Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m the Optimist; you are Cavalier fans. Gird good and proper and get ready for today’s installment of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.
As you could tell from that intro, I’m feeling a little flaccid today. Like one of those mushy softballs people play with without mitts. And I’m asking you guys right now not to shout any comments out or chew you gum loudly during today’s column. I’m really hungover from last night’s Barry Manilow concert at Blossom. I’ll never do some of that stuff again. Geez.
Irregardless! I wouldn’t have asked you to gird up if we didn’t have an action-packed session planned.
Last week, we rocked out to the birthday of Gary Gygax, the man who invented “Dungeons and Dragons.” There’s nobody that cool this week, unless you include Metallica frontman James Hetfield, NBA made man Nate McMillan, former U.S. President Martin Sheen, famed Canadian actor Brent Butt or director John Landis – the man behind Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Coming to America and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
At first scan, today’s Day-in-History looked to be similar to most other Fridays. Vikings or Napoleon or soldiers from the Ottoman Empire sacking some city. Judge Kinnesaw Mountain Landis banning some Black Sox. Erupting volcanoes trapping scores of innocent villagers in molten lava.
But then I saw that on this date back on this day in 1936, the great Jesse Owens won the 100-meter dash in the Berlin Olympics – a seminal sports and cultural moment if ever there was one.
Of course, the Berlin Olympics were held while Germany was in the grips of Nazi rule. Countries like Spain and the Soviet Union boycotted the Olympiad and the U.S. considered doing the same. Instead, America sent its finest athletes – led by Cleveland’s own Jesse Owens – to show Adolph Hitler what’s what.
Owens – who moved to Cleveland at age nine and later attended Ohio State University – followed his dramatic win in the 100m by taking the Gold in the long jump the next day. He won the 200m sprint the following day and his fourth Gold as part of the 4x100m relay team less than a week later.
Hitler and other government officials had hoped that German athletes would dominate the Games, hoping to promote the Nazi propaganda that the Aryan Race is superior to Clevelanders.
But Jesse Owens put all that nonsense to rest. And several years later, America and the Allies proved their point in much more emphatic fashion.
You can keep Michael Phelps and his hip-hugging Speedo™ or even Kim Kardashian’s stepdad back when he still looked like a dude. Our Men’s basketball team beating the Nigerians by 100 points doesn’t do it for me either.
As far as American Olympic moments, the Buckeye Bullet smacking down Der Fuhrer is tops on the list.
And I don’t even mind that all this Olympic talk has set us behind schedule. This is Jesse Owens we’re talking about here!
So I apologize if you guys came to today’s column seeking the week’s big Current Events stories – like the one about 34-year-old Vermont man, Roger Pion, who climbed into a 15-ton tractor and smushed eight cop cars.
Apparently upset over a an arrest last month for possession of hippie lettuce and resisting arrest, Pion stole the farm tractor, drove it down to the police station and crushed seven police cruisers and one unmarked vehicle.
Sheriffs had just gone inside after washing the vehicles and deputies working inside the building didn't know what was happening until a neighbor called 911. It seems they didn’t hear the demolition outside because their air conditioners were humming. They also couldn't pursue the man because their cars were crushed.
“We came out and, sure enough, there was someone who had run over our cruisers with a tractor,” said Orleans County Chief Dep. Philip Brooks.
Pion was eventually apprehended about a mile-and-a-half from the incident. Luckily no one was hurt.
I don’t think that I need to state the obvious: That there’s certainly nothing funny, amusing or heroic about getting cheesed off and pulling into a police parking lot in a 15-ton Case MX 255 dual-wheel tractor and thoroughly demolishing eight cop cars. And it’s certainly nothing that I’ve ever fantasized about over and over again.
You readers shouldn’t either. You should focus your thoughts on positive things, like the wonderful wide, wide world of sports.
With that in mind, let’s move this N.A.T.L. forward on that very topic – shall we?
Top Jimmy – Just one week ago, news broke that Tennessee truck stop kingpin, Jimmy Haslam III, was to purchase our beloved Cleveland Browns. And one week later, he has made it so.
And although I was not in Berea to witness it firsthand, I heard the new owner took the practice field to check out his new investment – angrily threatening to cut two-thirds of the team for their woeful performance last year. Later that afternoon, Haslam was to meet with the local media.
Who knows what changes will be afoot when the new guy takes over. Will he adhere to tradition? Will he change the colors? Place a logo on the helmet? Change the name of the Stadium? De-excommunicate Tony Grossi? Is Coach Pat Shurmur safe? What about team President Mike Holmgrum and GM Tom Heckert? Does he prefer the 3-4 or the 4-3? West Coast Offense? Ground-and-Pound? Single-Wing?
There are so many questions swirling about right now. But there’s one thing that is not in question: That the first preseason game – another installment in that tradition-rich rivalry that we call the Great Lakes Classic – takes place one week from today in the Motor City.
New ownership. New offensive weapons. Yes, I’m geeked beyond words for the 2012 Browns campaign – my first as a season-ticket holder.
If Not Now, When? – The beauty of living in a three-sports city is the cycle of life. When one team begins to falter, another arises, giving Clevelanders renewed hope.
The Sons of the Cuyahoga are beginning to fade once again, dropping to 6-14 since the All-Star Break. They’re riding a six-game losing streak, trail the White Sox by 7.5 games and are 6.5 back in the wildcard chase. And it doesn’t get any easier this weekend as they travel to Detroit for a showdown with the Tigers.
Actually, the Tigers are the one team that the Tribe has owned this season. So maybe it will get a little easier. But the Indians desperately need a strong starting performance from Justin Masterblasterson as Manny Acta continues to shuffle the lineup in search of answers.
I know I said that last week was put-up or shut-up time. But this week, I really mean it.
If the Tribe continues to watch it slip-sliding away – unless Chris Perez does something really bizarre or destructive – they will be phased out of News … Around … The … League as football and Cavaliers seasons approach.
But I’d rather not. I am, after all, the Optimist. And after watching the dramatic end to the previous MLB season, I realize that anything can happen. It ain’t over yet for the Tribe. But if they want to get back in the hunt, it’s going to require a really stupid and futile gesture be done on somebody’s part.
And the Indians are just the guys to do it.
At this point in the column, any celebrities who might be reading are wondering if they’ll be included in today’s Moment of Silence™. Luckily for them, we’ve done a sweep and everybody famous is accounted for.
That’s not to say the loss of Gore Vidal won’t be felt. But he was stuffy and cynical and wouldn’t be much fun to write about.
Instead, I’m going to send you meatheads on your way for the weekend.
We’re in the dog days of summer, my friends. Head for the Slip-n-Slide™ or fire up some turkey burgers on the grill. Have an impromptu water balloon fight or run around the back yard crushing fireflies with a whiffle-ball bat.
The world is your oyster, Cavalier fans! Enjoy the offseason to its fullest extent. Because when Camp Scott tips off in late September, we’ll be running til we puke. And I don’t wanna puke.
We’ll reconvene right here at a later date. In the interim, please remember: No running by the pool and, always …
Keep the faith, Cleveland
God Save the Queen,