The Optimist in Athens
My name is The Optimist and I'm still running for Eastern Conference Optimist of the Month. I approve of this message.
Dear Cavalier Fans,
A hale-and-hearty Merhaba! from Turkish airspace. I'm writing from the team plane on the way to Eleftherios Venizelos or the Athens International Airport. Those Greeks sure love their "s"s, I thought to myself as we were leaving Istanbul Not Constaniople the other day. In fact, I was thinking of changing my nom de plume to be "The Optimistis" while I'm in Greece, but then I decided that it's just too tough to pronounce.
See what I did there, people?
I got all international on y'all. I started with a Turkish greeting, went right into the properly-spelled Greek airport, back to the Turkish bit and closed with an antiquated French word for "pen name." I'm feeling the Olympic spirit, people, and we're still three hours from Athens!
Mike Farmer of the Miami Heat and I were selected from among 29 NBA Optimists (the Charlotte Bobcats have yet to choose theirs) to accompany the American team overseas. And this might sound hokey, but I am proud to be representing both my country and the Cleveland Cavaliers. God bless the U.S.A. and God bless the Wine and Gold. Amen.
Most people are unaware that certain team's Optimists travel with the Olympic squad. I can tell you that U.S.A. Men's Senior National Head Coach Larry Brown didn't.
Not 30 minutes ago, Brown had a rather burly flight attendant escort me back to my seat in second class. What a scene! I'm not proud of it.
Later, I felt bad about putting my hometown bias over team and country. I mean, Larry Brown is the only man to ever win an ABA, NBA and NCAA title. Who the heck am I, of all people, to question him?
Coach Brown, if you're reading this column tomorrow morning in the hotel, I'm sorry about the incident on the plane.
(But a DNP for TheBron?! Come on, man!)
Anyway, I'm not the only member of the Cavaliers family to be making the trip. Our venerable head of security, Marvin Cross, is also making the journey to the XXVIII Olympiad. Marvin's job is to watch me, LeBron and the rest of the U.S. Men's team for the next two weeks and there isn't anyone better in the business. So, Cavaliers' president Len Komoroski can sleep easy knowing that his team's two prized possessions are well-kept.
Marvin is as nice a man as he is tough. He was a Cleveland cop for over 23 years. He can talk hoops. He can break chops. But the man is all business around the U.S. Squad. A couple of shady-looking Serbio-Montenegran customers were hanging around the gym on August 6. Marvin just shot them that look and they knew to beat it.
Marvin Cross is a nice guy, but he'll crush your head like a walnut if he has to.
I've been thinking about what I might say to her if by some chance we happen to cross paths on the Greek Isles. I want to tell her about a recurring dream I've had about her ever since I saw her on ESPN for the first time. I had it again on the plane trip from the States.
It starts out with Jennie Finch pitching for the University of Arizona Wildcats. It's a beautiful, sun-drenched day, Arizona's ahead and Jennie Finch is bringing it, hitting the high-eighties on the speed gun.
The dream continues like that for a while when suddenly, I am on the opposite team, Southern Cal. My manager peers down the bench and she asks me to pinch-hit. I walk slowly up to the batter's box. There I am, looking Jennie Finch in her beautiful blue eyes from home plate. She wheels and fires and drills me in the ribs with an 85 mph fastball and I go down, as Joe Tait would say, in a heap.
Both benches clear and the field is filled with Lady Wildcats and Lady Trojans kicking the crap out of each other. It's the Mother Of All Catfights, baby!
That's about when I wake up.
I know it sounds crazy. But that's my dream. And isn't living the dream what the Olympics are all about?
I'll write back when we hit terra firma. So long from somewhere near Athens, Greece.
Keep the faith, Cleveland.