Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I am the Optimist. You are Cavalier fans. And this is NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE. So, let’s get it on.
I’m back from a well-earned two-week hiatus. And I don’t mind saying that I desperately missed you guys while I was away. Unfortunately, we have way too much on our plate today to get bogged down in sentimentality. Let’s see if we can get through this column before we break out the hugs and handshakes.
I’m writing today from the cozy confines of Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers’ floor is down right now, yet the gym is dim and quiet. But Camp is right around the corner and the joint will soon be jumping.
Most of the guys are still scattered across the four corners. But a few of them – Tristan Thompson, the still-svelte Samardo Samuels and Cleveland’s newest Cavalier, C.J. Miles – showed up at the 27th Annual Cavaliers Youth Fund Golf Classic this past Tuesday.
As always, the event was a spectacular success. Since the CYF’s inception in 1993, more than $22 million has been granted to local non-profit organizations. And besides the trio of current Cavs, some celebrities included Coach Byron Scott, GM Chris Grant, Larry Nance, Brevin Knight, Ron Harper, Jim Chones, Austin Carr, Campy Russell, John Michael, Fred McLeod, Monsters coach Dean Chynoweth, STO’s Jimmy Hanlon in his wacky pants and, of course, our illustrious owner, Dan Gilbert.
My duty this year was to keep score for a group whose celebrity escort was none other than Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Cruising around the lush grounds of Firestone Country Club with the Large Lithuanian is an experience our foursome and I will never forget. Big Z is the very definition of class.
Is he a good golfer? Nope. He’s not. And that’s just one reason why everyone loves Z. Because he’s just a normal dude who happens to be a legendary Cavaliers center. Over the course of 18 holes, the two-time All-Star has himself a nice chew. He breaks the other golfers’ chops. He cusses when he hits one into the water. It’s awesome.
Of course, I didn’t golf in the golf outing, nor would I ever be permitted to play at Firestone. If a course ranger saw my Al Czervik-styled swing and bloated scorecard, he’d intercept me by the 4th hole and ask me to mount my cart and proceed directly back to the clubhouse without unsheathing another stick.
But this column isn’t about how bad I suck at golf. It does, however, complete our discussion of one of the myriad sports we’ll be covering in today’s N.A.T.L. – including preseason football, major league baseball, bicycle racing and the Little League World Series and excluding the kickoff of high school football.
I know some of you are geeked up for high school football starting, and if you have a kid in the school system, I totally understand. Lucky for them, I don’t have children of my own. So unless it concerns my beloved Garbage Heights Bulldogs, I can’t seriously root for or write about a player who still lives with his folks.
But those cheese-eating high schoolers shouldn’t take it personally. We’re just too booked up today.
I mean, if we don’t have space for current events – like the rampaging black Angus cow that terrorized Billings, Montana earlier this week – we sure as sugar don’t have space to discuss the early-season Ashtabula Heights-Upper Streetsboro matchup.
High school punks might scoff at the thought of some stupid cow paralyzing the largest city in Montana with fear. But this was a 1,200-pound black Angus cow – and she was pissed. During her 90-minute reign of terror, the hostile heifer rammed a bicyclist and broke another man’s leg. A SWAT van packed with elite rodeo clowns was dispatched to the scene, but the livid bovine had them scattering for cover in garbage cans moments later.
A police sniper finally put an end to the ordeal by shooting the cow through the heart, presumably with a silver bullet. The Billings Patrolman’s Benevolent Association’s annual steak dinner was rescheduled to later that evening.
Rodeo and cattle rustling are not among the pastimes scheduled for coverage in today’s column. So let’s move past this tragic tale and onto the actual wide, wide world of sports in this week’s installment of News … Around … The … League – shall we?
Home, Sweet Home – Like a baby boy on Christmas morning, I am giddy with excitement over my beloved Browns home debut this weekend. And for the first time in my life, I am a proud season ticket holder.
I know it’s only the preseason, but either way, pro football has arrived. There’s that certain chill in the Cleveland air. As a lifelong Browns fan, I can feel it in my bone.
Our young Pumkinheads welcome the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday night – the same team they’ll face in the home opener two weeks from Sunday. That probably means the Brownies won’t be showing Philly any cards by dipping into their limitless bag of offensive trickeration.
But that’s fine by me. I’m just looking for some progress from the youngsters – specifically from QB Brandon Weeden, RT Mitchell Schwartz and WR Josh Gordon. And I’d like to see the backup quarterback situation to get worked out once and for all.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Plenty of cynics were eager to pooh-pooh the Browns’ 2-0 start as meaningless. But I disagree. I feel that winning breeds winning and doing so on the road is even more important. If the Browns want to “change the culture” it has to start somewhere.
Think about that next time you try to pooh-pooh my Brownies.
The Mouth That Roared – Before my fortnight sabbatical, I vowed not to write about the Indians if their season continued its painful swirl down the turlet. The only exception was if Chris Perez did something stupid.
Of course, it didn’t take long before the Tribe’s version of Kenny Powers did exactly that – engaging a heckler in Oakland, calling him a so-and-so and telling him to take this-and-that out of his here-and-there. Of course, it was all caught on camera.
Many of those same cynics who hated on my Browns are calling for Perez to be fined or suspended or traded or hung, drawn and quartered.
Perez is the only exciting thing the Tribe has going right now. If the All-Star reliever wasn’t shoving his foot in his mouth every two weeks, can you imagine how much more boring this season would’ve been? They dealt for Brett Lillibridge at the Deadline. Grady Sizemore’s season came and went. And Manny Acta is barely registering a pulse.
The Indians take on the Yankees this weekend and beating the Bronx Bombers is always fun – regardless of the standings.
But that’s the last I’ll write about the Tribe this fall. That is, unless Chris Perez does something stupid between now and the end of the season …
Holy Spokes! – Of the veritable smorgasbord of sports we’ve covered in this column, pro cycling has never been among them. I only know one cyclist. We all do. It’s Lance Armstrong.
And on Friday, news broke that the sport’s true icon would be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, his bronze medal from the 2000 Olympics and receive a lifetime ban from cycling.
That means for the rest of his days, Lance Armstrong isn’t permitted to ride a bicycle, unicycle, scooter, rickshaw, pedal-start moped or one of those old-timey bikes with the enormous front wheel. He’s not even allowed to pedal a little tricycle through cones if he’s chosen as a contestant in one of those wacky contests basketball games have during timeouts.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has been on Armstrong for years; the charges have almost overshadowed his prolific cycling career. And after passing hundreds of drug tests throughout his career, he’d finally had enough.
“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” Armstrong said. “The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.”
Basically, Armstrong told them to shove their titles and tests. And I say “bully” for him!
Crying In Baseball – Finally, I have no choice but to make my annual mention of the 66th annual Little League World Series, currently being played in South Williamsport, Pa.
I wish I could focus on some of the great plays or on the wonderful opportunity these kids are given, like the Ugandan team that advanced this year. I wish I could write about this year’s final four – California, Tennessee, Japan and Panama.
But instead, all I can think of is the perverse joy that my close friend and Cavaliers Graphics Director, Mark Podolak, derives from seeing the competitors cry after being eliminated. He revels in their misery, bounding around the office when one of the young competitors breaks into waterworks – and it disgusts me.
Just because a kid breaks down like a weak little sissy after losing the biggest game of his young life is no cause for joy or celebration. One would think that Podolak – a father of two young boys himself – would understand that.
But apparently his cruelty knows no bounds. And to top it off, this is the mook I have Browns season tickets with.
And on that note, I think it’s time to wrap up this week’s episizode of News … Around … The … League.
I realize we didn’t get to any Today-in-History stuff, but trust me – it was the same old crap. The Nazis were up to their evil hijinks. The Vandals and Visigoths – as they seem to every Friday – were sacking, pillaging and plundering. The only noteworthy event celebrated August 24 is the “International Day Against Intolerance, Discrimination and Violence Based on Musical Preferences, Lifestyle and Dress Code.”
I’m against all those first few things and for all the next few, except for a dress code, which I’m against.
If you’re going to the Browns game on Friday, I’ll see you there. If not, have yourselves a merry little weekend. And remember: if you’re having more than a few cold-brews, make sure to get a designated driver or catch a cab. Saturday morning You will thank Friday night You.
Peace be with you, Cavalier fans. Enjoy your weekend and please remember to …
Keep the faith, Cleveland