and MMA combatant Roy Hibbert and his sidekick Paul "John Ringo" George.

4. We have David West, who you might bear some ill will for since the unfortunate beating of the Moondog. What can I say? When the popcorn starts poppin’, you gotta stay clear of D-West. Neither man nor dog will be spared.

5. We have Psycho-T.

And that's without even mentioning Danny Granger, who once tried to build a Batcave at his house.

All in all, my optimism reserves are in full stock now after years of Optimo abuse had stunted them, and so I would like to share the upcoming series with someone who might share an interest in seeing a Pacer victory.

Yours in Optimism,

Andy Shepherd
Richmond, IN


Andy, great to hear from you again. Thanks for reading and writing in.

As for you readers, the man makes a compelling argument. If you gotta roll with another club through this offseason, Indy’s not a bad option. They’ve got a great arena, excellent fans and some of the best threads in the NBA. Andy Shepherd ran down a list of nice ballplayers – and he didn’t even mention Strap, Ollie, Merl or Jimmy Chitwood.

If you guys want to go with the Pacers – especially against the mangy Miami Heat – you have my blessing and support.

ROLL THE BONES – Let’s be honest: Whatever you do this weekend is going to suck in comparison to what awaits you next weekend when downtown’s new Horseshoe Casino has its doors officially open to the public.

casinoThe grand opening actually takes place this Monday night at 9:30 p.m. and once the doors open, they never close.

There’s simply not enough room to cover everything that the palatial new casino offers. But I can tell you that it’ll feature more than 2,100 slots – ranging from a penny to $500 per spin – and 64 table games. Table games include blackjack, roulette, craps and poker. There’s a 30-table World Series of Poker Room, offering games including Texas hold'em, Omaha and seven-card stud.

Personally, I’m just as excited about the dining options at the new Horseshoe Casino. Instead of going with some B.S. chain restaurant, visitors will have the choice of three of Cleveland’s finest eateries: Michael Symon’s B-Spot Burgers, Rosie & Rocco’s and Corky & Lenny’s.

And of course, there will be a Diamond Lounge for high-rollers like myself.

I’m chomping at the bit for Monday night’s extravaganza, and I hope to see you there. I’ll be the one with all the chips.

SILENT BUT DEADLY – Yes, I realize that celebrity deaths come in threes and that three celebrities died this past week.

Vidal Sassoon was an artist and an innovator who, as the line goes, “changed the world with a pair of scissors.” Maurice Sendak was a prolific writer and illustrator of children’s literature, most famous for his book, Where the Wild Things Are.

But I don’t have enough hair to require Vidal Sassoon’s products and my folks never read me any Maurice Sendak.

Today, I’m pressing pause on the column for an artist that was near and dear to me: Adam Yauch a/k/a “MCA” a/k/a “Nathanial Hörnblowér.”

MCAAs most of you know, MCA was one-third of the iconic hip-hop trio, the Beastie Boys. Along with Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock), the Beasties shook the music scene with their debut album, License to Ill and released seven platinum records between that classic and Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, released in 2011.

The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this past April.

Adam Yauch played bass and keyboards for the Beasties and his raspy voice among the trio was unmistakable. He also directed several of the group’s videos and eventually moved on to films, including the critically-acclaimed basketball documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot.

I’ll miss MCA, but I won’t be alone. He was a musical pioneer who can never be replaced.

So, if it’s cool with you guys, can we please closeth our cakeholes and removeth our hats and/or hairpieces for a Hall of Fame Moment of Silence™ ….

Thank you.

OK, sports fans. That wraps up our first episizode of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE this offseason.

Enjoy the NBA Playoffs – whether you’re pulling for the Pacers or not. Enjoy the Tribe beating up Boston in Beantown. Every Indians victory over the Sox makes Bill Simmons a little more unhappy which, in turn, makes me a little more happy.

If you’re having a shlooker or two, don’t forget to appoint a designated driver. When you wake up safely in your bed, Saturday Morning You will thank Friday Night You.

We’ll speak in seven days. Until then, enjoy your weekend and please remember to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Your pal,
The Optimist