Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vox in the Box (15)



What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
-- Those Winter Sundays, Robert Hayden, 1962

You can replace "love's" in that poem with "The NBA's" and that's basically how I felt after predicting a Nets victory in Game 6. Lotta things happened since Vox last left you. The Cavs fed me the tastiest shitburger I have ever eaten. That was a tasty, tasty shitburger. Can I have a sip of your Pepsi to wash that shitburger down? Yes, I'm also the one that predicted the Cavs would go down in Round 1 back in November. More shitburgers. I'm praying Mike Brown and SVAC will feed me one more, as I am here to bury him and his team. This series is over, almost before it started. Shouldn't surprise us...if it wasn't for a miracle shot by Derek Fisher in 2004 and an incredible three by Dirk Dallas in OT of Game 7 WCF, Tim Duncan and San Antonio would be on the verge of their 6th title.

But I'm not 100% clueless just yet. In March, I pegged this group as the best Cavalier defensive team I'd ever seen. Going back to my bold November predictions, I missed the Cavalier regular season win total by one game and correctly anticipated that the Cavs would play an unmotivated regular season. I felt the Cavs would take the East if they did manage to escape Round 1. I had the Spurs coming out of the West even then, when most national beats were jerking off Dallas and Phoenix. And in my playoff predictions, I had the Cavs and Nets as the real ECF, noting that either team would dismantle 'Roit. If you missed the stat on Simmons, the Pistons never led by more than 8 in the entire series. The Nets twice beat us easily, which made them the tougher opponent. Unfortunately neither team had the skill and coaching chops of the Spurs. I confess I'm one of those idiots that felt the gap between the East and West was minimal, based on the Heat's handling of the overrated Mavs last year. But the Spurs clearly have gears SVAC doesn't. It's been too painful for me to watch The Finals.

Not too much pain, however, in the Sopranos finale. I was ready to mourn Tony. At either his funeral or his sentencing. However, while the nation watched Meadow parallel park...David Chase was laughing his ass off on his sofa, playing his loyal audience like puppets, knowing we would always search for drama and significance in the wrong places. You can always count on Americans to not do their homework, as one writer said. We want the bloodbath; the easy resolution. And I can't blame anyone who criticizes Chase for letting his prized creation off the hook. He violated the most important rule of writing fiction, you can't save character; Tony had to go down (you've heard me say that for 6 years). But, for seven seasons, Chase never spoon-fed us anything. As Rob Sheffield wrote in his adios to Tony in Rolling Stone this week, "Sopranos can be a victim of its own classiness." Aside from the high body counts, it was one of the most realistic television shows ever. And I think the ending served the show quite well. Over a burger, Tony's lawyer tells him there is a 90% chance of indictment. There you have it. The fact that we'll never actually see it means that Chase didn't feel a Tony-goes-to-prison scene was important to the show's vitality.

For me, the important message was the title of the episode, Made in America. I always felt Tony represented America. We eat, we play, we joke, but there's always a 3000 lb. elephant hanging over our heads, ready to drop at any unsuspecting minute. We succumb to temptation. We argue, we fuck, we lie but we can justify it all because we do whatever we can to support our families. After all the bullshit, the posturing, the manipulating, the scheming...Tony is flipping through the jukebox for one of Carmella's favorite tunes (We know this because Don't Stop Believin' played in Season 2 while Carmella anxiously awaited the arrival of the contractor she was hot for, Victor Musto.) Yes, we should've known the final scene would be the family at dinner. Season one ended the same way, because Chase believed his "niche" narrative would never get picked up for a second season. As a fan and critic, I was all over the writers for violating character this season. But I can't blame Chase for the ending's ambiguity. It was dripping with symbolism, it was shot beautifully, it was inhumanely tense, and Steve Perry's soothing tenor redeems: Oh, the movie never ends/ It goes on and on and on and on

1995 Tribe vs 2007 Cavs: The reason you prefer the Belle-Baerga Tribe, the Price-Daugherty Cavs and the Kosar-Slaughter Browns is because you were young, not because those players were more "likeable." Believe me, the youthful mind will idealize everything. Lets compare: Albert Belle was an A-1 asshole, Kenny Lofton was surly, Jose Mesa was married and groped a chick from 1148 in a hotel room. Today's Tribe (Hafner, Sizemore, Sabathia) are model citizens. Brad Daugherty is a classless bitch and pretends he never played in Cleveland. Ry, you felt you were smarter than Hot Rod when you were 12. How likeable was that? The current Cavs are maybe the nicest team in the NBA with LeBron, Z, Larry Hughes, Coach Brown, etc. And the mid 80's Browns? I seem to remember a story about Slaughter allegedly holding some chick down in a limo so his boy Langhorne could dry-sex her. The Cleveland sports stars of our childhood were no better than today. They were probably worse, but we had our innocence then. To quote Western coach Pete Bell: you took da purest thing in your life and corrupted it.

I respect those who preferred the Tribe's '95 playoff run to now...but the fact that it was our first experience with a winner shouldn't hold much weight in the debate. Anything less than the pennant for that team would've been a disaster. They did what they were expected to do-- beat the inferior Red Sox and Mariners. On the other hand, the Cavs and their crappy offense overachieved by beating the #1 seed...and for me, that's much sweeter.
Hence, this risky analogy: I lost my virginity to Mrs. Vox. Sure, it was memorable because it was my first time- but it was expected. We had been seriously dating for like 6 weeks; it was inevitable. But, let's say I go to a bar this weekend and Elisha Cuthbert or Fergie walks in. There are a ton of famous, rich, good-looking guys with Bentleys there, but I end up leaving with Cuthbert and banging her in my Solara. Now which event gave me more satisfaction/joy? Losing my virginity to my future wife or unexpectedly banging Fergie at 20-1 odds?

Back to basketball, this is my 20th season of following The Association and here is SamVox's All Anniversary NBA Team 1987-2007:

PF: Tim Duncan (I was a doubter when he was at Wake Forest, and I've never been more wrong about any player in my life)
SF: LeBron James (Game 5 cements him in my mind; more on that below)
C: Akeem Olajowon (Sing it Billy Joel: he can add on the H, but he's always an Akeem to me)
SG: MJ (That would be funny if I put Drazen Petrovic or Mitch Richmond or someone like that.)
PG: Isiah Thomas (Isiah, post me up -- Olden Polynice, 1991)

ClevelandSportsTotrure.blogspot.com rejocice! The Randumb Top 10 returns:

SamVox's Top 10 Cleveland Sports Victories:

1. Cavs 109 Pistons 107 OT, Game 5, ECF, May 31, 2007, The Palace of Auburn Hills Honest to God...I can think of only five moments in my life that made me happier than seeing SVAC pull off this minor miracle in 'Roit:

* May 4, 2006. Rainbow Hospital. The night the Goose was born.
* June 12, 1998. Ohio Stadium. Getting a diploma from The Ohio State University. I often think they're going to ask for it back someday. And they can have it...it's pretty much worthless. But, at the time, getting that red piece of cardboard was completely surreal when you consider I graduated by a nose hair and spent every quarter but the first and last on academic warning/probatiion.
* May 24, 1997. Ohio Stadium. I come face to face with Paul David Hewson for the first time. Too much hot air on the disappointing PopMart tour, but I'm still pretty sure Bono was looking right at me during Streets.
* October 25th, 2003. Memphis in the passenger's seat of my car for the first time, sitting happily on Mrs. Vox's lap. Until I saved him from that awful foster home, I was a complete waste of a human being.
* January 3, 2003, Froms's house. Where I witnessed our first and only championship. I'll never forget Cie Grant closing in on Dorsey and that football falling incomplete. We've always had the best damn band in the land. Now we got da best damn team in da land.
(Ironic that two of my life's top 5 moments were in the 'Shoe, and neither involved football.)

Anyway, Game 5 was the best NBA game I've ever seen, featuring the greatest performance I've ever witnessed from a singular athlete in a team sport. I was positively giddy afterwards, mentally and physically exhausted and in a state of pure detroit shock. Seeing their fans sulking, stuck in their seats long after the game ended and unable to move was a fantastic feeling. They didn't believe what they just saw. I didn't either.

2. Indians 5 Red Sox 4, thirteen innings, Game 1, ALDS, October 3, 1995, Jacobs Field
We were all virgins to the baseball playoffs, but were soon broken in by bat-gate and Tony Pena's unbelievable game winning homer in extra innings. And how cruel it would've been if we had dropped the first game at home in a best of five series after winning 100 games and dominating the AL. Although we were far superior to Boston, their line-up still boasted Mo Vaughn, Jose Canseco and Mike Greenwell. Had they espcaed with the victory, that might've propelled the Sox to a series upset that Cleveland would've never recovered from.

3. Cavs 114 Bullets 113 OT Game 6, Eastern Conference Quaterfinals, May 5, 2006, MCI Center
I watched this at Rainbow in our tiny hospital room, just 24 hours after Goose was born. It had been 13 years since SVAC won a playoff series. Arenas nails a three pointer from almost half-court to send the game into OT, only to choke at the line when the Bullets had a chance to ice it. Damon Jones hits the unforgettbale game winning shot that I had predicted 6 months earlier, sending me into a silent hysteria...so as not to wake all of the babies sleeping in the new-born wing.

4. Force 5, Baltimore 1, Conference Semifinals, Game 5, May 1986, Richfield Coliseum
The previous game, Kai Hasskivi had scored an impossible goal with seconds remaining to send the game into overtime and we pulled it out in Baltimore to "force" a decisive Game 5 in Cleveland against the nemesis Blast. And it was the loudest I'd ever heard the Coliseum. Clinging to a 2-1 lead in the fourth quarter, the Force found themselves two men down after critical yellow cards. It would've been an improbable feat to kill that power-play against the offensively-gifted Blast. But then the unthinkable happened when Blast goalie Scott Manning was caught out of position trying to gain a three-man advantage and Dennis Mempham scored a short-handed goal . Then he hit on my mom a few years later. I will never forget either moment.

5. Indians 3 Yankees 2, ALDS, October 5, 1997, Jacobs Field
What a duel between Hersheiser and Gooden. Tribe comes in down 2 games to 1 in the series. Eighth inning. One out. Rivera on the mound to close the series out. Sandy homers. Indians go on to win and then take Game 5 the following night. Ironically, that was the closest Doc ever got to a post-season win. He had signed my poetry book just 4 months earlier and privately, I was praying for a great performance by him and a Tribe win. That seemed too much too ask, but that's exactly what happened. I scored the game and still have it saved. Two months later, John Hart signs Doc on that strength of that performance. Beating the Yankees in the playoffs 1996 thru 2001 didn't happen much. Twice to be exact. The Tribe in '97 and 'Zona in the '01 series.

6. Browns 23 Jets 20, 2 OT, AFC Divisional Playoff, January 3, 1987, Cleveland Municipal Stadium
Maybe the most remembered Cleveland victory of our lifetime. Jets were up 20-10 with 4 minutes left; Bernie put us on his back. This is the one game on the list I missed, as Froms and I were playing indoor soccer and missed the first 4 quarters. Some father was yelling the score out while we played. Guess who?

7. Indians 2 Orioles 1, twelve innings, Game 3, ALCS, October 11, 1997, Jacobs Field
Classic battle between the then-unhittable Mke Mussina and the bulldog. Mesa blows the save in the 9th. With the winning run at 3rd in the twelfth inning, Omar attempts to bunt and fouls it off. O's catcher Lenny Webster misses the ball, and Grissom steals home because the umpire rules that Omar never made contact. Froms and I watched in the bleachers while some dude nearby gave us play-by-play of an important OSU/Penn State football game that was happening simultaneously in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes lost. The amazing, amazing irony is that one year earlier, I was attending a very meaningful OSU/Penn State game at the 'Shoe while the Tribe and Baltimore were playing Game 4 of the ALDS. This time, a fan in the south stands with a transister was giving us Tribe updates. The Buckeyes routed Penn State that afternoon, but the O's eliminated the Indians. The moral of the story, beyond the unbelievable coincidence, is that Froms and I are good luck together at a live sporting event. See #10.

8. Browns 34, Bills 30, AFC Divisional Playoff, January 6, 1990, Cleveland Stadium
Browns were up against a loaded Bills team on the verge of four straight AFC titles. It was a shootout, coming down to a final drive by Jim Kelly...and the Bills had multiple tries at the winning score. Ronnie Harmon dropped the game-winning TD in the endzone. Then, Clay Matthews intercepted Kelly to preserve the victory with three seconds left.

9. Indians 4 Mariners 0, Game 6, ALCS, October 17, 1995, Safeco Field
I can still recall the surge I felt in my chest when Lofton scored from second base on a passed ball, putting the finishing touches on a pennant-clinching win over Randy Johnson and the Mariners. Ry's On Fire would be recorded in the wee hours of that morning and plenty of Plain Dealer machines on High Street were criminally emptied.

10. Cavs 122, Boston 104, Game 7, Eastern Conference Semifinals, May 17 1992, Richfield Coliseum
Yall know about this legendary Sunday afternoon. Hadman, Froms & I on national TV, knifing through the turnstiles for NBC's opening segue. SVAC advance to the ECF, the mock tears in the nosebleeds, the end of Larry Bird's career.

All right, let's all hold hands. Sing this next one with me:
Tonight we're gonna take no prisoners
Tonight we're gonna live our dream
Tonight the wine and gold deliver
Hard workin' town, hard workin' team
I am Stanley in the box.
C'MON CAVS...parting is inevitable