Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! Friend and foe alike call me “Optimist” – and whichever category you fall into, you’ve stumbled straight into the sports horn-of-plenty we like to call NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.
Last week I wrote about the “sports confluence”: NFL and college football, MLB playoffs and, of course, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball – all in perfect alignment. But that shan’t be the case this weekend. And you can blame the NBA’s schedulemakers for this fakakta arrangement.
The Kid Cavaliers did take the hardwood twice this past week. On Monday night in the ‘Nati, things worked out well. Two nights later in Philly … not so much.
In Monday’s 114-111 win over Orlando, forward Omri Casspi allowed his teammates to shower up and get ready for the trip to PA as he single-handedly outscored the Magic in overtime – 7-4 – giving Cleveland its third preseason win. Kyrie Irving led the Cavs with 22 points; CJ Miles added 17.
Two nights later in the City of Brotherly Love, Sixers center Spencer Hawes hit a three-pointer at the first quarter buzzer and it bummed Byron Scott’s squad out for the entire second period. By the time they regrouped, it was too late. Kyrie led the Cavs again with 23 points. Boobie scored 18 off the bench and Tristan Thompson doubled-up with 10 points and 10 boards.
The Wine and Gold have just one tune-up remaining – on Tuesday night against the Pacemakers – before the regular season tips off exactly seven days later against Washington.
But just because the Cavaliers have the weekend off doesn’t mean that you readers do. We’ve got all kinds of stuff to cover before I turn you loose.
In fact, I feel like I’ve been cutting you guys waayyyyy too much slack over the past few weeks. We’ve been glazing over Today-in-History and skipping right to the Birthday celebrations. That’s weak! Anyone can celebrate a birthday. How hard is it to wolf down cake or pound shots?
Today, we’re going to have ourselves a little History lesson. And just to make sure it’s extra-boring, I’ve decided to throw in some Theology.
Last year, I recalled a sad childhood Christmas story in which – instead of receiving the toy machine gun w/tripod that I requested – my folks gave me two books: one about Roman Catholic saints and one about the star quarterbacks of that era such as Fran Tarkenton, James Harris and Kenny “The Snake” Stabler.
At first, I was cheesed. But then I started reading both books and discovered that there were Catholic saints that were even more interesting and had suffered even more hardships than the Bengals’ Ken Anderson.
And today – October 19 – my book celebrates some pretty rough-and-tumble Saints: The North American Martyrs.
Being saintly and pious and doing good works is fine. But my favorite Saints come from one of two categories: One, they have the ability to levitate or cure the sick or do the stigmata thing. Or two, they’re able to weather horrible physical abuses and not fold on their faith.
The North American Martyrs -- unfortunately for them – fall into the latter group.
The North American Martyrs was a group comprised eight Jesuit missionaries from Sainte-Marie who – while trying to bring the Church’s teachings to the Iroquois tribes –were brutally tortured and martyred in the mid-17th century in Canada.
It all started out in 1642, when St. Isaac Jogues and his group of Huron Christians were captured by a war party of Mohawk Iroquois. They were taken back to the Mohawk village where they were gruesomely tortured. For his part, St. Isaac had several of his fingers chopped off and was enslaved.
But one day, Dutch traders busted St. Isaac out of the Mohawk camp and he was eventually able to return home to France, where he was celebrated as a “living martyr.”
But this experience did not dim St. Isaac’s missionary zeal.
So he got a new group of missionaries together and, in the spring of 1646, they returned to Mohawk country. Things were going much more smoothly on the second go-round until the double-whammy of crop failure and smallpox hit the Mohawks. Naturally, they blamed the new guys. And St. Isaac and his buddies were beheaded and thrown into the river.
As my fellow Roman Catholics know, we give out big points for pain and shame and guilt and anything else that’s not fun. Getting your fingers and/or head chopped off and unceremoniously tossed in the drink is about as un-fun as you can get. So for an effort like the one Isaac Jogues and his seven comrades put forth, they were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930. So they’ve got that going for them – which is nice.
Unfortunately for us, the Martyrs vs. Mohawks recap has put us well behind schedule.
That means we have very little time for Current Events, which is a shame, because today’s tale actually involved a superhero.
That superhero is 33-year-old Mark Wayne Williams, who, this past week in Petoskey, Michigan – while dressed as Batman – was arrested by local police for obstruction after trying to help them search for a driver who had fled an accident.
The incident was not Williams’ first brush with the law as the caped crusader. He was sentenced to six months of probation last year after police received a report of a man dressed as Batman on the roof of a Petoskey business.
Williams (pictured left) maintains that he has nothing but good intentions, and I believe him. Other than the armpit sweat-stains, this isn’t a bad Batman look – although I’m not sure how he intends to fight crime or track down hit-and-run offenders without a utility belt.
After this most recent incident, Williams was booked and released. He returned to his 33-room Petoskey mansion, where he and his butler, Alfred, retired to a state-of-the-art basement lair to test exotic weapons and mourn the loss of Williams’ wealthy parents, who were murdered outside a theatre when he was a child.
OK. Between the North American Martyrs and the Batman of Petoskey, we’re totally behind the 8-ball. The only thing left to do is drop everything and proceed directly to the rest of this week’s installment of News … Around … The … League …
Curse Killer – Last week, I was forced to admit that I was wrong about Major League Baseball playoffs. I still think the scheduling is turrible, with postseason contests being played on weekday afternoons. But the drama of the actual games superseded my complaints.
And now – for the second time in as many weeks – I find myself wearing the dreaded Ribbons of Shame™ over my coverage of professional baseball. And what makes it worse: I snubbed my own beloved Indians.
Yes, last week I was so blinded with rage for Bud Selig that I completely forgot to celebrate the Tribe’s hiring of new manager, 53-year-old Terry Francona.
I admit that I was one of the cynics who thought Francona was merely flirting with the Tribe in order to draw interest from other, sexier franchises. But I was wrong. At his introductory press conference, the Indians’ new skipper looked and sounded like a man committed to the long haul.
Of course, by now everyone knows Francona’s long history with the Tribe. His father played for Cleveland from 1959-64 and Terry himself played briefly for the Indians – logging 62 games in 1988. He was also an advisor to the front office in 2001.
The Tribe needs all the help it can get. They finished 20 games out of first place and went 18-45 after June 27. But if there’s a guy who knows something about putting an end to futility, it’s Francona – who snapped the Sox’ 86-year drought, taking the Whole Enchilada in 2004 and 2007.
Here’s hoping Francona can turn this thing around and the Tribe can go back to treating the Tigers and White Sox the way the Mohawks treated the North American Martyrs – figuratively speaking, of course.
Indiana Jones – It’s been brewing for a while now, but our Brownies – in the wake of a monumental ownership change – finally put together that one-game winning streak we’ve been hoping for all season.
This weekend in Indianapolis, Pat Shurmur’s squad looks to make it two straight when they take on Andrew Luck and the Colts.
Sunday’s contest will feature the matchup of two rookie quarterbacks: Brandon Weeden, who’s improved in each of his first six starts, and Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall pick who’s got all the physical tools and is far more intelligent than his bad teeth would indicate. The two squared off in last year’s uber-entertaining Fiesta Bowl, with Weeden getting the better of Luck.
After snapping their 11-game losing streak, the Browns will now try to end their 10-game road losing skein. The last time Cleveland won away from Browns Stadium was September 18, 2011 – when they topped the Colts in Indy.
Confucius say the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. The Browns took the first step last Sunday. They’ll take the next step this Sunday as Trent Richardson rushes for a career-high 161 yards and our Pumpkinheads hold on for the 23-21 victory.
And that, my friends, will conclude this week’s episizode of News … Around … The … League.
I hope you readers got everything you came for today. I apologize for not having room to celebrate today’s Birthday boys and girls – most exspecially former Cavalier, Brad Daugherty.
Even though the five-time All-Star – whose number hangs in the rafters of The Q – doesn’t come around to say hello, I still revere him as a ballplayer. Like so many NBA players before him, he found a home in the NASCAR circuit and now, it’s as if the ol’ Wine and Gold doesn’t exist.
And even though it hurts my feelings, I’m a grown man. And I don’t hold petty grudges. So happy birthday, Brad! I’m sure you’re “working hard” down on Tobacco Road and I wish you all the best.
As for the rest of you non-All-Stars, I wish you the best, too. Have yourselves a merry little weekend and please remember to honor your mother and father, to always be yourself, to call a cab if you’re pie-eyed and, most importantly, to …
Keep the faith, Cleveland