Cleveland – I don’t like doing television. Heck, I don’t like watching television. But a local station asked if I’d come on live from courtside at the Q before tonight’s game because one of the anchors took umbrage with this scandalous line from the live Game 1 blog:
“For one thing, they have to live in Cleveland.”
It was, I’ll grant you, a bad little joke. But I’d also submit that, as Cleveland jokes go, it was about the mildest ever. Because I don’t really get into that make-fun-of-the-other-city thing. (Except for Birmingham, Ala. — don’t get me started on Birmingham, Ala.)
Anyway, I was asked to go on the local Fox affiliate with some guy named Bob — or maybe it was Bill — who bills (or bobs) himself as the Mayor of the City of Champions. (Yes, that would, in Bob/Bill’s mind, be Cleveland, Ohio, which hasn’t seen a professional championship since 1964. But I digress.)
So there I am, trying to be a good sport, and Bob/Bill comes on, calls me a knothead, calls my employer the Journal-Constipation (hey, new one!) and starts ranting. Being a Kentuckian and therefore a diplomat on the order of Henry Clay, I seek to calm the waters.
I call him, “Your honor.” I say, “We all know the Braves were lucky to beat the Indians in 1995 [they weren't, but I was trying to be conciliatory] and we have a sneaking suspicion the Hawks won’t win a game against the Cavaliers [I wasn't kidding about that one] and we’ve had such a difficult winter with all the snow [what'd we have, an inch?] — I was just trying to give us Atlantans something to feel good about.”
Well, Bob/Bill wasn’t having it. He ranted about our “dreadful airport” — if you want to see a dreadful airport, take a stroll through the one up here — and the byzantine nature of Peachtree Street and called ours “a dreadful, dreadful city.” And I stood there deadpan. And then he started going on about Cleveland, and said he was glad he lived there.
And I said: “And we’re [meaning Atlantans] glad you live here, too.”
Apparently deadpan doesn’t register up here because the Mayor had no rejoinder. And apparently this wasn’t making for the kind of Good TV this fine station had in mind. So Bob/Bill’s co-anchor — I believe her name was Stacey, though it might have been Cindy — said: “Mark, you know this is all in fun?”
And I said: “Actually, I thought this was supposed to be a serious discussion.”
So then the folks back in the studio decided to cut it off because I wasn’t yelling back, but not before Bob/Bill threatened to beat me up. Twice. And he told me I’d better hide. And finally I dropped the poker face and started laughing.
“Yeah,” I said, “I’m hiding from you.”
And I probably shouldn’t report this because they might get exiled by the Mayor, but the technicians on my end of the camera laughed, too. I felt I’d kept my dignity, such as it is. And I also felt that, alongside Bob/Bill, Russ Spencer is David Brinkley.
OK, enough about me: While I was waiting to do my calamitous spot, none other than LeBron James was shooting 40 footers over my head. He was shooting from the walkway adjacent to the Cavs’ bench. He was shooting over the backboard.
He airballed the first half-dozen. Then he hit the rim. Then he airballed two more. Then he swished one. This pleased him so much that he leaped up and touched the exit sign above the tunnel, which is about 11 feet from the floor.
Speaking of which: The Plain Dealer’s lead sports story, written by Brian Windhorst, posed this stumper — who jumps higher, LeBron or Josh Smith? No consensus was reached, save for the belief that LeBron jumps stronger but Smoove jumps prettier.
Reading the story on the morning of Game 2, the first thought that crossed my mind was: The Cleveland folks must think there’s not much to say about this series if they’re already trotting out the feature-y stuff. And there might not be.
Major basketball news!!!! Mike Woodson just announced that Al Horford and Marvin Williams won’t play tonight. Zaza Pachulia will start in Horfy’s stead. Woodson described the two injured Hawks as “day to day” and said that Williams (wrist) was closer to being fit for Game 2 than Horford (ankle).
Woodson: “We’ve got no excuses. Guys have to step up and play. I expect [bench guys] to step up and play, and I’m going to push them to step up.”
Ramifications of this breaking news: Let’s assume the Hawks lose tonight. They’ll have to win Game 3 to keep hope alive, but can they manage that with Horfy and Marvin gimpy at best and sidelined at worst? The skeptic in me says no. But I’m also the guy who figured the Celtics would sweep a year ago.
The vile video: Here, if you dare, is my alleged conversation with the alleged Mayor. I would not recommend anyone watch, unless you’re fond of disasters. Even Channel 8 describes it as “one of the strangest moments in the station’s history.”