No Shaq, No Big Z /
Hockey distraction up north /
#Cavs beat Toronto /
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
There’s a new buzzword floating around Cleveland-centric sports message boards amid the Cavaliers’ recently snapped three-game post-All Star break losing streak.
That word is “zarma,” as in “The loss to Denver was zarma, man.”
It took me a few moments to figure what the hell this meant, and then it hit me like big, stupidly obvious thunderbolt: Trading Zydrunas Ilgauskus for Antawn Jamison upset the team’s delicate karmic balance, resulting in said losing slide.
Straw-grasping callers to local sports talk radio shows have focused on the lurpy Lithuanian’s absence as a major reason for the Cavs’ ills, even when that sickness stemmed from poor free throw shooting, mediocre guard play, porous defense and integrating a new player into the rotation.
The outcry and concern about “Big Z’s” possible return to the Cavs grew with the skid. Fans asked sympathetic radio hosts worried questions about the buyout from Washington (made official this afternoon), and fretfully wrung their collective hands at the possibility of another team signing Z for the rest of the season. A non-story about the NBA trying to block’s Z’s return to Cleveland only exacerbated the nail biting.
Although I’ve spent a good portion of my 35 years as a proud member of this notoriously fickle fan base and should know better, I’m still a bit mystified by the sudden Z love. It seems the guy’s gotten more attention from fans in a week than he’s received in his 11-year career.
Now, I like Z and think he can be a nice piece on a championship ballclub. He’s worked well in tandem with Shaq, and the Cavs will need his length, jump-shooting ability and locker-room presence in the playoffs. But I’ll be damned if Z’s going to make or break a title run, and his absence certainly isn’t the reason the team has gone 1-3 to start the second half of the season.
Cleveland loyalists’ reaction to the trade is especially strange considering all of the complaints levied against the big man in the twilight of his career. People (including this humble blogger) were miffed when Danny Ferry chased Z through an airport in the summer of 2005 to sign him to a lucrative five-year deal.
In the years since, phrases like “slow-footed” and “black hole in the post” were tossed around to describe Z by both media and fans. Those rightful criticisms have largely been forgotten since the trade, and replaced by such nebulous terms as “chemistry” and “karma.” This outlook is skewed to the point where I think folks would rather have Z than the 20 and 8 secondary scorer this team desperately needs. What’s going on here?
I think the issue is two-fold, and endemic to the tribulations of Cleveland fandom. Firstly, Z is one of “our” guys – a genuinely good, humble man who has gamely fought through several foot surgeries to be a stalwart in the Cavs’ lineup. We love players who have gone through fire and remain loyal to Cleveland, an attitude that befits our toughened, underdog mentality.
Ah, but that mentality has a cutting edge. When we have high expectations for one of our teams and they struggle for however brief a period, we look for any reason as to why this year won’t be “the year” once again. Call it rampant paranoia, or protecting our frayed psyches from crushing disappointment.
I like to call it the “Other Shoe Syndrome.” When’s it going to drop and dash our hopes once again?, Clevelanders think. We know that piece of footwear won’t be some soft-soled Hush Puppy, either, but a scuffed, black Doc Marten shit-kicker the size of a Brinks’ truck etched with the names of all of our past sporting failures.
Our pale, likely-to-be-returning center is currently wearing that ugly shoe. Will some malign, otherworldly force stomp our dreams by sending Z to Denver, Dallas or elsewhere?
No, because there’s no such thing as “zarma.” Go Cavs!
Gene Wojciechowski must be moronic. Or are his editors? Or does ESPN just need to raise the ire of Cleveland fans today to get some buzz? The Olympics stealing too much attention away for a couple weeks? Or does ESPN just like to try to make Cleveland fans feel scared, lousy, angry, homicidal?
I'm not sure, but in an article Wojciechowski wrote featured right now on the home page of ESPN.com, he lays out the amazingly obvious premise that has been talked about by hopeless Knicks' romantics for two years now...if Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James decide not to just go for the highest paycheck, they can all play for the same team (in this case, the Knicks), and probably win a few titles like that.
No kidding. I'm pretty sure anybody over the age of 7 who has ever watched basketball could have told you that. And if Michael Jordan hadn't "taken a couple years off", and maybe the Bulls had signed Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone, they might have won 12 straight titles. And if the Cavs had gotten rid of Nance and Ehlo and signed Karl Malone and Michael Jordan, they might have won a championship too.
What is the motivation for an article that points out the obvious? Yes, if the three best free agents all sign with the same team, that team will be good.
Thanks. Now how about some serious intel?
Friday, February 19, 2010
I'm sure a lot of people saw that Forbes magazine ranked Cleveland as its Most Miserable City for this year today.
I gotta say, it's like an argument with your family. It's okay for YOU to call your relative every name in the book, but when someone outside the family does, it's time to take up arms.
This is the only public forum I have (except for my personal twitter feed) so I thought I'd talk a bit about Cleveland, and I know many of you feel the same way. Note: I gotta admit that I don't live in Cleveland right now. I was born and raised and lived most of my life there, but a job took me to Chicago two years ago. I think Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world. But I love Cleveland even more.
I love that people who don't know Cleveland ridicule it, and people who do know it ridicule them.
I love that just about everyone I grew up with feels the same way I do.
I love that we're the underdog.
I love that every single Cleveland fan knows EXACTLY what we would do if we were LeBron James, and don't have a doubt about it.
I love that we know that despite what other people have done to us.
I love that there's not traffic jams on the highways at ungodly times, night or day.
I love the Muni Lot. Not necessarily at 6AM on a Sunday though.
I love the Metroparks, the Emerald necklace that surround the city.
I love the Metroparks golf courses, especially Manakiki.
I love the Diff (despite initially hating it.)
I love the Plain Dealer.
I love Jim Donovan, despite the fact that I loved Nev Chandler more.
I love Casey Coleman, and don't care about Bill Belichick.
I love the Palisades bowling alley on Euclid Avenue in Wickliffe, where Llama Chasers reign supreme.
I love walking down a busy street in Cleveland, and will love when downtown is bustling again.
I love Slyman's.
I love Jack's Deli even more.
I love Stadium Mustard anywhere.
I love the river, and can't wait until the flats area is developed again.
I love that people make fun of the river on fire without knowing anything about it.
I love Burning River Pale Ale.
I love all Great Lakes Brewing Company beers, and the bar and restaurant too.
I love that Lake Erie Monster Double IPA is coming out this year.
I love pierogis.
I love the fact that you can golf within 15 miles of downtown Cleveland, at great courses, at great prices.
I love the fact that Cleveland has places you can shop without a second mortgage.
I love the refurbished warehouses in downtown Cleveland.
I love the East Side, and I suppose the West Side too (even though I'm much more ignorant about it).
I love Michael Symon, and the fact that one of the country's most famous chefs is our homeboy.
I love Cedar-Lee.
I love Coventry.
I love West 25th.
I love West 9th.
I love Big Chuck and Little John.
I love Lake Erie.
I love the walleye from Lake Erie.
I love the Hospice of the Western Reserve. A peaceful and beautiful place in a sad time.
I love Little Italy and the Feast.
I love Chinatown.
I love the Old World Festival.
I love cavatelli at St. Gregory's festival.
I love Michael Stanley.
I love the Buzzard.
I love the Force.
I love Jacobs Field.
I love Mayfield Road.
I love Niko's, the South Euclid Cafe, Fox's, Ava's Alley, and all my favorite joints.
I love the Cleveland Air Show--every Labor Day weekend.
I love the fact that I lived in Cleveland a LONG time before Wal-Marts arrived. Hey, it was inevitable, but at least we held out.
I love Browns games, no matter how painful they've been lately.
I love the fact that Ohio State football is close enough that you don't have to live in Columbus to go to the games.
I love Bernie Kosar.
I love Bill Selby.
I love Troy Smith.
I love Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
I love LeBron, and desperately hopes he cements his role as a Cleveland all time legend.
And I love Cleveland sports fans--in Cleveland and everywhere, who will rejoice like no other city on Earth when a championship is brought home. Someday.