The Optimist

June 1, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good afternoon, Mr. and Mr. America and all the ships at sea! The caricature of that long-nosed diablo to your right – (my left) – can only mean that another week has come and gone and it’s time for another installment of that free-form, three-ring cavalcade of whimsy dubbed NEWS …AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

As I mentioned in the first N.A.T.L. of the summer, I like a nice routine. But I’m also mindful to heed the words of 19th century Transcendentalist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said: “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

I have both a little mind and a physically tiny head. I’ve no room for hobgoblins. So I decided to mix it up a bit as we turn the calendar page.

Here’s where I’d normally do the today-in-history thing, but you readers are already one step ahead of me. You’re already thinking: “Hey, Optimist … We already know that the formation the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the assassination of Didius Julianus and ratification of the Treaty of Bosque Redondo went down on June 1! Like … doy.

OK. But did you readers know that June 1 is the shared birthday of former Cavalier, William Henry “Smush” Parker, resurgent Tribe starter Derek Lowe, Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, the one-time Sheriff of Rock Ridge, Cleavon Little, and the sexiest woman ever created, Marilyn Monroe?

birthdayYou probably did. You guys are a crafty bunch.

There’ll be none of that today!

Today, instead of focusing on two sports and maybe a Moment of Silence™, we’re truly going to traverse the wide, wide world of sports. Sports that I have no real idea about!

But before we do, let’s discuss a sport I do know something about: basketball.

This week, our Jedi knight, Nick Gilbert, and his Cavaliers posse – which included his father, Dan Gilbert, as well as Cavs co-chairman, Nate Forbes and Cleveland Browns, Joe Haden and Josh Cribbs – made the trip to New York to vie, once again, for the top pick in the NBA Draft.

The Wine and Gold went into the 2012 Lottery with a 13.8 percent shot at shocking the world for the second straight season. But, as you know, the ping pong balls fell New Orleans’ way, and the Hornets will now have the chance to select a person with the most famous uni-brow since Frida Kahlo – former Kentucky center Anthony Davis.

On June 28, the Cavaliers will select No. 4 overall, which is just fine by me. (Exspecially considering that Cleveland also has No. 24, as well as No. 33 and 34 at the top of the second round.)

The Wine and Gold need wing players and a big man and when they select – even at No. 4 – the world will still be Chris Grant’s oyster. But we’ll have plenty of time to discuss potential Cavaliers in the coming weeks. I have no doubt we’ll land a quality player at No. 4 – a slot that’s produced the likes of Tristan Thompson, Tyreke Evans, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Lamar Odom, Antawn Jamison, Dikembe Mutombo, Alvan Adams and even our beloved head coach, Byron Scott.

OK, so the Cavaliers didn’t win the top pick in consecutive seasons. We still had easily the coolest and best-dressed crew among all the Lottery teams.

Did any member of our coterie have the front office experience of Suns representative Mark West or the raw sex appeal of the Brooklyn Nets’ Irina Pavlova?


But here’s what we did have: Bernie Kosar.

I rest my case.

The NBA Draft goes down in less than a month, and we’ll discuss it as the day draws nigh. In the meantime, let’s keep up with our breakneck pace.

In any other week, here’s where I’d complain that we don’t have time for the week’s critical current events stories. But since we’re focusing completely on sports, I barely care that there’s no room for a theological discussion on the story of Mark Randall "Mack" Wolford – a West Virginia preacher who believed Christians should test their faith by handling snakes. During this past Sunday’s service, he was bitten by a yellow timber rattlesnake named Sheba and died later that night.

Wolford, who turned 44 on Saturday, saw his father die of a snake bite in the same way. Snake-handling is legal in West Virginia – naturally – and Wolford had been on a crusade to get it legalized in other states.

snakeI’m not one to pooh-pooh others’ religious beliefs because, as a Catholic from Garbage Heights, the closest we get to handling rattlesnakes is a guitar mass. But I’m not totally sure what worshipping the good Lord and handling a slithering, poisonous animal that bites have in common.

Either way, that’s up to a higher power than me. All I can do is thoroughly quash any notion of a Moment of Silence™ for this sanctimonious bumpkin.

And that just gives us more room for today’s episode of News … Around … The … League


ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FUTBOL? – To appease you readers best, I’ve decided to begin with the sport that, like the metric system, has been sweeping the nation since I was a wee lad – soccer.

soccerApparently, this is a sport in which it’s illegal to use your hands. The players don’t wear helmets, the game ends whenever the refs want it to end, ties are cool and the best player always wears uniform No. 10. And even the slightest contact by an opponent sends players sprawling dramatically to the ground – an example of sports histrionics usually reserved for small forwards for the Miami Heat.

The reason we’re discussing soccer is because next weekend Euro 2012 tips off in Poland and the Ukraine. I’m told the tournament is a two-horse race between Germany and Spain, although I’ll be pulling hard for the Eye-talians and, to a lesser extent, the Croats.

EYE OF THE TIGER – A little closer to home than Poland, this weekend marks the PGA’s Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio.

On Friday, Phil Mickelson withdrew after shooting like crap. That leaves only one interesting golfer remaining in the entire field: Tiger Woods.

Tiger hasn’t rediscovered the form that got him his last tournament win at Bay Hill back in late March. And I hold myself somewhat responsible.

TigerAfter shooting well on Friday afternoon at Bay Hill – and with the Wine and Gold playing the Magic in Orlando – Tiger and I passed each other in the hallway of the Cavaliers team motel. We met glances, but neither one of us wanted to recognize each other as celebrities. Instead, I just gave him a nod of encouragement – and the world’s former No. 1 went on to win his first tourney in 26 outings – a span of 923 days.

After the big win, I contacted Tiger’s people, just to say, you know, how about a little something for the effort? Know what they told me? They said, “There won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.”

So I got that goin' for me. Which is nice.

NEED FOR SPEED – Some of you damn Yankees are probably rolling your eyes at the very mention of NASCAR and this week’s race at Dover International Speedway in Delaware.

I was once like you. “NASCAR?!” I scoffed. “That’s just a bunch a rednecks making left turns for two-and-a-half hours!”

But then I went to my first live NASCAR race – the Michigan 400 – with my father, and everything changed. And the reason is because a NASCAR race – like a pro hockey game or a Springsteen concert of passing gallstones – needs to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

nascarI still don’t know the difference between Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya. I do know that Dale Ernhardt, Jr. is the sport’s most popular driver, Tony “Smoke” Stewart is the current champ, the Busch brothers are almost completely unlikeable and that Danica Patrick is the girl.

And I know that there’s a reason NASCAR is the country’s second-fastest-growing sport (behind soccer, of course). The danger, the speed, the sound, the fury – this is a sport that has it all.

If you ever get a chance to see a live NASCAR race, I strongly recommend it. The crowds can be a little hoity-toity, but you’ll get over that once the gentlemen start their engines.

FRENCH TOAST – If you thought I didn’t know much about soccer and NASCAR, you’ll be glad to know that I know even less about tennis.

serenaI do know, however, that the French Open is currently taking place in France and that Serena Williams has already been eliminated. As a fan of her super-sized posterior, this almost certainly guarantees that I won’t pay attention to the remainder of the tournament.

In the men’s bracket, the usual suspects – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – are the favorites, I guess. If anyone besides those three advances into the final rounds, you people are on your own. Who do I look like: Bud Collins?

BEE ALL YOU CAN BEE – This week, the sporting world watched with baited breath as the 85th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee wrapped up on Thursday afternoon in our nation’s capital.

Early in the tournament, six-year-old Lori Anne Madison – the youngest contestant ever to participate in the event – won over hearts of fans and judges. But she met her match in the third round, misspelling the word “ingluvies” before being booed off the stage.

beeThis year’s winner was 14-year-old San Diego native, Snigdha Nandipati, who won the whole enchilada after correctly spelling “guetapens" – a French-derived word that means an ambush or a trap. Nandipati, an avid coin collector and Sherlock Holmes fan, topped eight other contestants to win the tasty $40,000 prize.

With her victory, Americans of Indian descent have now won the last five spelling bees – including 10 of the last 14.

I consider myself a decent speller, but I couldn’t even spell Snigdha Nandipati’s name right. So I have nothing but the ultimate respect for the athletes that participated in this annual event.

And with that, we put the wraps on yet another entry of News … Around … The … League.

Luckily, after the losses of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb, the angry Disco Gods have been appeased. (For now.) That means we can finally end the column on a positive note.

Have a rock-solid weekend, meat-heads. If you’re having a few shlookers, make sure to designate a driver or call a cab. As I always say: Saturday Morning You will thank Friday Night You for doing so.

And I don’t want to tell you your business – exspecially when it comes to one’s faith – but if you decide to go for some churchin’ on Sunday morning, I’d stay away from the rattlesnakes. Their teeth are sharp and pointy and they’re not religious at all.

As for the rest of you heathen dogs, have yourselves a merry little weekend too. Just because you don’t worship a higher power don’t mean you can’t …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Warmest wishes,
The Optimist


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