The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist, returning with a vengeance, armed only with my wits, this Swiss Army™ knife and, of course, another heavy-payload installment of News … Around ... The … League.

I took last week off to celebrate my birthday. I was 552 months old and decided to use my bye week.

If this was any other column, I’d probably start out by reminding you nerds that today – October 21 – marks the anniversary of the opening of the Guggenheim Museum or the fighting of the Civil War’s Battle of Ball’s Bluff. Maybe we’d pause to wish Browns reserve DB Ray Ventrone or the “sound of surprise” – Dizzy Gillespie – a happy birthday.

If this was any other column, we’d have time to recognize that October 21 is The International Day of the Nacho – commemorating the ground-breaking invention of the Mexican appetizer by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya in 1943 at El Moderno restaurant in the border town of Piedras Negras, Coahuila.

But the fact is that I took one week off – ONE! – and the world turned itself into a total cluster-cuss.

Wall Street – where it’s already impossible to get a cab – is still being Occupied by 99 percent of all Americans. Republican candidates, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney nearly came to blows during a primary debate in Vegas. (My money’s on the guy whose idea of gun control is: “Use both hands.”)

And just this past Thursday, the world watched as Moammar Gadhafi’s 41-year reign of terror came to a bloody end at the hands of rebel forces in Libya. If those grisly images can teach the world anything, it’s that you can brutally oppress your people and flout international law for only so long before both parties have you sharting yourself in a spider-hole.

But clearly the biggest and most bothersome story of the week came from within the Buckeye State – where the unhinged owner of an exotic animal preserve committed suicide after freeing dozens of frightened – and frightening – animals into the surrounding areas.

When it was all said and done, Zanesville police deputies had unavoidably killed 48 animals –including 18 rare Bengal tigers – in an overnight hunt across the rural Ohio landscape. The soon-to-be iconic image of those beautiful beasts lying dead in the mud is as heartbreaking as any I’ve ever seen. I could break into “Brain’s Song”-level waterworks just looking at it.

The tragedy in Licking County made me wonder two things: 1. Why do people who take their own life feel the need to take others with them? And 2. If there are only 1,400 Bengal tigers on the entire planet, how the hell did a clearly unstable ex-con from Zanesville get 18 of them?

This one’s on Ohio’s lawmakers, I’m afraid. And I’d be shocked if something wasn’t done to prevent anything like this from happening again. If a Higher Power wanted monkeys in Southern Ohio, he’d have put them here.

That being said, we really should stop to recognize this tragic loss of life.

I realize these poor animals didn’t actually do anything of any significance. But if I’m going to shell out a Moment of Silence™ for a cross-eyed opossum and a Teutonic squid who predicts World Cup games, you can be sure that I’m going to pause for the death of some innocent critters in the very state where I was bred and buttered.

So let us please closeth our blowers and removeth our hats and/or hairpieces to contemplate this senseless loss of life …

Thank you.

See what I mean? We haven’t even gotten to the Around …The … League portion of the column and some of you are already deflated by such heavy, existential issues.

If I had my druthers, we’d have spent the opening segment discussing Thursday night’s UCLA-Arizona game, where a student initially dressed as a referee ran onto the gridiron and began disrobing as he charged down the field.

Moments earlier.
ESPN’s Chris Fowler called this move a “streak” and thought this guy was the fastest thing on two feet. He was making the news, wearing just his tennis shoes. I guess you could call him unique.

By the time said student made it to The Quad, both teams had erupted into a vicious bench-clearing brawl – all because some cheese-eating sophomore from Tempe decided to show his wedding tackle at the 50-yard-line.

But there’s no way we’ll be able to further analyze that story now.

And all I can say is that Dizzy Gillespie would be cheesed if he knew how far behind schedule we’d gotten on his birthday.

So let’s delve into the wide, wide world of sports with a little News … Around … The …League – shall we?

Charging Ahead – Is it just me, or do you feel something really good brewing in Canton, Ohio, America – where the new D-League squad, the Charge, are moving deftly forward.

This week, the squad named its first-ever head coach: 35-year-old Utah native, Alex Jensen.

For those of you old enough to remember, Alex Jensen was a stone-cold killer in his college days with the Utes, where he was a teammate of a pair of former Cavaliers, including Dr. Michael Doleac.

Jensen went on to win a CBA title and play ball in Turkey, Spain and Japan. He was recently on Rick Majerus’ bench at Saint Louis University, honing his skills as a defensive-minded coach.

The next day, the first two Charge players were signed: Canton’s own Keith McLeod, who played with four NBA squads and most recently in Greece and Jamine Peterson, a 6-6 forward who averaged 20.5 ppg in 10 starts (36 games) for New Mexico last season.

The Cavaliers’ all-knowing, all-powerful top dog, Dan Gilbert, doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. The Charge is in capable, experienced hands with Wes Wilcox. They have an equally young coach who’s been everywhere all the players he’s coaching have been.

The Charge’s logo and colors are cool. The boss new website – POW! – launched this week.

Get on board – and get to Canton for the tip-off on November 25.

This Week in Baseball – As I’ve stated on several occasions, I’m a big baseball fan, but not a huge baseball fan. But nothing and nobody – including Nurse Ratched – can keep me from watching the World Series.

I’m torn in my rooting interests this year.

The Cards have Albert Pujols, who bounced back early from a tough arm injury. The Cards overcame an 8 ½-game deficit at the beginning of September and have the best bullpen in the National League. The Rangers are led by Josh Hamilton who overcame demons to become MVP, are looking for the franchise’s first title and have the best bullpen in the American League.

Texas’ Ron Washington (pictured, right) has an exciting, aggressive managing style and funny hair. Tony LaRussa is an accomplished MLB Champion in both leagues and he loves little kitties and chiuauas.

The Series is 1-1 heading into the weekend, bound for the Lone Star State. I don’t think I’ll root for or against either team. Normally, I like a villain in my title game(s), but there isn’t one in this World Series.

I think me and the Chief’ll just sit back and enjoy it.

The Big Show Speaks – Leave it to those little Pumpkinheads. You leave them alone for ONE week and look at the shenanigans they pull off. I guess that comes with having a young team. And it’s the reason we can’t have nice things.

But on Thursday afternoon, the Big Show set everything straight in Berea.

The Peyton Hillis issue will work itself out between the white lines. Colt McCoy is a young, promising quarterback, and he’ll be given the entire year to be evaluated. The team intends to improve through the Draft and the timetable for success is roughly five years.

Everyone in Cleveland felt better after Mike Holmgren set matters straight – like he was putting us to bed on a snowy winter's night.

Now, all they need to do is prove it on Sunday afternoon at the Stadium.

I’m calling for a breakout game for both Hillis and Montario Hardesty on Sunday. I think a coagulated Josh Cribbs breaks loose and I think young Colt McCoy finally rediscovers his accuracy and confidence. And I see my beloved Brownies winning this one, 27-23.

I say that because I’ll be down there. And I demand satisfaction.

Here endeth the lesson, my fuzzy friends.

I realize that being stuck in this perpetual offseason is like being stuck in some sort of NBA Human Centipede. But as long as we’re metaphorically sewn together in this, let’s make the best of it.

That’s all for me today, friends. I’ve seen enough to know I’ve seen too much.

Whether you’re enjoying your weekend on the couch or in the cosmos, do your old friend a solid
and …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine on,
The Optimist