Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m the Optimist, and if my calculations are correct, this Friday marks not only the start of Labor Day Weekend but also the release of another high-octane installment of News … Around … The … League.
Labor Day Weekend is always a bittersweet time of year. Yes, it’s a three-day weekend. But it’s also a three-day weekend that signifies the end of summer.
Historically speaking, the inception of Labor Day Weekend can be traced back to 1894, when President Grover Cleveland – looking to reverse the bad press from the Pullman Strike in which several strikers were killed at the hands of U.S. Marshals – gave workers Monday off.
Most reasonable laborers will gladly exchange a few co-workers’ lives for a three-day weekend. And as a former Teamster (Local 407), I’m no exception. I’d eagerly sacrifice select members of the Web Team if it meant I could stay home and watch “The Price is Right” in my underpants.
But it’s a completely different story heading into this Labor Day. On this Labor Day Weekend, no amount of Presidential pandering can placate the Optimist! Today, I am the last angry man!
In fact, today’s entire column will be written UNDER PROTEST.
Yes, today is Friday. Yes, we have Monday off and there’s college football and barbeques in-between. And you might think a perfect storm like that would have me high on life. But you’d be mistaken.
Instead, I’ll probably spend the weekend filled with rage; hot-blooded rage over the cold-blooded dismissal of the great Jerry Lewis as host of the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon – an abomination in the eyes of both God and man.
The legendary funnyman has served as Muscular Dystrophy Association’s chairman for 60 years and has hosted the Telethon for the past 45. But this year, the King of Comedy was shown the door.
Through his tenure, the 85-year-old Lewis has raised over $2.6 billion against the dreaded disease – helping afflicted children of all ages and bringing in some of the biggest stars of the day, from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Cash to the Supremes to help him.
Despite failing health in recent years, Jerry pressed on, straight through Sunday night and into Monday evening when he closed out the ceremonies – and the summer – with a tear-jerking rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
This year’s Labor Day Telethon will be on for a grand total of 6 ½ hours and, ironically, will not appear at all on Labor Day. The quartet of junior bantamweights scheduled to host include Nigel Lythgoe (“So You Think You Can Dance’’), Nancy O’Dell (“Entertainment Tonight’’), Alison Sweeney (“The Biggest Loser’’) and Jann Carl (billed as “an Emmy-winning journalist’’).
I’m still going to pledge my hard-earned – and I urge you to do the same. We shouldn’t punish Jerry’s Kids for the brass’ bad decision. But make no mistake: Labor Day has lost its leader. And if the Big Boys upstairs have anything to say about it, Santa better watch his fat arse too.
Still, we press on.
Six whole paragraphs of valuable N.A.T.L. space dedicated to Le Roi du Crazy is on me. I’ll own that. But now it’s time to get this column steered back towards the wide, wide world of sports.
That’s tough luck for those of you hoping to read my review of Dick Cheney’s steamy tell-all biography “In My Time.”
It’s mostly pillow-talk, but there’s also plenty of political salaciousness. Cheney promised the book would make “heads explode” in Washington D.C., and based on early returns, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happened.
If the former Halliburton exec had known all he had to do was write a book to make his friend’s heads explode, he could have saved himself the time and trouble of shooting them in the face. But I guess this is what we call a “teachable moment.”
You’re never too old to stop learning new things. So, like Dick Cheney, let’s expand our horizons as we scrutinize the sports universe in this week’s News … Around … The … League.
Down With the D-League – Hardcore hoops fans can rejoice that a date has officially been set for basketball – November 25.
That’s the day that the Cavaliers still-unnamed D-League League team will host their inaugural game – tipping off against the defending NBA D-League Champion Iowa Energy at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Canton opens with a four-game homestand and they’ll face every opponent twice, except the Tulsa 66ers and the Reno Bighorns – who they play only once. For their own sake, the Dakota Wizards will duck Canton all season.
The Canton D-League club will play the Cavs former developmental team, the Erie BayHawks (now exclusively aligned with the Knicks) six times and takes on Fort Wayne a schedule-high seven times this season. I don’t know much about Fort Wayne’s squad other than the only thing cooler than the team’s name (“Mad Ants”) is the name of their dance team (“Madame Ants”).
With the Cavaliers minor league talent developing just a stone’s throw from The Q, it’s going to be an exciting year of basketball in the center of Stark County.
Reserve Judgement – One of the keys to enjoying preseason football is the ability, each week, to learn something new about your squad and their opponents – especially this season, with so many players changing addresses.
For example, just this past week, I learned from ESPN: The Magazine that under the helmet and shaded facemask-visor, Michael Vick is actually white! I was shocked. But it does explain why 338-pound Phil Taylor from Baylor was able to chase him down so easily last Thursday night.
Taylor, along with most of the Browns starters, played sparingly in Thursday night’s 24-14 loss in the preseason finale in Chicago.
In fact, head coach Pat Shurmur sat 18 of his 22 starters on Thursday night. He got a good, final look at some of his youngsters trying to make the final roster – led by running back Armond Smith, defensive end Alex English, wideout Rod Windsor and cornerback James Dockery.
The real bullets start to fly one week from Sunday, when the hated Bengals roll into town. The Browns already roughed up one pale-skinned, red-headed QB last week in Philadelphia. I’m ready for a second helping against Cincy’s rookie, Andy Dalton.
Road Warriors – With each passing week, the upstart Indians find themselves in a different lobster pot. They were 1 ½ games out of first place two weekends ago. As we enter play in Kansas City this weekend, the bruised and battered Sons of the Cuyahoga current trail Detroit by 5 ½ games with one month to play.
This weekend is enormous for our beloved Tribe.
While they attempt to make hay against the Royals, the White Sox and Tigers will do battle in Detroit. And when the smoke clears from the weekend, Jim Leyland’s Tigers return to Cleveland on Labor Day.
Jack Hannahan is white-hot and Carlos Santana has been raking for a couple weeks. Justin Masterblasterson has emerged as a true ace. And I’m once again proud to call Jim Thome my homey (despite Ozzie Guillen’s grumblings).
But the rest of the young Indians bats have to heat up as the weather cools down. It’s time for the Tribe’s final push.
There you have it, folks. The final News … Around … The … League of the summer.
According to the weatherperson, it’s supposed to be hotter than Oscar De La Hoya in drag this weekend. So get out that Slip-N-Slide™ and fire up that grill one last time before Father Winter rears his ugly old head.
Get your money’s worth this weekend, party animals! But just remember: if you’re staggering around drunk in the Warehouse District, don’t attempt to get on a Party Bus that’s not yours – especially if there’s a female driver. She’ll split your lip whether you’re a movie star or not.
As for the rest of you, I’ll see you next fall.
As long as I’m around – as the great Jerry Lewis once sang – you’ll never walk alone.
Keep the faith, Cleveland