Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I like to think of myself as an Optimist. And on Fridays, I like whip out a big, bold new episode of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE. Join me, won’t you?
I realize I’ve been away for a couple weeks – off on a quick, but much-needed vacation. I went whitewater rafting through the crocodile-infested Batoka Gorge along the Limpopo River in central southern Africa. But that’s not important.
What IS important is that Cavaliers action – like Christmas in July – is about to tip off in Sin City, Nevada.
I was lucky enough to be allowed access to some of the Wine and Gold’s voluntary workouts at Cleveland Clinic Courts this week, and I can tell you without a doubt that this year’s Summer League squad is going to be extremely fun to watch.
Top draft pick, Dion Waiters, aggressively attacked the rim as advertised, slicing through defenses and throwing down an array of nasty dunks. Tyler Zeller is built more solidly than people think and ran the floor like a small forward. A seasoned Tristan Thompson was crushing everything in sight, “The Donald” Sloan looked completely comfortable running the offense and a suddenly-svelte Samardo Samuels has slimmed down to a Size 4.
And this weekend, the young bucks join their Cavalier teammate, Kryie Irving, who spent the better part of last week swishing and dishing on the future Gold Medalists.
Aside from veterans like Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee, Omri Casspi and Boobie Gibson, the nucleus of the new era of Cavaliers basketball will be on display next week on the UNLV campus.
I’ll be out in Las Vegas beginning Monday, covering the squad and trying my best not to marry a cocktail waitress. It’s not my first rodeo, so you readers don’t need to write in to warn me about counting cards or disrespecting Moe Green or putting my feet up on the blackjack table or always doubling-down on 11.
Whichever I decide to do, I’m glad I’m going to Vegas next week and that I wasn’t there for the mayhem that transpired this week.
This week in Las Vegas, a pair of chimpanzees escaped from their owner’s backyard enclosure and rampaged through the neighborhood – at one point jumping on a police car with its lights flashing and an officer inside.
Unfortunately, the male chimp – believed to weigh more than 150 pounds – was shot and killed by officers when he turned toward a gathering crowd. The female chimp was hit with a tranquiller dart and continued to roam around the area for several minutes before she realized that she had a freaking dart in her neck.
Chimp attacks are no laughing matter and are second on my list of “animal attacks that I’d least like to endure” – right behind that of the Carcharodon carcharias or, as it’s commonly known, Great white shark.
Almost everyone’s heard the horrific story of the Connecticut woman who was mauled by her friend’s pet chimp. Unlike the Great white shark – which just wants to take a bite out of you for taste – a cheesed-off chimpanzee is all about messing you up.
Avoiding escaped primates is not the way I want to spend my time in Las Vegas. And I won’t be a party to it.
Instead, I intend to embark on my usual toxic blend of business and pleasure without winding up in some hole in the desert or being maimed by an escaped ape, orangutan, chimp, baboon, bonobo or macaque. I don’t think that’s too tall an order.
Unfortunately for today’s birthday boys and girls, all this Vegas talk pushes them directly to the back burner.
That means very little time for cake and/or spankings for former Indian Ryan Ludwick, current Indian Shin Soo-Choo and the great Michael Spinks, who didn’t play for the Indians at all. Also celebrating this Friday the 13th are legendary comedian, Cheech Marin, PTI co-host, Tony Kornheiser, Sweedish acress, Git Gay, former NBA slam dunk champion, Spud Webb, and Erno Rubik, inventor of the Rubik’s Cube.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t stop to salute one of the greatest talents our great city has ever called its own: the late, great Gereld Levert.
Happy Birthday, celebrities I’d like nothing more than to wax nostalgic about all that you’ve accomplished. But the wide, wide world of sports awaits.
Let us tarry no longer, instead moving deftly through today’s installment of News …Around … The … League …
Indian Uprising – After easily the most boring and uneventful All-Star Games in recent memory, Major League Baseball is set to start its unofficial second half.
Our beloved Injuns begin their second stanza this weekend – with Justin Masterblasterson on the hill, taking on Joey Bats and the Blue Jays in Toronto.
What does the second half hold for the Tribe?
Will they make a deal to remedy inconsistencies in left field? Will they acquire another starter or a right-handed bat with some pop? Will Grady Sizemore get healthy? Will Roger Dorn ever be able to field a grounder or Pedro Cerrano hit the curveball?
There are plenty of storylines set to unfold in the second half. The Tribe’s bats were heating up before the break, but two of their All-Stars went into the mid-season classic on a sour note. Asdrubal Cabrera committed costly errors in back-to-back Zack McAllister starts and Kenny “Freaking” Perez bookended the first half with blown saves.
Perez was the Indians’ lightning rod throughout the first half, spouting off on separate occasions about everything from Browns fans to LeBron James. Manny Acta considered wheeling him in and out of the locker room on an appliance dolly with a muzzle like Dr. Hannibal Lecter, but decided against it.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope the Tribe soars through the second half and shocks the baseball world by stealing the Central Division.
Ready to Rumble – I had considered writing about the newest Cleveland Brown, wide receiver Josh Gordon – who was selected in the supplemental draft on Thursday. But unlike the NFL experts on WKNR, I just haven’t watched enough film on the kid.
I do know that his collegiate love for the old hippie lettuce got him booted from Baylor. But by all accounts, he’s a great kid with a ton of untapped potential. I’m looking forward to watching him perform when Training Camp kicks off in two weeks.
Instead, we’re going to stick with the sport of football. But on a much more somber note.
Today, we must pause to pay tribute to a man by the name of Norman Sas, who came up with one of the worst and most aggravating inventions of all time and, this past week, passed away at the age of 87 near his home of Vero Beach, Florida.
Norman Sas, you see, was the inventor of electric football – the game that many children of my generation grew up with.
A piece of sheet metal served as the gridiron and an electric motor rumbled beneath it. Little magnetic men were the players. A tiny, magnetic felt football was "propelled" around the field.
If this doesn’t sound like fun, that’s because it wasn’t. Players rumbled all over the field, without rhyme or reason. The football was more likely to wind up under the couch cushions or down your kid brother’s throat than anywhere on the playing surface. Bill Walsh could have designed the plays, and yet every single down turned into a convoluted rugby scrum.
You can see Norman Sas – pictured to the right –desperately trying to calm down former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who couldn’t get the damn thing to work right despite his intricate knowledge of the game.
No one could!
Erno Rubik came up with a way better and more functional invention. But do you think people are going to mourn through a mid-July weekend like they will for Norman Sas?! Not bloody likely.
With that in mind, please take this opportunity clam up and remove your hats and/or hairpieces for this Moment of Silence™ …
I understand the urge to grieve. But I say use this event to celebrate life and just how precious it is.
Normally, I don’t celebrate life – exspecially during the summer months – in front of the television. But when a show like AMC’s “Breaking Bad” comes along, all activity ceases in the Optimist domicile.
I love classic cable dramas like The Wire, The Sopranos and Mad Men. But methinks the wacky adventures of Heisenberg and Jesse Pinkman takes the proverbial cake.
Of course, I’ll watch it after checking out our young Cavaliers, who take on Charlotte in their Summer League opener on Sunday night.
I’ll check back next week as I’m leaving Las Vegas. I won’t be able to check on you all individually while I’m away, so I’ll trust that you know your responsibility for the week is to …
Keep the faith, Cleveland