The Optimist

June 15, 2012
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! I’m an Optimist. You guys are probably Cavalier fans. Together, let’s take a tumble down that weekly wabbit hole that we like to call NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

I hope you dummkopfs are strapped in and girded up for our grand journey through the wide, wide world of sports. There will be little-to-no room for pussyfooting in today’s column. And you know how much I love to pussyfoot on a Friday.

No pussyfooting means no time for birthday celebrations. I’m sorry Waylon Jennings and Neil Patrick Harris and Ice Cube and Browns president Mike Holmgrum and former Cavalier Michael Doleac and Canadian singer Bif Naked. We’d get to you if we could.

Maybe you readers are wondering: “Hey Optimist, what’s the rush?! Why you gotta do Waylon Jennings like that?”

Well if Waylon Jennings were still around, that good ol’ boy would totally understand why I’m in a rush. Waylon Jennings was the father of six, including a son nicknamed “Shooter.” In fact, back in 1997, as an example for his children, he stopped touring to get his G.E.D.

Waylon Jennings knows that this is the weekend that we Americans – along with peoples in places like Myanmar, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Kuwait and Jamaica – celebrate Father’s Day.

Father’s Day isn’t just the busiest day of the year for collect calls. It’s the day that we stop and celebrate dear old dad and all he’s done for us. Tricky Dick Nixon made Father’s Day official, signing it into law in 1972. (Fifty-eight years after “Mother’s Day” was ratified in 1914 – just to highlight the American man’s long struggle for equality.)

I, myself, am not a father. But I have a father, and that’s him, pictured to the left.

dadLook at the ol’ man. Is he knee-deep in blood and guts? Is he impeding the spread of the Communist menace? Standing sentry in defense of the 38th Parallel?


He’s out there shucking the pill around at Uncle Sam’s expense like he was back at Gordon Park. I don’t think Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John had this much fun in Korea.

I still love him a lot anyway.

My pops and I have shared countless memorable experiences and I cherish each and every one. I suppose if I had one regret, it’d be that we never had the experience that William Ligue, Jr. and his son shared back in 2002 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

In the seventh inning of a matchup between the White Sox and Kansas City Royals, Ligue and his teenage scion, William Ligue III, had had just about enough of Royals first base coach Tim Gamboa’s “coaching” and charged the field, shirtless, pounding Gamboa mercilessly until security and half the Royals teamed peeled them off.

Following the incident, the elder Ligue maintained that Gamboa “got what he deserved.” I didn’t see the actual game, but I have to take Ligue at his word on this one. There’s nothing that cheeses diehard baseball fans like a first base coach.

Growing up going to see games at old Municipal Stadium, I would’ve killed for the opportunity to bust off my shirt and run onto the field with dad to pound Joe Nossek into submission. But that day never came.

white soxIs William Ligue Jr. a better father than my dad? Probably so. Waylon Jennings, too. And if I ever do have a son, I vow that he and I will whip the living crap out of half the first base coaches in the American League before he leaves high school.

Shared experiences. Strong examples. That’s what fatherhood is about.

I’m going to try to be a better father to my future son starting right now. I’m going to make a quick, firm decision to keep today’s N.A.T.L. moving in high gear.

Go get me my tools …


Poles’ Position – Of the myriad sports that my father and I have shared, played and discussed, one of them is not soccer. I’m sure my dad knows the sport exists. But that might be the extent of it.

I am one step above him – meaning that I am relatively clueless. But this week, during the big Euro 2012 tournament in Poland, a story caught my eye. It focused on what many of us consider the most interesting thing European soccer has to offer: hooliganism.

soccerNow it’s a party. And now I have a rooting interest.

In Warsaw, Poland – the host country of this year’s tournament – police detained 184 rioters after clashes in the city center. Riot squads used water cannons against groups who attacked thousands of Russian fans marching toward the stadium, waving red, blue and white flags.

Tensions between these two Cold War rivals go deeper than soccer. And tensions ran high. Police detained 156 Poles, more than 20 Russians, a Hungarian, a Spaniard and an Algerian. The injured, if you’re keeping score at home, included 14 Russians, a German, a Pakistani and an American. (USA! USA! USA!)

As for my rooting interest, I’m all in for the Poles – who take on the Czech Republic this Saturday afternoon. (Check local listings.) If Polska wins that match, they move on to the tourney’s Elite 8, I believe.

Who doesn’t love an underdog – and a home team underdog at that? The Poles have been messed with since WWII, not to mention all the jokes about screen doors on submarines and their inability to independently screw in a lightbulb.

This time, the joke’s going to be on the other guys. And I say: Solidarnosc, Polish princes! I’m with you on Saturday and beyond.

When On Rome – I had planned to write about the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco and more about how little I know about the sport of golf.

It was gonna be sweet.

romeBut instead, radio talkshow host Jim Rome decided to stick his finger in Uncle Dave’s eye.

Rome didn’t literally poke the NBA Commissioner in the eyeball. The interview was done over the phone. But Rome’s question – dancing around the insinuation that the NBA Draft Lottery is fixed – might have actually cheesed the Commish off less.

As many of you know, I have a soft spot for Uncle Dave, who found me floating among the New Jersey reeds in a basket and nurtured me to manhood at the NBA offices in Manhattan. We’ve had our differences – exspecially during last year’s Lockout. But I still hold The Smartest Man in the Room in very high regard.

Rome is better than this. It’s been asked and answered. And a serious sports journalist shouldn’t be in the business of furthering silly conspiracies. Will Uncle Dave have to answer for who wins the Lottery next June and the June after that and the June after that?

The league has provided full transparency into the process. And logically speaking, do you realize the billion-dollar magnitude of such a conspiracy?

sternThe NBA is going to make money – regardless of who wins the Championship or the Lottery. Last year, the Cavaliers won it. This year, the Hornets won it. Next year, someone else will.

Yes, Uncle Dave could’ve handled Romey’s line of questioning without losing his cool. I guess I’m just saying he shouldn’t have to. It’s a good thing he had his personal showgirl (pictured) around to dab his forehead with a cool, moist towelette.

Silent AND Deadly – Thus far, we’ve had a pretty uneven offseason in terms dirt-naps of the rich and famous. After a rash of deaths in the disco world, all’s been quiet on the Western front. But this week, the Angel of Celebrity Death whacked hisself a good one.

At the age of 69, near his home in Tobanga, California, perhaps the most famous living gangster – Hendry Hill – passed away from complications of heart disease.

That’s right. The former snitch wasn’t strangled with a piano wire or poisoned with a poison cannoli or stabbed in the medulla oblongata by a guy in the backseat with an ice pick. Hendry Hill – former Luchese-family soldier turned government witness and whose testimony led to dozens of arrests – died of natural causes.

Hill – who, as far back as he could remember, always wanted to be a gangster – made several headline-making crimes, chief among them the Lufthansa heist of 1978, which netted nearly $5 million in cash and $1 million in jewels.

When life was good, Hendry hat it all. He took the back way through the Copacabana to see Bobby Vinton. He had an affair with Janice Rossi. He ate surf and turf in prison and got to pistol-whip Long Island yuppies in their own driveway. Hendry’s friend, Tommy, made him laugh – but just because of the way he told a story and not because he was a clown.

hendryAfter snitching on all his buddies following his 1980 drug arrest, he bounced around the Witness Relocation Program for years – living like a shnook in Seattle, Cincinnati, Omaha and Butte, Montana before getting booted in 1987 for more drug charges.

He seemed to flaunt his freedom, making several public appearances, most famously on “The Howard Stern Show.” Hill even went on to write several books, including “The Wiseguy Cookbook.”

Hendry Hill was an entertaining character, but he never learned the two greatest lessons of life: Always keep your mouth shut. And never rat on your friends. But he still gets a proper Optimist burial anyway.

That means I want you readers should shut-a you mouths or I break-a you face as we observe this Moment of Silence™

Now I gotta turn my back on him.

As for you mooks, thanks for joining us for another episode of News … Around … The … League.

With less than a fortnight until the 2012 NBA Draft, you might be wondering when I’m going to bust off some coverage.

Well don’t you worry your pretty little heads. That comes next Friday, when we go wall-to-wall Wine and Gold Draft. I’ll reveal who I feel the Cavaliers should pick, who they will pick and, time permitting, current events.

Go in peace, knuckaheads. You know where and when to find me. Now run free and …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

Su hermano,
The Optimist


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