The Optimist Goes to Pittsburgh

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Shalom, Cavalier fans. It’s me, the Optimist – escaping with my life and not much else – from the Belly of the Beast: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As a native Clevelander, I’ve learned to grow eyes in the back of my head when I roll through the ‘Burgh. This is enemy soil for me and my Northern Ohio ilk. They can smell Clevelanders the second we roll through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

And if being in Stiller Country on Tuesday night wasn’t bad enough, our beloved Cavaliers had to face my personal nemeses, the Boston Celtics. Last time the Wine and Gold took on the C’s in an off-site preseason game, Paul Pierce spat in the general direction of our boy, Luke Jackson.

Luke exacted his revenge on Tuesday, leading the Cavaliers with 14 points in the win. Still, you can imagine my trepidations when we crossed the Allegheny on the way to Mellon Arena on Tuesday afternoon.

Taking a win out of this place was no easy task, my friends.

Technically, it was a home game. But let me assure you that immediately after the convincing 96-86 victory – with TheBron tied behind our back, might I add – my Cavalier cohorts and I loaded into the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle and got the halogen out of the Steel City faster than you can say “Rothlisberger.” We would be rolling into the Quicken Loans Arena parking lot by now if not for the numerous bathroom stops we’ve already made for The Nuse.

But before we get to Tuesday night’s beating of the sucker MCs from Beantown, I must report – with an extremely heavy heart – the passing of the Poet Laureate of Television: Nipsey Russell.

Nipsey Russell
1924-2005
Like Jackie Robinson, Nipsey shattered the once-impermeable game show color barrier on programs like “The $50,000 Pyramid” and “Match Game ’75.” He also went on to star in Academy Award-winning films such as “The Wiz” and “Car 54, Where Are You?”

But the main reason I have a soft spot for the Nipster is that he shares a birthday – October 13 – with luminaries like Lenny Bruce, Jerry Rice, Ashanti, Ali G, The Red Rocker -- Sammy Hagar, Paul Simon and your pal, the Optimist.

So, in memory of the late, great Nipsey Russell, who passed away one week before his 81st birthday, please observe with me this moment of silence …




Thank you.

Many of you have written my e-mailing machine wondering why in the wide, wide world of sports the Cavaliers would travel all the way to Pennsylvania to play a “home” game. The simple answer is that the Wine and Gold is trying to expand their popularity throughout the region.

A lot of basketball fans aren’t aware of the fact that the city of Pittsburgh has a fine hoops tradition that has, unfortunately, been dormant since the mid-70s. The Cavaliers organization is merely trying to help the Steel City re-ignite their passion for basketball.

Pittsburgh Pisces forward Moses Guthrie battles former Celtics legend, Larry Bird.
Many moons ago, the Pittsburgh Pythons were the worst team in the NBA, even though they had one of the league’s most electrifying performers – a forward by the name of Moses Guthrie, who looked almost exactly like former Sixers legend, Julius “Dr. J” Erving.

The team didn’t start winning until the regulars walked out and a psychic by the name of Mona suggested that the team only select players born under the zodiac sign of Pisces – the same sign as Guthrie. Together this group of misfits, led by Coach Jock Delaney – who looked almost exactly like comedian Flip Wilson – went on to win the NBA title under the new name of the Pisces. Around these parts, these legendary cagers are simply known as “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.”

I realize many of you are reading out there on the World Wide Web and you might be thinking, “How different can Clevelanders and Pittsburghers be from each other? They’re only two hours apart.”

That’s an understandable question if you didn’t grow up around these parts. If you did, you’d realize that not only are Clevelanders quite dissimilar than our Keystone State brethren, but we speak an entirely different language.

For example, “you guys” in English can be loosely translated in Pittsburghese as “y’uns” or “yunz.” Bologna is called “jumbo,” a grocery bag is called a “sack” and a rubber band is called a “gumband,” if you can believe it. They pronounce my fair state: “Ahia.”

Overall, Pittsburghers are nice folks and they don’t let the language barrier get in the way. If you’re polite with them, you can simply point at what you want – a half-pound of this “jumbo” that they fancy, for example – and usually they’ll be very cooperative. If you’re not, they have another word for you. It starts with “jag” but I can’t type the rest of the word in this family-style column.

Pittsburgh was founded in 1758 and this man is still the most prolific individual in their history.
Aside from that, our differences are not as vast as many Midwesterners believe. They like to chide us Clevelanders about their Super Bowl rings. “One for the thumb!” – Pittsburghers like to say, conveniently forgetting that football was not invented in 1970.

To be honest, I’m a huge fan of Pittsburgh. It really is a beautiful city, filled with culture, character and hilly streets that are tough to park on. They have the Andy Warhol Museum and an IKEA, so really, what’s not to love?

What makes a trip to Pittsburgh even sweeter is bringing home a Cavaliers win over the Celtics. Cleveland teams aren’t exactly used to leaving the ‘Burgh with a victory, so I’ll take it.

Speaking of the Celtics – and this might surprise some of you out there – I must say that Tuesday night’s win wasn’t as sweet as a victory over Boston usually is. You see, October 13 is also Celtics head coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers' birthday and I sure hate bringing down a fellow Libra so close to his special day.

But these are sacrifices that we must make for a Cavaliers victory, which supercedes all things.

Get used to the undefeated record, people. I predict seven more months of the same. You’ll feel the same way if you remember to just …

Keep the faith, y’uns.

Your pal,
The Optimist