The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! Friend and foe alike know me as “Optimist.” And irregardless of the date, an offseason Friday in Cavalier Country means it’s time for another journey into that heart of darkness known as NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

This is the part of the column where I normally tell you readers what went down on past August Twelfths.

But other than the anniversary of Cleopatra committing suicide by asp, the 69th birthday of German sports physician, Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt, or the Christian feast day of the mighty Saint Herculanus of Brescia – there ain’t much that’s unique about August 12.

Nice asp.
I guess I could tell you about the first flight of the Space Shuttle Enterprise back in 1977. But even that ended in disappointment, having never actually reached space – the final frontier – despite Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott giving it all she’d got.

Anyway – who cares what the date is as long as it’s a Friday!

And unless you owe money to Big Worm or live in Iran – (where Friday marks the last day of the weekend) – you’re Thanking God that It’s here. I know I do. I thank God for letting me live in a country that gets its weekends right. No wonder Iran is always so cheesed off at America. They hate our Fridays.

This particular Friday is fantastic because we actually have a little NBA news to discuss. It’s not Cavaliers news. (We should be so lucky.) But it is related to the sport we love – and for that I also give thanks.

So let’s not fritter away costly column space like we have on Fridays past, OK?

Sure, I wish we had time to discuss the massive riots in England, where thousands of unruly youngsters took the streets after learning that an overweight middle-aged woman had eaten waifish 80s pop icon, Sinead O’Connor, and was traveling around British nightclubs using her voice.

For four nights, the UK was gripped by these violent “hoodies” who ransacked several major cities – causing millions of pounds in damage and making off with several of London’s flaming dumpsters (pictured).

Unlike past events in America and British Columbia, the riots which swept across Great Britain were not based on the celebration of, or disappointment over, a Championship in a major sport – and thus the violence and destruction of property was utterly senseless.

My message to the United Kingdome is simple: YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE POLITE!!! Act like bloody Great Britain! Not like Detroit after the Lions win their Thanksgiving game!

You Brits can take a lesson in both structure and discipline simply by reading today’s column, which will move deftly through this past week’s News … Around … The … League.

Hall of a Weekend – Speaking of big Worms, this weekend marks the induction of the 2011 Class to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

The Worm – Dennis Rodman – is among ten new inductees to the Hall. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year and five-time NBA Champion once kicked a photographer in the jimmy and married himself before a book signing. He made up for it later by marrying Carmen Electra instead – which puts him in my Hall of Fame.

This year’s ceremonies won’t feature Joe Tait giving away valuable podium time or Michael Jordan ripping on everyone but the dude in the Hanes™ t-shirt who sits next to him on the plane. But Rodman should put some color into the weekend’s festivities.

Other inductees include 11-time All-Star, Artis Gilmore, who’s still the NBA’s career leader in field goal percentage and cool sideburns. Former Dream Teamer, Chris Mullin, of “Run TMC” fame enters the Hall, as does influential Lithuanian big man, Arvydas Sabonis. Former Harlem Globetrotter and the inventor of the hook shot, Goose Tatum, takes his place in Springfield, as does Satch Sanders – who won eight rings with the hated Boston Celtics back in the ‘60s.

On the coaching side, legendary Stanford (and one-time Ohio State) head coach Tara VanDerveer is enshrined this weekend. So is Philadelphia University's Herb Magee as well as 89-year-old Tex Winter – who invented the Triangle Offense, a system which sounds simple but can be fully grasped and understood by one other human, Phil Jackson.

Mazel tov to the 2011 Hall of Fame Class! Thank you for advancing the game and giving me some basketball news to write about. And although Dennis Rodman is way hotter than Ricky Williams in his wedding dress, I still hope he doesn’t break it out on Friday night.

Pigskinpalooza – Hank Williams, Jr. needn’t ask me if I’m ready for football.

I am.

And this Saturday night on the shores of Great Lake Erie, my beloved Browns take the field against the Green Bay Packers in their first preseason matchup.

Let’s not kid ourselves: Preseason games blow. But football is football, and once Alex Mack hikes the pigskin to young Colt McCoy, it’s on like Donkey Kong. And I’ve got a good feeling about this year’s pack of Pumpkinheads. Maybe I say that every year. But this year, I mean it.

More than anything, I feel like grown-ups are in charge of the organization. The offensive line is rock solid and the defensive line is being stocked with high-round draft picks. The team is steering away from Eric Mangenius’ philosophy of inserting special teamers or former Jets at every position and towards Tom Heckert’s plan to fill those roles with players who have speed, skill and talent.

As legendary Plain Dealer columnist Terrance Planet once told me: If you put a Browns helmet on the 50-yard line of Cleveland Browns Stadium, 35,000 fans would show up to cheer it and 35,000 fans would show up to boo it.

What’s great about Saturday night is that there’ll be actual players in Browns helmets. They’ll be taking on the World Champs as the exhibition season kicks off in Cleveland, and I’ll be down there with my fellow mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging brethren pulling for them.

In the Tribe – When it comes to baseball success, to paraphrase department store magnate William Dillard, it’s all about rotation, rotation, rotation. Or to quote former Pirates ace, Bob Veale: “Good pitching always beats good hitting.”

The Tribe’s bats came alive last weekend, as predicted in this column. But what encourages me as the Indians head into a weekend series with the Twinkies three games back is that their young rotation is as good as any in the American League right now. And if the Sons of the Cuyahoga can somehow reach the postseason, a short rotation of Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin can take them a long way.

We are all Kipnesses.
This week also saw the emergence of a scrappy folk hero – Jason Kipnis – who had a prolific rookie performance this past Wednesday night. Manager Manny Acta lovingly referred to him as a “dirt bag,” which can only enhance his status as a cult star in Cleveland.

Clevelanders love dirt bags. And we love a scrappy young bunch of ballplayers who’ve taken this thing much farther than anyone expected in April.

With the Tribe’s next nine against the Central Division – including the Motor City Kitties next weekend – things are about to get real interesting, real fast.

Maybe I’ll see some of you nerds at Progressive Field or Browns Stadium over this banner sports weekend in Cleveland. Or maybe, we’ll cross paths while I’m breaking a braciole at the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy.

If not, please enjoy the rest of your Friday. Whether you’re a button-down type, eschewing your dress slacks for dungarees on Casual Friday or you’re filling your car up with Jagermeister™ and going full-Blutarski – I wish you all the best.

And as for you, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – Let your people go!

Sure, every day is Casual Friday for you! You’re the boss. But what about regular old Jalal Sixpack, who's just workin' for the weekend? Instead of lying in bed hungover, like I plan to on Saturday morning, he’ll be right back in the rat race.

I’m not saying your people will get on the Twitter and go all Arab Spring on your arse this weekend. But you can only deprive Persians of their Fridays for so long before they rise up and demand that their weekend starts on time.

As for we Americans, let’s get this party started!

Have yourselves a merry little weekend and we’ll speak again seven days from now. In that span, you can fill every waking moment in an effort to …

Keep the Faith, Cleveland

Su hermano,
The Optimist