The Optimist

June 8, 2012

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! Me – I’m an Optimist. I’m assuming you guys are Cavalier fans, but either way, you best brace yourselves for another action-packed installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

Last week, I tormented you readers by working all over the map – touching on off-brand sports like tennis, golf, soccer and spelling.

What the cuss was I thinking?!

You fools can’t handle a workload like that! You probably went into the weekend confused and disoriented. And I apologize.

Today, we’re sticking with one sport. No Tribe-Cardinals interleague play. No shells-and-shorts in Berea. No Belmont Stakes. Maybe some spelling – but definitely no golf or soccer.

Today’s topic is Professional Basketball.

ReevesBryant “Big Country” Reeves played basketball professionally, and today – June 8 – is his birthday. He’s only 38 years old, so I’ll bet he’s still in excellent shape.

Sharing Big Country’s birthday is former Supreme Court Justice Byron “Whizzer” White, former First Lady Barbara “Whizzer” Bush and the prestigious former head of Lambda Lamda Lamda fraternity, Bernie Casey. Also celebrating this day are music icons, Boz Scaggs and Kanye West, heroic former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, tennis great Lindsay Davenport, British evangelist Smith Wigglesworth and legendary comedian, Jerry Stiller.

I’ll bet each of those celebrities played a little hoop in their day, except for Smith Wigglesworth, probably.

Historically, almost nothing important has ever happened on June 8. Probably the biggest event was the publication of George Orwell’s seminal dystopian novel, 1984.

The novel, one of my favorite’s as a younger lad, was actually published in 1949. But what made it – and continues to make it – required reading is how eerily accurate Orwell was. I was in my formative years back in the year 1984 and I recall society’s brutal repression vividly.

A band of Raiders ruled the National Football League, “parachute pants” were required to be worn by all young males and an early-model Terminator wreaked havoc in Los Angeles. People were under the constant supervision of ruthless leaders like Boy George and his nefarious “Culture Club.”

Anyway, if you’ve never read 1984, I strongly recommend it. All that stuff’s in there.

Thankfully, it’s 2012, and we’ve got it all figured out --- no thanks to you, George Orwell. And what does George Orwell have to do with professional basketball, anyway?

Nothing. But neither does the story of a small pig running loose along a highway near Pittsburgh wearing a scarf.

pigBut I’m still going to write about it because A. we finally have some column space for current events, and B. it’s the story of a small pig running loose along a highway near Pittsburgh wearing a scarf.

If I weren’t a guy who (almost) always takes the high road, I’d crack wise about some Steelers’ fan’s girlfriend and a fight on the way to work. But I don’t work blue. I’m better than that.

The well-dressed porker dashed through traffic on I-376, weaving its way through morning rush hour traffic and into the woods. State troopers from Findlay Township were in foot-pursuit of the elusive baby bovine, but couldn’t apprehend it and bring it to justice. As for the scarf itself, Allegheny County officials still don’t know whether it was Hermes or Burberry.

I’ll provide updates as they come in. Apparently, the piggy is OK and has even opened its own Twitter account. But there are no guarantees for a small pig in the wooded hills of Pennsylvania. If those mountain folk catch him – scarf or no scarf – they’ll eat everything but the “oink.”

As for we civilized Ohioans, let’s not concern ourselves with such petty matters and kick this N.A.T.L. column into gear …

MoraPLAYOFFS?!! – Man, it’s good to see our old buddy, Coach Jim Mora again, isn’t it?

Yes, I believe the Cavaliers will return to the Tournament next year. I don’t know where they’ll be seeded or who they’ll knock off in the First Round yet. But I’m a patient man.

In just over a fortnight, the Wine and Gold will reload via the 2012 Draft, and I can’t wait to welcome our four new bundles of joy. And adding to my excitement, a potential selection for the Cavs at No. 4 overall – UK’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – was spotted working out in my hometown of Garbage Heights.

Yep. I’m a little pumped for the Draft. But we’ll be all over that like slop on a wild highway pig in the coming weeks. We’ll break down the prospects and who fits the Cavaliers best and which European player will make out with which European super-fox when Uncle Dave calls his name in next week’s episode.

As the Cavaliers work through the pupal stage of their development, let’s turn our focus to the NBA Playoffs – which have been as compelling as any in recent memory, despite the excessive flopping and stupid lens-free nerd glasses.

Let’s start in the West, where the Oklahoma City Thunder – currently “America’s Team” – stoot-slapped the Spurs in four straight, earning their first trip to the NBA Finals.

Oklahoma City’s ascension is the NBA’s feel-good story – unless you’re from Seattle. I imagine it’s gotta be like the Ravens winning the Super Bowl and Cleveland never get our beloved Brownies back. I could go into the fetal position just thinking about that hypothetical.

So for all my friends in and from the Emerald City: I feel your pain. (Not really, and I don’t want to. Sorry.)

And to make matters worse, I’ll have to root for your Zombie Sonics in the Finals no matter who wins Game 7 between Miami and the hated Celtics on Saturday night.

ThunderI’m sorry, but it’s tough not to like the Thunder.

They have a great arena and excellent fans. Their head coach is a former Cavalier. Kevin Durant seems like a cool cat and is a fabulous face of the NBA’s future. Russell Westbrook is erratic, but really fun to watch. And James Harden has played his best ball of the season since All-Optimist Second Teamer Metta World Peace knocked some sense into him.

In the East, it’s a battle between the lesser – (or most-er) – evils. I’m not sure which one.

Irregardless of which team comes out of Game 7 in South Beach, I hope they’re vanquished in four games by Oklahoma City. I don’t even need to see a good or entertaining series.

In Thursday night’s Game 6, LeBron decimated the Celtics on they home floor. As we Cavalier fans know, that’s not something he’s always done up in Beantown. But I could tell his Angry-o-Meter was off the charts from the opening tip.

The big question leading up to Saturday’s historic matchup will be whether the self-styled “Chosen One” will repeat Thursday’s performance, or whether he and his superfriends will strain their sphincters like they did against Dallas one year ago.

BronWill this be the aging Celtics’ last stand? Or will the Heat fold under the weight of their own hubris? Will it be the old guard vs. the young guns in the Finals or will it be Thunder-Miami – a team that was built vs. a team that was bought?

I don’t know.

But I do know that I’ll be downing a cold-brew and hoping for a great contest. I don’t like either team, but I love the NBA Playoffs. And we could be in store for a classic.

If you readers are also having a cold-brew this weekend, as always, please remember to catch a cab or get you a designated driver. In a column that features George Orwell’s 1984, I hate to function as a tool for The Man, but today’s supercops are on the lookout for the exact kind of meathead who would read this column.

Enjoy Saturday night’s Game 7, or any other stupid sports you might get into this weekend. We’ll talk some NBA Draft next week and maybe we’ll hear from the Pittsburgh piglet. Either way, you’ve got seven days to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine on,
The Optimist