Give thanks

(Note: If you feel like you’ve read this before, you did. Last year. I cleaned some things up and moved some stuff around, but the post itself is mostly unchanged.)

While it hasn’t always been the case, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday; nothing else even comes close. How can you top a day full of football, family, friends and food? You can’t. Other holidays have their perks but none are as close to perfect as Thanksgiving.

Fourth of July comes the closest and, like Thanksgiving, it’s a holiday that I appreciate more now as an adult. So you’re telling me I get a day off to drink outside and grill with friends and family? What’s that? And we get to blow stuff up? Awesome. Fourth of July is great, but not better than Thanksgiving (I mean, how many cookouts do you go to over the summer? At least a few).

New Years Eve? Now there’s a holiday that’s burdened by too many expectations. The anticipation of this epic party night rarely pays off. When is the last time that a New Years Eve went the way you wanted it to go?

Halloween? Don’t get me wrong, Halloween kicks ass from ages 1-14 (trick or treating) and then from 18-26 (college girls). I like Halloween and all but, at this point, I feel a bit goofy dressing up (there’s only so many costumes that go with a full beard/mutton chops) and I can only get drunk in an uncomfortable costume so many times. It’s not like Halloween is bad but is it better than Thanksgiving? No.

Finally, there’s the big one: Christmas. Like Halloween, Christmas was awesome as a little kid (presents!!) but I’ve grown away from it as I’ve gotten older. There’s just too much going on with Christmas; there’s the pressure of buying the right gifts, dealing with the insanity of shopping, let alone the religious aspect that barely receives a passing mention. Hell, I’m not even religious and this offends me.

Simply put: there’s just too much Christmas. It’s gotten too big. It’s a month long orgy of shopping malls, lame television specials, sugary treats and greed (with only a token nod to the Baby Jesus). Hell, with Black Friday, we’re now letting Christmas attempt to ruin Thanksgiving weekend.

(Short aside: back in Christmas of 2004, I worked at the Barnes and Noble in Easton Town Center. At the time, I was getting emails calling me UnAmerican (I had a column in The Lantern, Ohio State’s paper, and wasn’t a fan of one George W. Bush) and the American news media still reported on the war in Iraq. Now, if you’ve never been to Easton, it’s fairly ritzy shopping plaza and I can’t even begin to tell you how elaborate the decorations were inside the actual mall. I swear to God, there entire place was drowned in silver and gold (ed. note: hyperbole) and meanwhile, I’m reading stories from Iraq like this. America: where there’s enough money for two-story Santa villages made out of high-end German chocolate but not enough to properly armor the vehicles of our troops. Priorities).

But despite our best efforts, Thanksgiving is still somewhat pure. Yes, radio stations are now playing Christmas music the day after Halloween and Black Friday is threatening to spiral out of control but you can ignore it if you choose. Despite everything, the essence of Thanksgiving is still there.

Thanks-giving. A day to give thanks.

It’s so simple, yet so beautiful. An uniquely American day to reflect on all the things you’re grateful for. How great is that? A day not to look at the negatives in life but to accentuate the positives. Be thankful for your friends and your family, your job and your health.

It’s far and away my favorite day of the year.

Every Thanksgiving day since 1999, I’ve played in a pickup football game dubbed (very originally) Turkey Bowl with various friends from High School and a random assortment of their cousins, in-laws or friends-of-friends.

Is it cold and wet? Of course (it’s Ohio in November). Are we all hung over and/or horribly out of shape? Yup. Do I hurt for 5 days after? Yes. Is it worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

This is the one time a year I see a lot of these guys. Some are home from college while others are simply back in town for a weekend before going back to Real Life. The games are somewhat competitive and there’s usually at least one or two dumb/awesome laterals thrown in there for good fun. It’s a couple hours of trash talk, laughing and hitting amongst old friends. What’s not to love?

After I crawl home from football, there’s the Thanksgiving meal with my extended family. Turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce… Yes yes and yes. Seriously, sitting down for a giant meal with family members I rarely get to see is not a bad way to refuel after a couple hours cold-weather football. Plus after dinner, I can fall asleep on the couch watching even more (mediocre) football. Huzzah!

As you can tell, I adore Thanksgiving. Easily the day I look forward to the most each year. Too often we focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do. Thanksgiving is a day set aside to correct this oversight. I’m thankful for my loving parents, my brother and sister and our extended family. I’m grateful for my pets and for all of my friends as well as my co-workers.

I’m also quite grateful to those of you reading this right now. I’m definitely not a big blog (or, heh, your most reliable blogger) but I know more than a few of you keep coming back. I’m still very much blown away that people who I’ve never met visit this place (or give me a forum) to read my incoherent ramblings on the Cavaliers and Cleveland sports.

Thank you.

I hope everyone has a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving.

Ray Davies (of the Kinks) – Thanksgiving Day

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A Long Post About Politics That No One Will Read

I have an opinion about the election!

This post has been brewing in me for awhile now. I frequently post about politics on both Twitter and Facebook, much to the chagrin of the majority of my followers and Facebook friends. I mean, I figure if I get annoyed at the “LIKE IF YOU REMEMBER THIS ONE THING FROM THE 90s” pictures and the up-to-the-minute baby updates (she pooped! I put her in this funny box!), I’m sure folks aren’t exactly eager to click my latest “hey guys, I really don’t think Mitt Romney should be President” link.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably bummed that this post isn’t about sports. I get that. That’s what I “know” and Cavs basketball is pretty much reason anyone pays attention to me. It’s cool. I love the Cavs but I’m interested in a bunch of other stuff too.

But with the election coming up next Tuesday, I had to get this off my chest. Call me wrong. Call me uninformed. Call me a mindless, naive liberal. That’s fine. People disagree.  I’m ignorant on a whole host of subjects, this could very well be one of them.

But I needed to get these thoughts down.

My goal is to explain why I feel the way I feel. This is gonna be long and this is gonna be weird.

Continue reading

Posted in dirty hippie politics, dumb stuff, My Ego, taxes | Tagged | 6 Comments

Cavs win a preseason game, I actually write a post on my blog

Everyone can breath. For one night, in a preseason game, Dion Waiters looked like a player worthy to be drafted fourth overall.

Waiters led the Cavs with 18 points (7-12 FG, 4-4 3PT) and Tyler Zeller added ten points and four rebounds and the Cavs held on for a 86-83 win.

It shouldn’t have been taht close. The Cavs held a 50-29 edge at halftime but let the Bulls slowly chip in closer throughout the second half. It had looked like Cavs had this game wrapped up, but Chicago’s full court press over final 45 seconds really frustrated the Cavs. Samardo Samuels and Boobie Gibson and the rest of the second unit (like Omri Casspi and Waiters) failed to advance past halfcourt on six straight attempts and the Bulls cut a six point lead to two in roughly 30 seconds. After Zeller split a pair of free throws, the Bulls missed their final, last-ditch shot as time expired, for the final three-point margin of victory.

The Cavs lead the whole game and yet the ending left you feeling as if they stole a win.

Some various thoughts…

Hopefully this performance by Waiters will soothe some nerves. While Waiters has shown flashes here and there, these early exhibition games have left much to be desired. Friday night was the first time that Dion looked comfortable among his NBA peers. Friday night was the first time we’ve seen what Byron Scott, Chris Grant and co saw when they took him fourth overall.

With Gibson playing off the ball (have we all come to grips that Boobie will never be a Real NBA Point Guard? And if you haven’t, watch the final 0:45 of Friday’s game), Waiters played point and ran the offense for the second unit.   His jumper was falling, he attacked the rim and he used his quickness to set up his as well as set up his teammates (Waiters and Zeller pick & roll! Woot!). Waiters wasn’t tentative. He wasn’t rushing anything. He just played his game. It was fairly impressive.

Kyrie was off. Just a bit. Irving finished with 8 points on a sterling 2-15 shooting with 0 assists. Yikes. However, I wouldn’t be too alarmed, considering Irving was playing at about half speed (if that). To say Kyrie looked disinterested would be an understatement. Things got so bad the (not very intelligent) Bulls announcers forgot that Irving was a good shooter and commented that he had needed to fix his jumper (which is patently ridiculous, condsidering his rookie stats). And hey, I can’t even blame them. Rarely did Irving look balance when he released his shot. He never seemed to have his shoulders squared and it always looked awkward.

CJ Miles likes to shoot. After Irving and Waiters (15 and 12 shot attempts, respectively), Miles had the third most attempts, with nine (making just three). With Antawn Jamison mercifully gone, the Cavs have a lot of shot attempts up for grabs. Plus, the Cavs are starting Alonzo Gee (who looked subpar), Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao; someone asides from Irving is going to have to shoot, might as well be Miles.

Luke Harangody has nine first half points. Gody a magnificent 3-3 from the floor (including a trey) and 2-2 from the line. Unfortunately, his only other recorded stats were a turnover an a foul. It’s nice seeing him knock down those jumpers, but he’s gonna have to board if he wants any non-garbage PT.

Expectations for Skinny Samardo Samuels: tempered. Dumb fouls? Check. Lack of rebounds? Check (17 minutes, one board). Plus, he was heavily involved in the final inbounding debacles. Multiple times his man went to double and Samardo left the ball handler no outlet. The Bulls announcers even remarked that the rookie Waiters was yelling at “the veteran Samuels”. Samardo Samuels is a veteran, folks. Yeesh.

Tristan Thompson… meh. At some point the Cavs will have to realize that they can’t start both Varejao and Thompson. They need big man with an offensive game; some one teams fear in either a post-up or a pick-and-pop situation. I’d be at some point this season, Varejao will move back to his natural four position and Zeller will start at the five, moving Tristan to the bench.

Omri Casspi looked not gawd awful. I’m not sure Casspi will ever be starting SF in this league, but he can be a useful player if his jumper is falling, as it was on Friday night. Omri finished with nine points (3-5 FG, all threes), three assists and zero(!) boards in 25 minutes. If Casspi’s jumper can be somewhat consistent, it will help alleviate a lot of pressure that will be focused on Irving and Waiters.

The Cavs next preseason game is Saturday night against the Washington Wizards at 7:30 at The Q.

Posted in Cavaliers | 2 Comments

Final Draft Thoughts

I participated in the WFNY Cavs draft round table, so you should go check that out.

think I’ve settled on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as my choice for the Cavs. I’ve changed my mind on this roughly every 45 minutes, but I that’s where I’m at as of 5pm on the day of the draft. I wouldn’t exactly be mad if they ended up with Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal, but I’m drawn to MKG’s crazy work ethic.

I would prefer the Cavs to not swap picks with the Bobcats. If they reall like Beal that much, then fine. Go get your guy (and I’d rather them take on salary than throw in tons of picks). But I’d much prefer them to stand pat at 4 (grab Barnes or MKG) and then use their assets (including Anderson Varejao & Dan Gilbert’s wallet) to move back into the late-lottery/mid-first round.

Ending the night with something like MKG/Lamb or Barnes/Drummond would be fairly spectacular (I’m also cool with trading back up for Austin Rivers).

But I’m probably getting my hopes up. If they just end up drafting someone like Fab Melo with the 24th pick, I’ll be mildly shocked. The Cavs have been rumored in so many deals that I’ve just assumed that their second first round pick gets packaged in a trade (and I hope Chris Grant’s front office is leaky on purpose).

The Cavs could really set themselves up for the long haul tonight. They could find one, if not two, starters to fit with Kyrie Irving. Let’s hope Chris Grant knows what he’s doing.

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He didn’t ride Dwyane Wade’s coattails

If you watched and appreciated LeBron James while he played for the Cavaliers, you shouldn’t be surprised that he won this title. If the dude can drag Drew Gooden and Eric Snow to the NBA Finals, I’m pretty sure he can win a ring with two other All-Stars.

It just sucks it didn’t happen here. But I’m more disappointed than pissed. I wish he would have chosen to stay home and win it in a Cavalier uniform. I know why he left (can’t argue with teaming up with in-their-prime All-Star teammates and sunshine & beaches), but bringing a title to Northeast Ohio would’ve been so so special. The Cavs were inching closer and they would’ve broken through at some point. You could tell LeBron was going to figure it out eventually. He was too good not to.

The way LeBron left was inexcusable in my mind. The no-show against Boston (with the phantom elbow injury) followed by the middle finger to Cavs fans that was “The Decision,” was not a good look. He needlessly and selfishly added “taking my talents to South Beach” to the ‘Cleveland sports misery’ montage that ESPN fucking shows every time we might actually be enjoying a Cleveland playoff moment. I fault no one for holding that against him.

(But at the same time, I recognize that having the entire region of Northeast Ohio worship him since he was 17 years old might result in an inflated sense of self).

LeBron James earned this title. There’s no asterisk to this ring. And while I think the refs stunk, I don’t don’t think that they were the deciding factor in this series. The Thunder are young and I expect we’ll hear from Kevin Durant and company again.

That LeBron and the Heat lost to Dallas last season, coupled with the fact that the Cavs have Kyrie Irving (and a lot of options on draft day) certainly deadens this blow. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a punch to the gut, but at least James didn’t win a ring in his first post-Cleveland try. See, it’s not that easy. It wasn’t like Wade was getting 30, Bosh was getting 25 and LeBron was sitting back throwing assist after assist, letting Wade take all the clutch shots. James had to lead. He had to do the things we always wanted him to do (play hard every play, stop taking stupid shots, go in the post, etc).

LeBron dominated James Harden on the block. Dominated. As a basketball fan, I can’t help but tip my hat (and I also can’t help but wonder if and when Thunder GM Sam Presti calls Phil Jackson). Miami smelled it during Game 5. They knew they were close and they took it.

I’m not one to hold James to his “not six, not seven” prediction. As far as I know, he never repeated that prediction during a situation where he wasn’t speaking in front of thousands of screaming fans. But as far as dynasties go, I do wonder how long Miami’s window remains open. These Thunder will be back. Maybe Miami will strike gold with a Brandon Roy or Greg Oden signing. But Dwyane Wade is on the wrong side of 30, their cap situation is less than ideal and they don’t have draft picks (though I’m not exactly enamored with the other contenders in the East. Chicago is still a piece away).

By the same token, I never held Dan Gilbert to his stupid “Cavs will win a title before LeBron” heat-of-the-moment prediction either. It was a dumb thing to say and I really hope Gilbert handles LeBron’s Finals victory with class. He does a lot of good things as an owner, I’d rather not him be a national punch line.

It is my sincere wish that Miami’s win closes the book on the “LeBron vs Cleveland” era (though I know it won’t- I’m already bracing for the inevitable “could LeBron come back?!” 2014 rumors). The Decision is two years old and while LeBron won his title, he got his comeuppance first. He paid for his hubris. We’ve even, as far as I’m concerned. It’s time to move on. The Indians are in contention for the Central, the Browns have Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden and the Cavs have Kyrie Irving and the 4th pick in a loaded draft (less than a week!).

Things are looking up in the Cleveland sports world.

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Random NBA Finals Thoughts

This Thunder-Heat series has been absolutely mesmerizing and you best believe that I have an opinion on some of this.

1. Before I get started: the refs. Yes, they stunk. I think if one cared to, they could make a fairly damning highlight reel of calls that went against OKC (I can think of a few off the top of my head: Westbrook’s foul line jumper where he got shoved, Westbrook getting Haslem to bite on the pump fake but not getting the whistle (like Wade did a play or two before), Durant getting fouled coming across the lane by Battier and Wade, Durant getting fouled by Wade on a base line jumper (ESPN’s Mike Breen commented on the fouls of both Durtant plays) and James Harden getting fouled by Wade in the open court before he missed a layup).

1a. Personally, I think they need younger refs (Game 4 refs: Mike Callahan: 53 years. Scott Foster: 45 years old, Bill Kennedy: 44 years old. Joey Crawford reffed Game 3 and he’s 61). Guys in their 50s and 60s are being asked to referee a game between basically Olympic athletes at the peak of their athletic ability. They might miss a few calls.

2. That being said, if you thought the Thunder lost Game 4 because of the refs, we must’ve been watching different games. Miami played harder and smarter (yes, they were physical. They were seeing what the refs let them get away with, turns out, is a lot. They learned that from the Celtics. OKC looked rattled by Miami’s pressure).

3. With the game tied at 90 with about 4 minutes left, Derek Fisher went 1-on-4 (following a LeBron turnover) and got his shot rejected, leading to an easy bucket by LeBron (who had just started to cramp) at the other end. That’s some veteran leadership right there.

4. James Harden has sucked this series and was a main reason OKC lost Game 4. He’s too small to guard LeBron and LeBron simply smother’s him on the offensive end. It’s just a bad matchup for Harden. And Scott Brooks, if I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time, I’ll lose my mind.

5. “If I see Harden guarding LeBron in the post one more time.” LeBron was in the post! And it worked beautifully. Weird.

6. It’s crazy to me how similar this Miami team is to LeBron’s Cavs teams. Shaky second scorer? Check (I have not been impressed by Wade at all). Bench full of spot up shooters? Check. Defensive minded coach who’s offense sputters? Check. Big man who is more comfortable shooting outside and who’s biggest contribution is offensive rebounds? check. LeBron having to do it all? Check.

7. The difference? LeBron. He IS doing it all. He’s not taking bad shots. He’s attacking the rim consistently. He’s going to the post and abusing people. If he’s gonna do that… well… There’s a reason why he’s the three-time MVP.

8. Kevin Durant has to get open more easily. Run him off some picks. Maybe do some misdirection. He can’t be allowing himself to be pushed to outside the 3-point line by the likes of Wade and Battier. The Thunder spend like 8-10 seconds trying to get Durant the ball, and when it fails, Westbrook has to create with the shot clock winding down.

9. Russell Westbrook is a beast. 43 points on 20-32 from the floor. WOW. While he only took just three free throws (made ’em all), I’m not sure how many more times he actually deserved to get to the line (he took a lot of jumpers). But it’s probably more than just three.

10. Thabo Sefolosha, the guy who actually makes LeBron work on offense (and who can smother D.Wade) played just 27 minutes. That is stupid.

11. Also stupid, Thabo not staying up on LeBron and making him drive late in the game. After sitting out due to cramps, James hit a back breaking three with with the shot clock winding down. Why Thabo is giving him the jumper and playing back is beyond me.

12. I don’t like Kendrick Perkins in this series. If he’s not going to be fouling LeBron when James goes inside OR box out Chris Bosh for offensive boards, what is Perkin’s role?

13. OKC still has a shot. Not a big one. Yes, down 3-1 is extremely rough. But they’ve been very close in all of these games. I don’t think they’ll wilt away in Game 5 (though they very well might). They have to get on the plane and fly back to Oklahoma City anyways, might as well play a game (in front of an effing craaazy fanbase) when they get there.

14. That being said, I fully expect Miami to close out in Game 5. But if they somehow have to go back to OKC… wow wouldn’t that be sweet.

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Random Thoughts on Browns draft and Cavs season

– The Cleveland Browns have a new starting running back and quarterback.  I’m cool with this. I wanted Claiborne, the corner from LSU (I liked the idea of stacking the defense) but I can’t fault them with upgrading their shitty offense.

– The Browns, in classic Cleveland Browns fashion, traded up one spot to draft Trent Richardson at No. 3 overall. Unlike Butch Davis, who gave up a 2nd to move up a spot to draft Kellen Winslow, Holmgren only gave up a 4th, 5th and 7th to get Richardson.

– I get the arguments against Richardson: you don’t take a runningback that high, you can always find one later, by the time the Browns are actually good he’ll be on the downside of his prime, which SuperBowl teams have a top flight RB, etc.

– However, if the Browns think he’s the best guy available (ie, he’s a better RB than Justin Blackmon is a WR), then fine. I’m in. It’ll be fun to have a dynamic player in the backfield.

– At 22, the Browns took 28 year old QB Brandon Weeden. This pick is a bit dicey. Pre-draft, it seemed like the Browns could’ve gotten Weeden in the second round at 37. And taking the QB who spent some time playing minor league baseball at 37 is more palpable than at 22, I get that.

– The knock on Weeden isn’t his ability or arm strength, it’s his age. If NFL QB’s take a year or so to ‘get it’, can you really afford to wait on a guy who might not be ready until he’s 30? I mean, Weeden is a year older than Brady Quinn.

– However, if Brandon Weeden’s age actually ever becomes a factor, that means he’d have turned out to be the most successful Browns quarterback since their return in 1999.  This team seemingly has a new starter every five weeks. If this guy sticks around with the Browns and retires at 36, he’d have given them more run than any of the other schmucks brought in here.

– And if you don’t think I’m gonna love all “Brandon Weeden is old” jokes and all the pot puns you can make with his name (“I’m high on Weeden!”) then you’re kidding yourself.

– Adios, Colt. It’s been real.

– I’m so happy I didn’t read a single NFL mock draft. Sure, I’m interested to see which analyst has the Browns picking what player, but I just can’t bring myself to care. There were a boatload of trades during Thursday’s first round, making nearly every mock from the past four months a complete waste of time.

– I still prefer the NFL draft to be Saturday and Sunday. Thursday night prime time is fun and all, but this isn’t exactly exciting television. I don’t care about most of the picks, just the Cleveland’s and the teams drafting around the Browns. That’s it. The draft is perfect lazy Saturday viewing.

– I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the Cavaliers’ season. Kyrie Irving looks like a stud, Tristan Thompson looks like… something that could be useful, the team showed flashes of competitiveness (beating OKC, Boston and Denver) and they should still end up with a Top 5 draft pick (and a 15% shot at Anthony Davis!). Not much more you could ask.

– If the Cavs were healthy for the entire season, they’re a .500 team. Varejao and Kyrie (and Antawn Jamison’s offense) are too good for a team to be really bad. Somewhat fortunately, Varejao’s injury (and Antawn Jamison’s defense) opened the door for their second half slide and now they’re in a great position for the future (two firsts and two seconds this year, two firsts next year).

– I won’t miss Jamison at all, but the Cavs might. I got sick of watching him but the Cavs have no one else who is a legit NBA scorer. Sure, Jamison is full of bad habits and his defense drives me nuts, but he was the only guy who could drop 30 in a game and you wouldn’t be surprised. If Alonzo Gee or Tristan dropped 25+ I’d crap myself with joy.

– Scoring or no, the Cavs need veterans who aren’t only good locker room guys (which, by all accounts includes both Jamison and Anthony Parker) but also guys with good winning habits. I agree that you need locker room guys to set a tone, but your Veteran Leaders can’t all be former Raptors and Wizards. You need guys who have been through the playoff wars and know how to win. While I think Luke Walton is washed up, at least he’s out there making the correct pass at the correct time. All of those little things matter.

– Not that this should surprise anyone, but the NBA playoffs are my favorite postseason. I love the early rounds where there are games every night for about a month. I love when the series goes deep and teams start to hate each other. When players end up knowing the other guy’s moves and then they’re just playing ball. Love it.

– That being said, I can’t wait til I know where the Cavs are actually drafting. I’m pumped for these playoffs, but I’m a Cavs fan first. I need to know where they’re picking. Badly.

– I highly suggest you read this Jason Whitlock column on the NBA Union fight between Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter. Good shit.

– Finally, if you aren’t watching Game of Thrones (or downloading it illegally), I can’t recommend it enough. This came across my Facebook feed (and trust me, you can’t imagine how the librarian in me hates sourcing it like that) and I just thought it was brilliant. [click to embiggen]

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