Saturday, June 23, 2007

He's Going The Distance

Well on tomorrow I deapart on my latest journey to Germany. I head to DC tomorrow where I'll stay the night with a friend and hopefully catch the Indians/Nationals game. Then monday I fly from DC to Charlotte and then I'll enjoy an 8-hour trip over the Atlantic to Frankfurt. After Frankfurt it is a 1.5 hour train ride to the OFOMOL. It is a lot of travelling but it is worth it. I'll be spending 7 weeks over there. We're both glad I have a job in which I can take the time to go see her.

We've been doing this long-distance thing for a year now. Long distance in the fact that it is an inter-continental relationship that involves a 6-hour time difference and trying to coordinate & afford various visits here and there. I get a certain reaction when I tell people that my girlfriend is German and she lives there. Even though they don't say it I know they are thinking "Are you serious? That will never last." And so on.

Well it isn't always easy. I think we would both agree to that. It takes a lot of hard work and prioritizing from both ends. Solving problems when you're thousands of miles away and only have the internet to communicate can be challenging at times. The thing is, however, we are both committed to making this relationship work. We have both learned and have grown during this year apart. A year ago at this time neither of us knew how we would deal with the distance and being apart. We've made it this far and I know we are both very happy that we have made it work and we are still together. We also realize that when we are together (as in being in the same physical place) we have a wonderful time together.

We've got at least (hopefully that is it) another year apart. Looking that far ahead and one can get lost. Taking it step-by-step has helped us stay close and committed to our relationship. The next 7 weeks will only help to strengthen our relationship as we head into our next year. We love each other and we want a future together. She's a very special woman and I'm continually finding new things about her to love. She is mein liebster schatz.

I'll try to update this every week or so to keep my faithful readers up to date on my travels in Europe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

As We Dance, We All Dance

I'm keeping with the Cavalier-themed post and would like to wish a happy 32nd birthday to Zydrunas Ilgauskas! Big Z is the most senior member of the Cavaliers and (I just found this one out) has spent the most time with the team then any other player in team history. Here is a player that was injury prone (this is well-documented) during the first half of his career and figured to be a bust. He's been healthy the past 4-5 years and has been an all-star and a consistent contributor to the team. He's seen the low points of the team (2002-2003) and is now here in the NBA Finals. There is a reason LeBron hugged Big Z at the end of the game (at 1:00 of this video) -- LeBron recognized all the hard work that Z has put in and as much as the finals mean to LeBron, it means a lot more to Z.

Since it is his birthday I'll related a couple of Z-related anecdotes. I have met [sorta] Big Z on two occasions. The first was at the Kenilworth somewhere around 2002-2003. I was out with my buddy Teets and we were checking out the scene. He went into the 2nd room (pool table & darts) while I was getting drinks. He came back and said "dude, there's some crazy tall guy in there." I don't think anything of it. Later on, this big guy walks through and I'm like "You know who that is? Big Z!" The guy is huge! Add the fact that the Kenilworth has some short ceilings, he looked even bigger.
The second time was at the West End. He was with two friends and I was at the table next to them. Some girls kept asking his friends if "that was him" while they played it off and said "no, he just looks like him." Right, there are a lot of 7-foot-plus Lithuanians living in Cleveland.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Big Z, hope you can bring this city a title!

Monday, June 04, 2007

And I Stopped in San Antone

For all I know, this is the only song that mentions both Cleveland and San Antonio, the two teams that are in the NBA Finals. It's quite amazing that our little Cavaliers...the Cavaliers of Ted Stepien (scroll down to "Ted Stepien and the James Worthy Rule" to the Shot to the late-90s Mike Fratello Cavs who couldn't decide if they wanted to be a lottery team or a playoff team to 2003 when somehow the ping-pong balls bounced our way and we got LeBron James and four years later are 4 wins away from a championship.

I'll equate this to 1995 when the Indians made it to their first World Series in 41 years. Yes they made it again in 1997, but we already knew how it felt to be there. The Cavs (the 3rd team in a Football-first, Baseball-second town) have been around for 37 years, most of which the team has wallowed in mediocrity. The late-80s, early-90s Cavs were a vastly underrated team who had the unfortunate opportunity to play against the Jordan-led Bulls. He would prevent a lot of players from seeing an NBA Championship (see: Barkley, Charles; Malone, Karl; Stockton, John). It's been 43 years since this city has last seen a major championship in this town, please forgive us when we celebrate a trip to the finals.

How about those videos? Downtown Cleveland looked like the place to be on saturday night. It makes me miss the city. Back in 1995 I was a junior in high school and may have tasted but a drip of alcohol. Nobody had blogs and the best columnists were not fans but the local ones. I remember driving around the 'Wood the night the Tribe clinched in Seattle (Lofton scoring from 2nd on a passed ball!) and everyone was honking their horns. It was a feeling of euphoria, happiness, and pride. Total strangers hugging, high-fiving, clapping-hands, and sharing in the success of an athletic team. I know if I was in town, I would have been down there celebrating with everyone else. Luckily I was able to watch the game with friends instead of alone in my apartment in WV.

It's a bit of an unreal feeling. I know we haven't won anything yet and the Spurs are heavily favored. The misery of Cleveland sports fans is well documented..the only city that may be worse off is Buffalo. But we handled the Pistons pretty convincingly. The two games we lost, we had legitimate chances of winning. After LeBron's performance in Game 5, I think most Detroit fans knew that they were not winning this series. Now we've got the Spurs, the NBA's premier franchise since 1999 who will be playing for their 4th NBA title since then. Yes we are happy to be here, but you know what? This team will surprise a lot of people. Our defense is significantly underlooked and LBJ has shown he can lead the team (by scoring and finding his teammates) to victory.

This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now. Yes they beat the Spurs twice this year...the analysts are going to point to this as a non-factor as it was early in the year and yadda yadda yadda. Yes the Spurs were not the same team then as now, but you know what? Neither are the Cavaliers. The team knows that they can hang with and beat the best in any arena. This series with Detroit was not a knock-down drag-out fight. The Cavs outplayed Detroit consistently throughout. Are the Cavs going to win the series? I don't know that. I do know that teams can come together and do remarkable things.

The Cavs need to have role players such as Boobie Gibson to consistently step-up and contribute. Talk about a break-out performance. I love that whenever he gets the ball, he's got this look on his face that he's not scared and he knows he can hit the shots. I love it! Has LeBron found the 2nd man he so desparately needs? As me in a year or two...a series does not dictate a career (see: Billups, Chauncey) but hopefully this is a start. I have an idea why he suddenly burst onto the scene: he was busy on his TV show the first half of the year. And his name is Boobie to boot! Coincidence? I think not!

Remember 2004? The Pistons were an upstart team going against the juggernaut Lakers. Guess what? The Pistons beat LA in 5 games. I do think this series is going at least 6 games. I do know that if somehow the Cavs end up winning this thing that I will be in Cleveland for it. This city just wants one championship, that's all. We don't need a dynasty, we just want that it is our team hoisting the trophy. Just once. Will it be this year? We'll find out in 2 weeks.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Hey Man, Slow Down, Slow Down

I had a pleasant weekend as I was able to get out of rural WV and meet up with some friends for a camping trip in rural Ohio. We had a good time -- drinking, cooking out, throwing stuff into a fire, minimal sleep, and no showers. Good times, good times. As the majority of us were from Cleveland, we had a vested interest to see a little basketball game that was going on last night. Anyway, not content to listen to the game on the radio with a fuzzy signal, we found the closest watering hole and caught the 2nd half of the game.

Well, we were all in a great mood and headed back to the campground to further celebrate the victory and enjoy the 2nd night of the weekend. Well we pull into the campground and are stopped shortly by some of the people in charge of the place. They tell us we're driving too fast and we need to keep it under 10 MPH, which is the speed limit there. We've been told this constantly during the weekend. We haven't been driving fast, its just hard to drive that slow. Just putting the car into drive and letting the natural hills and valleys of the road can get you up to a blistering 15 mph. We tell the guy we understand and 30 seconds later (no joke), we're stopped again by another guy. He says we're driving too fast and that the owner is coming to tell us to leave. It is after midnight, there are 7 (out of 9) who are not sober, and they want us to leave. Needless to say, we were pissed off. They keep telling us that they've warned us and we need to leave and we get more pissed off.

The guy escorts us back to our campsite to wait for the owner to get there. They tell us they have sensors (on a gravel road in a campground...riiiiight) to detect the speed. Luckily even though we were pissed-off, we kept cool heads and sweet talked them into allowing us to stay. If we had gotten kicked out, it would not have been good for them. We would have woken up the whole campground as we packed our stuff up. Also if they sent us off, forcing drunk people to drive...well that wouldn't look so good on them.

The whole episode really made us sour. We were not driving that fast (really, 10 MPH is pretty slow, try it sometime) and we were good campers. I don't know if they were serious or just threatening us, but to make 9 people pack-up, leave, and put drunk people out on the street driving would not be cool.

Other then this, it was an en enjoyable weekend, though I am looking forward to a night of sleep in a level bed.

And about that game...more to come tomorrow.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Am The King of All I See

Wow! What a game! Is this Cavs team for real? Seriously. They were two plays away from sweeping the Pistons (they had legitimate shots in Games 1 & 2). They went home and he led them in games 3 & 4. Then there was tonight. What a performance! This was the performance I've been waiting for. Even though I didn't voice it, my main gripe in games 1 & 2 was that when the team is in a funk, he didn't put the team on his back to lead them. Well, he did that tonight. He was hitting shots he probably had no business taking, yet they found the net. Is this one of the greatest playoff performances of all time? I don't know. I think it is too early to judge that. Remember, they still need to win on saturday (or in game 7), to really validate Bron-Bron's superstar status. This game now means nothing if they don't win the series.

You know what I like about this team? They're incredibly resilient and I would say scrappy. They've been in every game. Even when they've been down 7-8 points, they find a way to get back and make a game of it. And you know what? They're not intimidated by Detroit. Last year Detroit was clearly the better team and the fact they took it to 7 games seemed to be a fluke. This year, they're playing a hell of a lot better then Detroit and they know it. The other thing is that the Cavs are playing incredible defense. Their defense has been steller all year, but this aspect seems to get over-looked. This team knows they can beat the Pistons, they just have to finish the deal. This series is not over and Game 6 still needs to be played. The Q will be rocking on saturday night. I'm going camping this weekend and hopefully we can get the game on the radio.

Speaking of the fans, is it just me or were the Detroit fans extremely unenthusiastic tonight? There was 1:30 remaining in one of the overtimes and the crowd was not making any noise. Come playoff time, a hostile crowd can make a difference. I didn't see that out of the Detroit fans. Even when the Pistons were up 7 in the 4th, which was the point where the crowd should have carried them to victory, but it was like they knew they were going to lose.

Like I said, we still have Game 6 to go. We were in this position last year and failed to seal the deal. Have the Cavs learned and will they make their first trip to the Finals or will C-town experience more late-game devastation? I hope for the former, but if the later occurs, we Cleveland fans are conditioned (the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, Mesa)