The Optimist

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Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s me, the Grand Mufti of Great Expectations – and with the work week wrapping up, let’s punch out, wash up and get on with another earth-shattering installment of News … Around … The … League.

Normally, I like to warm up the crowd with a little “today-in-history.” But to my chagrin, there wasn’t squat to choose from on September 23rd. Even the birthdays of big guns like John Coltrane and Bruce Springsteen were barely nudging N.A.T.L.’s needle.

But then I dug a little deeper and saw that devout Catholics like myself should actually be celebrating a pair of big feast days.

I realize this is a secular, non-denominational column. And I also realize some of you Cavs fans don’t give a crap about Catholic saints. When I was a youngster, I didn’t either.

But one Christmas, instead of getting the sweet toy machine gun that I asked for, my folks bought me a pair of books.

One book was called “The Quarterbacks,” and it featured all the most dominant signal-callers of the day. Guys like James Harris, Joe Ferguson and Bert Jones. The other book, whose name I can’t recall, featured tales of all the Catholic saints.

At first, I was disappointed and bored with the book. I thought it was a ploy by my parents to get me to memorize saints’ names so the nuns would stop waterboarding me. But the more I read, the more I found out how brave and interesting these old-timers were. And I really took to the idea of individuals standing up for their beliefs despite being mauled, maimed, boiled in oil, beheaded, stoned, crucified and called names.

And today – before we peel through the pungent onion that is the wide world of sports – we really should celebrate a pair of heavy hitters.

First up is the great Padre Pio (b. 1887) – a three-tool saint who experienced stigmata (marks or sores corresponding to the wounds of Jesus), transverberation (also known as “spiritual ecstasy”) and bilocation (the ability to be in two places at once). Brothers at the seminary where Padre Pio studied as a teen claimed to have seen him levitate.

In September of 1968, the day after the 50th anniversary of his receiving the stigmata, Padre Pio said his last mass and passed away two days later. He was declared a saint in 2002. Over 300,000 people attended his canonization ceremony in Rome.

Unlike Padre Pio, Saint Sossius (b. 275) didn’t have the gift of levitation. Otherwise, he would’ve levitated his arse right out of the courtroom of Judge Dragontius, who found out he was a Christian and sentenced him to be shredded by wild bears at the local amphitheater.

Before the match, Sossius’ good buddies – Januarius, Festus, and Desiderius – went to visit him in jail at the sulphur mines of Pozzuoli. But this tipped the authorities that they too were Christian, a move that doomed all four to be sentenced to mauling by wild bears.

But, as legend has it, when the beasts came near the saints, they “fell affectionately at their feet and refused to harm them.”

Not to be deterred, Judge Dragontius sidestepped a lengthy appeals process and had Sossius and his pals beheaded anyway.

Now, I grant you: A. That second story is kind of anticlimactic, and B. The Saints’ 4-0 shutout over the Wild Bears at Pozzuoli Amphitheater hardly qualifies as a sports story, and this is, after all, a sports website.

So let’s put the theological portion of today’s column to bed and get between the white lines.

In today’s column, despite a semi-successful week by our beloved Indians, we’re going to talk some D-League hoops and then do a double-dip of pigskin potboilers.

The “sport” that we shan’t have time to cover is golf and, more succinctly, Greg Norman’s explosive comments about Tiger Woods in the November issue of Golf Magazine.

In the interview, the Great White Shark asserted that Tiger may never win another Major, claims there were “underlying issues” between Tiger and his former caddie, Stevie Williams, and asserted that Woods lacked the “street smarts” to get his game and life back in order.

But the quote that caught my eye was his advice for Tiger to do just that.

“I'd love to talk to Tiger about it, guy-to-guy,” Norman said. “The President of the United States [Bill Clinton], when he came to my house, wanted to talk to me guy-to-guy. We all put our underpants on the same way, one leg at a time. So we sit down and have a chat until two o'clock in the morning.”

Greg Norman? Bill Clinton? Tiger Woods? Underpants at two o’clock in the morning?!

Friends, NOW we’ve got ourselves an Optimist column!! I don’t know if that meeting of the minds will fix Tiger’s ailing golf game. But I do know I’d like to see what that particular get-together looks like at four o’clock in the morning.

I’d love to expound on the funky summit at Greg Norman’s pad, but we’ve got Catholic saints just eight paragraphs above us. And I’m not about to write the rest of this piece sweating the Wrath of God. I don’t work well under the pressure of Wrath.

So let’s get out of this section and on with the tasty sports morsels provided by this week’s episode of News … Around … The … League.

Canton Wants You! – Readers, do you believe that America is the land of opportunity? The Canton D-League squad does. And they’re going to prove it to the whole world by giving an unknown a shot at an NBDL roster spot.

Earlier this week, the Cavs’ developmental squad announced a pair of open tryouts – here in Cleveland (at St. Ignatius High School) on October 8th and 9th and one week later in Canton, at Memorial Fieldhouse on October 15th and 16th. As many as five players can be signed by the league for Canton to choose from.

“The open tryout process is an important part of our launch and a good way to evaluate additional talent on the court,” said Canton GM Wes Wilcox. “It will be a great opportunity for players to make their case for an invitation to our training camp.”

The pieces are rapidly coming together in central Stark County. A decision on the team’s name and its head coach will be made within the next few days. Shortly thereafter, the team will be assembled – including the possibility of some lucky local joes landing a roster spot.

I don’t know exactly what the tryouts will entail. I imagine it’ll be tougher than dribbling through a phalanx of folding chairs but not as difficult as being asked to throw down 360-degree dunks. But we’ll see what Wes and Co. have in store for participants in a couple weeks.

Ready for Some Football, Part I – Last week, our precious Pumpkinheads clawed their way back to .500 – beating down the shorthanded Colts in Indy.

Most fans – including myself – wanted to see a heaping-helping of Hillis. And the Browns obliged. The result was a 27-19 victory.

This week, Reggie Bush, Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall roll into town with the winless Dolphins.

After starting out with a pair of home losses, Fins coach Tony Sporano is squarely on the hot seat with Miami’s star-studded ownership group.

According to reports, Fergie and Jennifer Lopez are fine with the process of developing Miami’s young, talented offensive line and cornerbacks. But fellow co-owner Serena Williams apparently informed the embattled head coach that if Miami doesn’t beat the Browns, she swears to God that she’s (expletive) going to take this (expletive) football and shove it down his (expletive) throat.

Sunday’s battle will feature the two best left tackles in the game and should be a fairly even battle throughout. I know Browns fans are feeling good after last week. But, as a lifelong fan, I know that there’s ONE ironclad fact that’s as certain as death, taxes and the George Carlin Rule about driving behind an old man in a hat …

The Browns will never do what you expect them to.

So now you know what to expect on Sunday: Exactly the opposite of what you’re expecting.

Ready for Some Football, Part II – For those of you who love football as much as I do, Sunday afternoon seems like a long way away.

I suppose you could wait for the college game on Saturday afternoon. Or if you can’t wait, you can go watch some cheese-eating high school kids run a variation of the single-wing on
Friday night.

OR you can come down to The Q for some real football.

On Friday night at the corner of Huron and Ontario, you’ll watch a brand of football with no punts or field goals. There’s plenty of hard hitting, teams go for it on every fourth down and most players play both offense and defense.

Also, did I mention both teams are loaded with smoking-hot women in lingerie?

Naturally, I’m speaking of the Cleveland Crush – the Lingerie Football League’s newest addition. And after months of waiting – and with opening night finally upon us – I find that I’m so excited for tonight’s matchup with Baltimore, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: That I’m going to focus on how fine the girls are or how much their skimpy outfits reveal. But I’m not. The Optimist doesn’t objectify women.

Instead, I’ll tell you that these women really play ball.

Through MTV2, I’ve done countless hours of film study on the LFL, and I can tell you that when these young ladies take the field, they mean business. They run hard. They hit hard.

Am I saying that Crush wideout Theresa Petruziello can cut through defenders like Josh Cribbs or that Baltimore Charm linebacker Brittany Tegeler can demolish a ball-carrier like Ray Lewis? Yes, I am.

And any red-meat-eating football fan worth his salt would be insane to miss tonight’s battle at The Q.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Tiger, Bubba and Greg Norman swing by on Friday, just to catch a couple quarters before their after hours party at the Shark’s crib.

So, in summation, what have we learned? What is the essence of what we’ve learned in today’s column? After all, we’ve covered the gamut – from Padre Pio to the Lingerie Football League.

What we’ve learned, my friends, is that professional basketball – namely Cleveland Cavaliers basketball – needs to come back soon. Because as much as I love writing about Catholic saints and foxy babes in underwear tackling one another, I really love writing about pro hoops and my beloved Cavs.

But I’m willing to wait for the NBA universe to re-align. I get paid by the hour.

Have yourselves a safe and happy weekend, knuckaheads. Whether you’re tailgating, coming down to The Q or just enjoying the weekend from the comfort of your sofa, please feel free to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine on,
The Optimist