Please pardon this Clevelander for crowing – but the Cavaliers have had a very good offseason so far. After taking the Golden State Warriors to 6 games in the 2015 NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, the Cavs are fully reloaded for the 2015-16 season.
With Kevin Love’s re-signing on the first day of free agency, the message to the rest of the NBA is clear: The Cavs will be going back to the Finals. And this time, barring injury, Stephen Curry and Co. – or anyone else — won’t be enough to stop them.
So many trendy NBA pundits and executives have gotten all excited about “small ball” and how the Cavs were done in by Golden State’s jump-shooting lineup of shorter players. But the fact is that the Warriors were nearly down 3-0 to a Cavs team without Irving wreaking havoc at the point or Love stretching the floor, grabbing rebounds and knocking ‘em down from long distance.
Take a moment to consider the Cavs starting five. This is a team that can start All-Star Kyrie Irving at the 1. LeBron James at the 2: easily the leagues most overpowering shooting guard. All-Star Kevin Love (6’10”) at the 3, Tristan Thompson (6’10”) at the 4 and Timofey Mozgov (7’1”) at the 5. Let anyone else play small ball. The Cavs front line is a shot-blocking, rebound-eating animal – with a guy in Kevin Love who will murder you from the 3-point line.
With this lineup, there is so much less pressure on LeBron night after night. He doesn’t need to score a triple double every night like he averaged in the NBA Finals. He’s got more than enough help in every facet of the game.
A word to David Blatt: This is your starting five. Do NOT be afraid to start such a big front line. There will be plenty of room in the paint for LeBron and Kyrie to drive to the hoop when Love leaks out to the perimeter and a defender has to follow him. And on defense, no opponent is getting to the rim easily — if at all.
I’ll be interested to see what the Cavs can do to improve their bench. But just sending Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith back to the bench is a good start. And I love Matthew Dellavedova and his hustle, but we could use a bit more bench help at the point. (Though I do want to keep Deli!)
Say a prayer for good health, Cavs Fans, our long municipal nightmare may soon be over.
And given that the average age of our starting five is just 26 years old — the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks very, very big.
For those who might be wondering if the talk of a drought in Southern California is overblown, I submit these photos of Mailbu Creek State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains near my home in Woodland Hills.
I have seen the creek bed at low water in previous years – when the stream was reduced to a few feet across during the hottest days of late summer. But I have never beheld this parched, arid landscape — especially just a few months removed from Spring.For reference – check out this footage I shot this January, showing winter rainwater pouring down into Malibu Creek from the mountains above, churning up foam as it falls.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with this drought. I applaud Governor Brown for getting serious about it. Perhaps, as my very creative wife suggests, we Southern Californians should get together for a big rain dance.
We could hold our Grand Rain Dance in Malibu Creek State Park.
Travel my way — take the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.
When my daughter Emilia and I made our plan to motor west from Chicago to Los Angeles over the course of two marathon days in May, it was her desire that we get our California-bound kicks on that legendary highway — Route 66.
Well, it winds from Chicago to LA,
More than 2,000 miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.
I’d first driven the 2,150 miles from Chicago to LA – south on I-55 and west on I-40 along the path of the old U.S. Route 66 – back in 1991 when I planted my flag in Southern California to stake a claim in the television biz. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, I was winding my way from Chicago to the west coast with the girl whose birth in ‘91 was one of the primary catalysts for our relocation to more lucrative employment in Hollywood.
Emilia was gung-ho for the trip, eager to check off each of the ten cities listed in songwriter Bobby Troup’s much-covered classic. Troup wrote the song in 1946 on his own journey toward a career in the western Mecca of the entertainment business — immortalizing an itinerary of stops along The Mother Road, spanning the western two-thirds of America from the Windy City to the City of Angels.
Now you go through Saint Louis
Oklahoma City is mighty pretty.
Gallup, New Mexico,
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.
Nearly 70 years ago, when Bobby Troup made his pilgrim’s progress westward, the Main Street of America was just a series of two-lane blacktops: various State Routes snaking their way through the heart of each of the municipalities mentioned in Troup’s celebrated, syncopated lyrics. As postwar traffic along Route 66 increased and peaked over the following decades, the towns it traversed adapted and grew to meet the demands of highway travelers.
In the years after President Eisenhower launched construction of the Interstate Highway System in 1956, the wide concrete belts of I-55 and I-40 mostly skirted the various city centers, bypassing many of the roads that had made up old Route 66. And while the driving time from Chicago to LA was reduced dramatically – so, too, was the colorful, unique local character of the Route 66 experience.
You can still find original sections of the Mother Road – many of them just off an exit, running parallel to Ike’s great Interstates — the old motels, restaurants, gas stations, and roadside attractions in varying degrees of dilapidation, dowdiness and decay. Yet, some towns have managed to maintain carefully preserved stretches of old Route 66, doing a brisk trade in food, fuel, lodging, and nostalgia.
Won’t you get hip to this timely tip?
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.
As we set out from Chicago, Emilia put just one other item on our two-day road agenda: geocaching. You may not know this, but millions of people around the world have hidden even more millions of small treasures called “geocaches” in interesting locations across the globe — challenging fellow geocache enthusiasts to find them, armed only with a set of GPS coordinates. Emilia was determined to find at least one geocache in every state along the way in which she hadn’t already logged a find. So I knew we’d be poking around odd corners just off the highway in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Now you go through Saint Louis…
The drive south along I-55 through the prairie and farmlands of Illinois toward St. Louis is long, flat and straight. There are few curves in the road and even fewer hills. We made good time through the Land of Lincoln, our progress interrupted only once – when a sudden cloudburst drenched the highway in sheets of rain through which we couldn’t see more than 10 feet ahead. Luckily, the downpour ended as quickly as it began, and we rolled into St. Louis, Missouri under blue skies.
Sighting The Gateway Arch which dominates the St. Louis skyline, we exited I-55 to take the first of our selfies to commemorate our arrival in each town name-dropped by Bobby Troup.
There’s not much to say about our Joplin experience as it’s one of those towns that have been bypassed by Ike’s Interstate. Thus, what we saw of Joplin was similar to what we passed driving through lots of communities along the modern Mother Road: franchise restaurants, sequences of tacky roadside signs extolling the virtues of various upcoming gift-cheese-fireworks-souvenir-gun-knife-Indian trinket shops, and truck stops like Mother’s – where we paused to look for a CD of “Cracked Rear View” by Hootie & The Blowfish – and actually found it!
If Oklahoma City is pretty at all, we couldn’t tell. Emilia was at the wheel and the weather turned foul as we made our way through OKC. Rain fell from the cloud-darkened sky, illuminated by sudden flashes of lightning and the sound of distant thunder that doubtless gave the city’s NBA team its name. Emilia did a great job negotiating the heaviest stretch of traffic we saw on the trip – and the weather broke just long enough for us to collect our selfie.
And now that we were in Oklahoma, it was time to find our first geocache – which Emilia located near the parking lot of one of those ubiquitous truck stops. We grabbed a fast food dinner, I went back behind the wheel, and we listened to the Houston Rockets regain some measure of respect in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
You’ll see Amarillo…
It was near midnight when we pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo, Texas – after driving more than 1,000 miles during our first day. We grabbed five hours worth of sleep in a couple of very comfy beds – then got back on the road by 6:00 AM the next morning.
We took our Amarillo selfie – and before long, Emilia found her Texas geocache. Those were the two highlights of our rather dull, flat, straight drive across the windswept Texas panhandle, marked by herds of cud-chewing cows and farmlands that extended far into the horizon without a hint of a hill to be had. Luckily, the speed limit for most of I-40 in Texas is 75 MPH – and I took every advantage of the opportunity to race through Ted Cruz’ state just as fast as we (legally) could.
As we crossed from Texas into New Mexico, the landscape soon developed new contours: hills, then bluffs, then dramatic red rock mesas. The chaparral was still quite green and the combination of brilliant blue sky, white clouds, red rock and mountain greenery were a joy to behold.
This time, I was the one who discovered the tiny two-inch long aluminum tube, dangling from a thin chain into a hole in the ground next to a weathered wooden post holding up what was left of a battered old sign.
Our family has been to Flagstaff before (and to nearby, magical Sedona) on a family vacation to the Grand Canyon.
Emilia was about 7 years old at the time, but the week we spent exploring this part of Arizona made a deep impression. And speaking of deep impressions, Emilia and I could drive past the famous Meteor Crater just east of Flagstaff because we’d already seen that prehistoric wonder.
I was glad that the geocaching phase of our expedition was a success — and that my daughter could now log onto the Geocaching website and earn a badge for each of the four new states in which she found a cache — but I must admit that I was in a hurry to get to Williams, Arizona, just 35 miles west of Flagstaff on I-40.
Bobby Troup didn’t put Williams, Arizona in his song, but it’s a “don’t miss” destination for those seeking retro Route 66 ambience.
Since we left Chicago, as we passed various Route 66 highway signs along the road, I’d been telling Emilia that we’d have an ample opportunity to score the mother load of Mother Road signs when we got to Williams, AZ. And we were not disappointed.
The last town bypassed by 1-40, Williams has preserved more than vintage signs. It boasts a town center featuring a half-dozen blocks of restored Route 66-era buildings facing an original stretch of the pre-Interstate road. The local shopkeepers – mostly mom and pop’s — trade on the look and flavor of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Here, you can get a sense of how it might have been to journey westward through the heart of such towns rather than whizzing passing them at 75 miles an hour.
Williams has a special relationship to Route 66 and I-40. In fact, it was the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed. But the people of Williams didn’t give in to President Eisenhower’s great highway project without a fight. Their lawsuits held up the last section of I-40 for nearly three decades until a settlement gave Williams three highway exits: an outsized number given the town’s modest size. Williams was finally bypassed on October 13, 1984 – 15 years after Ike passed away. The next year, Route 66 was officially decommissioned. From then on, the Mother Road existed only in memory, legend and song.
Oh, yeah. Here’s another timely tip. Winona, Arizona actually comes before Flagstaff when you’re driving west. A songwriter like Bobby Troup can be granted poetic license, but he disqualifies himself as a navigator. When Emilia and I took our required selfie we were still 15 miles east of Flagstaff.
There was still plenty of sunlight left as we descended more than 3,200 feet in elevation over the 115 miles of 1-40 from Williams to Kingman, Arizona. We were driving hard for California at this point – and Game Four of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals would be on the radio soon – so, we only spent enough time in Kingman to gas up, get a bite, and try to dial up the Cavaliers versus the Hawks. I’m a Clevelander born and raised. Listening to LeBron James and the Cavs close out the Atlanta Hawks would be an ideal end to this adventure.
At first, as we burned up the high desert miles toward San Berdoo, our radio delivered a strong AM signal – and the Cavs were beating the Hawks handily. But there’s not much in the way of civilization between Kingman and San Bernardino (though we did stop in Barstow, CA for our requisite selfie) and as the sun went down, so did our radio station signal. At times we abandoned the faint, faltering, static-strangled broadcast and Emilia read the play-by-play on her NBA Gametime app.
It was around 10:00 PM when we drove past San Bernardino in the heaviest traffic we’d seen since Oklahoma. It wasn’t easy to find a safe location for our selfie, so Emilia and I agreed to settle for a shot taken through the car window as we continued homeward.
The local Los Angeles area sports talk radio channels were starting to come in loud and clear – and while my legs were cramping after long hours of driving, listening to excited post-game discussion of the Cavs’ victory gave me all the fuel I needed to power through the last stretches of the 10 and the 101 freeways.
My daughter and I had traveled Route 66, covering more than 2,000 miles in less than two days. We touched base in every city in the song – and found a geocache in every state we needed to find one. We listened to two great basketball games on the radio and played “Cracked Rear View” and John Fogerty’s “Revival” several times.
We got to know the country a little better along the way – and we also got to know each other better.
It was, as Bobby Troup would say, a kick.
Now, sing along with Emilia and me:
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.
With opening day for The Los Angeles Dodgers today, the Chicago Cubs playing their first game of the season tomorrow, and my hometown Cleveland Indians opening their 2015 campaign tonight — baseball prognosticators are saying great things about the potential of all three of these clubs. My fellow Cubs and Indians fans know not to get too excited too early (or ever) — but opening day is all about possibilities, optimism and renewal. So, here’s to an Indians vs. Cubs World Series.
And in celebration of Opening Day, here’s a re-post of a piece from 5 years ago, featuring a bit of satiric verse.
I’d like to celebrate the first flowering of the MLB baseball season with a re-print of a poem I wrote many years ago. Full credit must be given to my wife Victoria (who was not yet my wife at the time) who managed in 1988 to get my satiric take on Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s “Casey At The Bat” published in the Baseball Bible, The Sporting News.
I still remember being at the wheel of our car when Victoria told me that some sports publication called “the sporting something” was going to publish my poem. “Is it The Sporting News?” I screamed at her, pounding the steering wheel! “Are you talking about the Baseball Bible? The Sporting News??” Victoria was a cool, impossibly groovy girl — but she had no idea how absolutely perfect a publication she’d landed. And, as a relatively good South Side Chicago girl, she could not fully appreciate how I felt when I saw that the legendary Mad Magazine artist, Jack Davis, illustrated my poem.
UPDATE: Before I published this article, I wrote to The Sporting News to confirm the identity of the artist. In September 2010, I finally heard from Sporting News archivist Bill Wilson that is was he — and not Jack Davis — who illustrated my poem. “I hate to disappoint you,” writes Wilson, “but the ‘prominent artist’ who illustrated this piece was none other than me. I’ll take the compliment, however, as well as the comparison to Jack Davis—it is an apt one, as he was one of the biggest influences on my style. I was with TSN as everything from a staff artist and cartoonist to creative director between 1981 and 2008.” Ultimately, I’m not disappointed. The very talented Bill Wilson did a great job.
CASEY GOES TO ARBITRATION
With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, a tongue-in-cheek look at baseball today…It looked extremely hopeful for the Mudville nine that year, The Spring was full of promise, and the fans were full of cheer. Then came the news by UPI that hit home with such clout,
The star would not report that Spring — Mighty Casey would hold out!Casey was the MVP on last year’s Series Champ, And all the writers in the land pitched tents in Casey’s camp. ‘Twas “Casey this!” and “Casey that!” and features on TV,
Now when they came to interview, no Casey did they see.The Mudville General Manager, his Stetson hat askew, Bellowed “I’ll make Casey hold his breath until he turns bright blue!” Casey’s agent, Morton Zucker, raised a challenge in the press,
“No Pay — No Play,” read headlines, “We Want Millions — Nothing Less!”The season ticket holders soon stopped calling to renew, As Casey held out six long weeks, and then another two! Spring training almost over, and the lineup nearly set,
The name of Mighty Casey was not written on it yet.On Op’ning Day the Mayor threw the first ball out with shame, Not a fan inside the ballpark dared to whisper Casey’s name. The players took the field and paused to hear the Anthem played,
A little boy sat crying, Mighty Casey was delayed.The fans were growing restless, Mudville started 0 and 10, And rumor was that Mudville would not see Casey again. But when Casey’s agent Zucker sought an arbitration hearing,
Every Mudville heart believed a blessed settlement was nearing.The Mudville G.M. cried with rage, “This business reeks of greed! If Zucker wants to arbitrate, then we’ll make Casey bleed! Ev’ry error he’s committed, every drunk post-curfew spree,
Will be laid before the arbitrator — bare for all to see!”The hearing lasted five long days, as both sides thrashed it out, Some devoted fans of Casey’s were no longer so devout. “He has problems with his back,” his trainer testified to all,
“He’s drunk so often, sometimes he can’t even see the ball!”“Casey never hits for average,” Mudville’s G.M. pointed out, “And let’s not forget the day that ‘Mighty Casey had struck out!'” The arbitrator ruled that Mudville pay nine hundred grand,
But Mudville brass weren’t buying and they made their own demand.“If Casey wants his money, we demand he do his best, And since he can’t be trusted, he must pass a urine test.” Casey’s test results were positive; all Mudville was in pain,
When Casey was suspended for dependence on cocaine.Casey rehabilitated while the season passed him by, Mudville fell into the cellar while he hung out to dry. There were stories in the paper, graphic photos told the tale,
Of how Casey got into a fight and spent the night in jail.This was not the season for which Mudville hearts had hope, The greatness overcome by greed, the dream done in by dope. By All-Star break, with Mudville’s pennant promise all but faded,
It was announced that Mighty Casey would be reinstated.Casey soon was reassigned to Triple A Des Moines, First time up he hit a triple, ran too hard, and pulled his groin. On a minor league Disabled List, laid low by wear and tear,
Mighty Casey waited for his body to repair.July was nearly over, Casey wasn’t yet in shape, If Mudville had a chance in hell, they could no longer wait. The day at last arrived when Casey showed up, bat in hand,
And was penciled in the lineup for the final pennant stand.Casey stepped into the box, a hush was heard to fall, With Mudville on its feet, he tore the cover off the ball. It smashed against the outfield fence, a triple in the gap,
And Casey, charging hard for third, paused just to tip his cap.The throw from left was right on line, and Casey had to slide, But Casey’s legs did not react, he could not find his stride. The baseman put the tag down from the fielder’s perfect peg,
Before the dust had settled, Mighty Casey broke his leg.A silence gripped the faithful when they heard that fateful crack, And realized that Casey was not ever coming back. They bundled him with air-splints and they trundled him away,
No Mudville man nor boy alive will e’er forget that day.Somewhere children sing and laugh and play with simply joy, Somewhere in ev’ry Baseball Play’r still lives the little boy, Somewhere there’s a place where Baseball’s just a joyous game, But there is no joy in Mudville — Mighty Casey pulled up lame.
Author’s Note: Of course, if this had been written in the last decade, cocaine would have been replaced by HGH and steroids — and Tiger Wood’s peccadillos would have loomed large. In many ways, my 1988 Casey got off easy.
Our very funny daughter Emilia is just beginning her second year in the challenging world of standup comedy. My wife and I have always been sketch comedians, getting our laughs onstage behind the façade of a series of characters. But not Emilia…
Emilia’s first year behind the mike has been busy. In Southern California, she’s played all three rooms at The Comedy Store, The Formosa Café, Leche Lounge, Café HaHa, and Flappers in Burbank, among others. She’s also played several clubs in Chicago and NYC.
If you haven’t seen her perform yet, you’ll have lots of opportunities to catch her act in the Los Angeles area this month.
The rest of her gigs are listed on the poster below.
In fact – here’s a good idea: print the poster and tape it to your refrigerator. That way, you’ll have Emilia’s smiling face to look at as you get milk for your cereal – and you’ll be reminded of when and where she’s playing this month. See you there!
(All Photos by Brad Rogne)