The Optimist

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Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s just your buoyant bud – the Optimist. And it’s time for another action-packed episode of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE – the “thrill ride of the summer.” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone)

Normally, in my introductory paragraph, I’d whip something out about Friday, July 29th being the anniversary of the Sack of Thessalonica or Sir Charles and Lady Di’s wedding or the Israeli Supreme Court’s acquittal of John Demjanjuk.

Maybe I’d wish a happy birthday to hard-rocking hoser, Geddy Lee, stoner idol and old-school rapper, Afroman, famed 20th century intellectual, Professor Irwin Corey, or even the bodacious Indian architect and industrialist, J.R.D. Tata.

But not today.

It’s not that we’re loaded with basketball news. In fact, that’s what I wanted to talk to you guys about.

With things the way they are, the pickings have been pretty slim. I’d like to write about current NBA players defecting to the Ottoman Empire, but our legal team warned me that Uncle Dave’s attorneys would have my head on a plate if I mentioned any by name. I need my head for listening to music and eating chips.

Then I thought about doing a piece on the 1980 Lakers-Sixers Finals that they’ve been airing on NBA TV this week. But Bill Livingston was already covering it for the Plain Dealer. And, of course, I would love to write about the WNBA. But when my beloved Cleveland Rockers left, they took a piece of my heart with them. And I vowed on that day to never cover the sport again.

Don’t worry your pretty little heads, Cavalier fans. By next week, we’ll be so loaded with basketball news, you’ll be whistling “Sweet Georgia Brown” out your collective hoo-ha.

But for today, we’ll be talking a little pro football and baseball. Pro hockey is still on sabbatical and soccer’s not a sport.

Oh, stop it!
The trade-off is that, by covering two whole sports, there won’t be enough valuable column space to crunch numbers and discuss the Debt Crisis that has gripped Washington, threatened a government default and (probably) made John Boehner cry like a girl.

I don’t know what any of the fiscal mumbo-jumbo means, either. What I do know is that we elected these people to destroy the middle class. And it seems like it’s taking them forever to do it.

Thank God for sports at a time like this!

I’ve reviewed all the real news from the week and there wasn’t a single lighthearted story, save the 63-year-old Southern California man who attempted to remove his own hernia by cutting it out with a six-inch butter knife. The procedure failed, of course, and while waiting for paramedics, the man removed the knife and inserted the cigarette he was smoking.

See what I mean?!

Let’s get out of this opening section and on with today’s News … Around … The … League before I barf …

War is Over – They say the first step in curing dependency is to admit that you have a problem and accept the fact that you’re powerless against it. For many of us, that dependency is the National Football League.

Though I work for a professional basketball team, I am a self-admitted football junkie. It’s the sport I’ve watched and played my entire life. (As a senior at Garbage Heights High, I was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ famed 0-9-1 season back in the mid-80s.)

So, as you can imagine, throughout the 130-day NFL work stoppage, I was jonesing like a fiend for some football. I know it was still technically the “offseason,” but I still felt like there was freakin’ bugs crawling all over me, man!

Naturally, you can imagine my joy and relief earlier this week when I learned that the owners and Players Association finally reached an accord to put aside this fiscal nincompoopery and get back to business on the gridiron.

After some wrangling over the fine print, on Monday afternoon the Players Association agreed to a 10-year labor agreement to return to work, and it was smiles all around – with the lone exception of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver, Austin Collie, who suffered a concussion when DeMaurice Smith pressed down too hard dotting the “i” in his first name.

This very weekend, our beloved Pumpkinheads are taking the field on Lou Groza Drive. And two weeks from Saturday night, the NFL exhibition season kicks off with the World Champion Green Bay Packers at Browns Stadium.

The Browns, under new coach Pat Shurmur, will be converting to both the West Coast offense and the 4-3 defense. D’Qwell Jackson and Montario Hardesty are healthy. Last year’s rookie DBs, Joe Haden and T.J. Ward, will be a year better. And – best of all – there will be no quarterback controversy.

Naturally, there are still plenty of questions surrounding our Brownies this year. Can they adapt to big scheme changes on both sides of the ball? Is Colt McCoy the quarterback of the future? Is Madden cover boy, Peyton Hillis, just another great Caucasian running back, or is he something unique?

The answers will begin unveiling themselves this weekend in Berea. And I’ll see you knuckaheads there.

It’s Tribe Time Now – On Wednesday of this week, my spidey-senses were tingling.

That was the afternoon that Angels right-hander, Ervin Santana, tossed a no-hitter against our beloved Tribe in a 3-1 loss. It was Santana’s first career win against the slumping Tribe, which also committed five errors in the loss. At least Manny Acta elected to kick the extra point early in the affair, avoiding the embarrassment of the no-no and shut-out.

Start supporting the Tribe or this pink, fuzzy ... thing ... gets it!
On that afternoon, I could feel the local zeitgeist. It was all over The Facebook. As a Clevelander, I’ve felt it before. It’s the point that fans begin readying themselves for surrender; a defense mechanism – preventive acceptance.

This stinking-thinking fills me with the urge to defecate.

The Tribe is a mere 1.5 games out of first place in the Central. They have perennial cupcakes, Kansas City, rolling into town this weekend and the Tigers and Twinkies in two weeks. The front office just bolstered the outfield with Kosuke Fukudome, and might do more before the Trade Deadline arrives. Shin Soo Choo will be back by the end of the month and, hopefully, Grady Sizemore can get back some of the form that made him a three-time All-Star.

Now is precisely the time NOT to give up! The Tribe is one of Major League Baseball’s cinderella stories and we’re getting to the juicy part of the season.

There’s still plenty of baseball to be played. For a lot of years, the Indians were a juggernaut that was expected to win. Nobody expected them to win this year.

This weekend, I see the Tribe’s offense coming to life. I feel Progressive Field percolating in preparation for early-autumn magic. You’ve seen it before, Cleveland.

Don’t be on the outside looking in when it happens.

There. I feel much better now.

I hope you nerds didn’t mind the dearth of pro hoops news. I tried to keep your spirits high with Training Camp tales and Wahoo wishes – along with a cautionary tale about doing hernia surgery on yourself or attempting to cauterize the wound with a lit cigarette.

Have a fantastic weekend, Cavallieros. Get your stuff, get out, and I’ll meet you back here next Friday.

In betwixt now and then, if you can possibly manage the time, please remember to …

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

One love,
The Optimist