The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist, and you lucky butterballs have tuned in to an extra-large 21-pound Thanksgiving episode of News … Around … The … League.

Some of you might be thinking: ‘Thanksgiving episode?! Turkey Day is still one, two, thr … SIX days away!’

Yes, that’s true.

But next Friday, I intend to sleep off a Tryptophan hangover until early afternoon then tailgate to the Canton Memorial Civic Center for the Charge’s inaugural home opener that night. I find that I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.

Normally, we’re knee-deep into another Cavaliers season by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. This November – not so much.

But there’s still plenty to be thankful for. Personally, I’m thankful for my fantastic family and friends. I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful that I have the best job in the NBA. And I’m thankful that I live in the greatest country in the world – even though we’re stuck with a totally boring President.

I don’t mean to dog President Barack Obama. I admire him greatly and I think he’s done exceptionally well in many areas, including foreign policy and the auto industry. I think he truly means well, and that he’s doing the best he can with what he has to work with.

"I come in peace."
But I’m a traditionalist. And every year for Thanksgiving, I like to publish the traditional “Presidential Turkey Pardon” photo. And, as you can see, our current Commander-in-Chief is not working with me.

Look at him: trying to reason with the bird, explaining an Executive Order in laborious detail to an animal that can drown looking up at a rainstorm.

Now look at our 43rd President – George W. Bush. There’s a man who knows how to mug with a pardoned turkey!

From a writer’s perspective, President Bush was awesome. He did all kinds of crazy stuff – landing planes on aircraft carriers in a codpiece, clearing brush and chasing armadillas with Barney, ducking shoes that foreign journalists chucked at him. It was always a party with that guy!

And around Thanksgiving, President Bush was one with the turkey. Heck, even the stupid gobbler knew that W. wasn’t in the habit of handing out pardons, holidays or no holidays. Once he was in the clear after the photo op, why not pull some shenanigans for the press corps?

As a student of history, President Obama will trace the tradition back to Harry Truman and get things right by next Thanksgiving.

As for our standard history lesson, November 18 is strong on events and weak on celebrity birthdays – unless you count Qaboos bin Said al Said, the Sultan of Oman.

If you don’t, perhaps it’s best to view this as the day that commemorates Christopher Columbus’ all-inclusive trip to Puerto Rico in 1493, Latvian Independence Day in 1918, or the birth of the push-button telephone in 1963.

But I prefer to turn the clock back to 1307 – when William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head.

You’ve all heard the story of William Tell. And compared with some of the zany crap that’s happened in the 704 years since then, you’re probably not that impressed with a guy who went 1-for-1 in an archery contest. You probably think all he did was shoot an apple off his kid’s dome, and that was the end of it.

But you’d be seriously mistaken.

As the story goes: In Altdorf, Switzerland, the tyrannical overlord, Hermann Gessler, raised a pole in the center of the village and hung his hat on the top of it – demanding that all townspeople bow before it. When Tell – known as an expert shot with the crossbow – passed the hat without bowing, he was arrested. His punishment was to shoot an apple off his son, Walter’s head.

If William Tell hit the apple, he’d be granted his freedom. If he didn’t, both he and his son would be executed.

And so on November 18, 1307 – before a packed house – Tell split the apple off his son’s head. Zzzzzzing!!

But Gessler noticed that he took out two arrows before the shot, and asked him why. Tell responded that if he missed, he’d have used the second arrow to kill Gessler.

Naturally, this cheesed Gessler. And he had William Tell bound aboard his ship to be taken to his castle at Küssnacht for a date with The Gimp. But a storm broke on Lake Lucerne and Tell was able to escape.

The fugitive Tell traveled by land to Küssnacht, and when Gessler arrived, Tell assassinated him – shooting him with his crossbow as he passed along a narrow stretch of the road.


How’s that for a medieval yarn full of action, revenge, and child endangerment?!

The Tale of William Tell is a tough act to follow – even with the big Browns-Jaguars matchup looming. But that’s why Dan Gilbert pays me with an aluminum briefcase stuffed with large, unmarked bills.

So let’s get to steppin’, turkeys, and dig in to another delicious installment of News … Around … The … League – shall we?

Browns Down – With Cavaliers action still on the back burner, I have no choice but to begin another week with the intensive psychological experiment/madcap comedy known as the Cleveland Browns.

Without said Cavaliers to distract me from the Browns for an entire autumn, I now realize the true effect our beloved Pumpkinheads have on the city’s collective psyche. And I fear if things continue along the current path, we’ll be ground into a collective nub by mid-December.

I have no intention of going into the holidays as a nub. And I think a win over Jacksonville can get things rolling in the right direction. But instead of talking about which players will stand out or how many touches Josh Cribbs should get (at least 12), I’d like to focus on you and I – the fans.

Recently, Cleveland Browns Stadium – the very House that Phil Dawson Built – has been derisively labeled “The Factory of Sadness.” And I completely understand fans’ frustration. But I’m beginning to fear that frustration is seeping into the overall atmosphere, into the Browns themselves.

The only thing visiting teams don’t like about playing on the lakefront is the weather. That’s not good. Cleveland used to be an intimidating place to play.

I don’t expect things to return to the feral atmosphere of the glorious old Stadium. But there’s something to be said about an environment that encouraged guys to go No. 1 in the sinks and No. 2 in the urinals. There was a steel girder in front of every seat and the Dawg Pound was truly vicious.

We need to get that old feeling back. The Browns have the defense to inspire it. They just need the offense to catch up.

We've taken our share of guff, but you and I both know: Browns fans are the best fans in the NFL. If we weren’t, would one of us have tackled an eight-year-old wearing a Jets jersey?

Back to School – Just because we don’t have Cavaliers news doesn’t mean that there aren’t great hoops being played by local squads. And in the coming days, a big early season matchup looms.

This battle pits the school where I sometimes went to class and drank (Concrete State University) and the school where I just drank (Kent State University). Of course, I’m several decades removed from such nincompoopery now. But I still love to follow both programs.

Gary Waters’ CSU Vikings have an interesting mix of seniors, led by D’Aundray Brown and Aaron Pogue, and youngsters, led by Central Catholic’s Anton Grady. They went into Vanderbilt last week and ran the No. 7-ranked Commodores right off their goofy floor, snapping Vandy’s 20-game home win streak.

The Golden Flashes, led by first-year coach, Rob Senderoff, scored a nice early-season upset of their own, dropping Huggie Bear’s West Virginia squad, 70-60, and snapping WVU's 36-game non-conference winning streak.

Kent State, led by returning MAC Player of the Year, Justin Greene, hosts my beloved Vikings on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.

I’ll be at Ray’s by 5:00.

(Side note: Keith Dambrot’s Akron Zips also scored a big early-season upset, knocking off Mississippi State, 68-58, in Starkville. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about Akron’s hoops team, other than they bring that Owen Wilson-looking kid to the MAC Tournament every year.)

Miniature Moment – Last week, I implored the NBA to come to some accord and end the celebrity bloodshed. But, as you know, that plea was made in vain.

It’s bad enough when we have to bid farewell to a genius like Steve Jobs or a soothsayer like Heidi the cross-eyed Oscar-picking opossum. But it’s nothing short of heartbreaking when we must bury a Munchkin.

That was the case this week when Karl Slover passed away at the age of tender age of 93 in a suburban Atlanta hospital.

Slover, who played three roles in “The Wizard of Oz” – most notably the trumpet player who heralded the Munchkin Mayor – was one of four surviving Munchkins.

Long after he retired from performing, Slover continued to appear around the country at festivals and events related to the movie. He joined seven surviving Munchkins at the 2007 unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame dedicated to the little people in the movie.

Karl Slover represented the Lollipop Tree for 72 years – and he represented it well.

Munchkins are people too, I think. And I’ll be damned if I’ll let us go into an American holiday without removing our hats/and or hairpieces and shutting our yaps to honor this little big man with a Moment of Silence™

Thank you.

That’s a wrap, knuckaheads. I hope today’s offering satiated your needs. I tried to cover all my bases, invoking Barack Obama, William Tell, Gary Waters, Josh Cribbs, Justin Greene, George W. Bush, the Sultan of Oman and a Munchkin.

Have yourself a merry little weekend and a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday in the days ahead.

And please remember to designate a driver, love the one your with, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time and, most importantly, to …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Shine on,
The Optimist