On Cavs: The Blog, John Krolik does a heck of a job reviewing "The Whore of Akron," the virulently anti-LeBron James book by respected writer and Cleveland sports fan Scott Raab. Krolik writes:
Raab does not merely insert himself into The Whore of Akron -- he absolutely envelops it. This is not a book about LeBron James -- it is a book about Scott Raab.
And thank the lord for that, because Raab is infinitely more compelling.
It's well worth reading Krolik's entire review. I've always found Raab's radical position a little sad. That Raab loves Cleveland sports, and can see how LeBron might have been able to help pull that city out of the doldrums is fine. That James did not could be attributable to all kinds of things. Not giving to Raab's favorite charity proves nothing about James' character. James may or may not be a decent human being, but choosing to play in Miami with Dwyane Wade and not in Cleveland with Dan Gilbert is hardly the ultimate test of a man's soul.
He might have helped. He didn't. Life goes on.
Also, I'm confused as to why this athlete must be labeled decent or wholly depraved, whereas almost all other athletes get to knock around, like the rest of us, somewhere in between.
Spectacles of hatred are always a little indulgent and shameful. Hatred is almost always rooted in fear, conflict is tough to come by without misunderstanding. Neither is anything to be proud of, especially for a professional communicator.
Demonization is never the height of wisdom -- we do it as a precursor to wars because we don't want to make people smarter and more nuanced in their thinking, we want to make them simpler and maybe a little dumber. We want to whip up the kind of blind, unquestioning rage that cements support for war. Fear is the Clorox of the mind, removing all those stains of doubt.
Maybe that insincerity can be defended in global geopolitics. Maybe the greater good is served by Colin Powell's misleading and, in hindsight, wholly incorrect, presentation to the United Nations. But the truth certainly isn't.
What could possibly be the point of bringing all that lamentable brand of misdirection to the world of entertainment, where there are no secret mass graves, nor real reason of any kind to fetch the torches?
Basketball is no more fun now that every little thing James does is dragged through the streets as a trophy to his soullessness. And we're no smarter either. Raab leads a band of "experts" on the soul of LeBron James, none of whom know the man at all. Until they do the hard work of getting real insight, the whole category of punditry is a waste of time.
And on those grounds, it had simply never occurred to me that I might read Raab's book.
But Krolik's review opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking. Maybe this book has no chance of scratching an itch to know more about James, but it may scratch a totally different itch: To enjoy a well-told story. Krolik tells us reading this book is like reading crazy exciting profane poet Charles Bukowski's reflections about addiction and the wild life and Hollywood. In other words, a story's story. Like the kind of tale people tell in bars, or around campfires. And in this case, as Krolik points out, that story is about Raab, not James. And everyone knows Raab can both write beautifully and speak authoritatively about his own life.
A lot of what happens in sports media is about gathering information. Who said what? What's happening next? What's the truth? If you want that, on this topic, Raab might not be your guy. But if you just want to read, maybe he is the man. I know I have recently stumbled into some free time in the evenings, with no basketball to watch and all. I can think of worse things to do than read the well-written rants of a Cleveland fan, no matter how angry he may be.