After 52 long years, the city of Cleveland finally has a new championship team, thanks to LeBron James and his Cavaliers. Scott Raab—Cleveland super-fan—has suffered for every one of those five decades of drought. In the tradition of Frederick Exley’s cult-classic sports book A Fan’s Notes, The Whore of Akron is Raab’s hilarious and unhinged plea for deliverance from all those years of pain. Traveling from Cleveland to Miami and back again, Raab heads out on an obsessive quest to uncover the soul of one of today’s greatest basketball players: LeBron James, the man who finally brought Cleveland out of sporting exile.
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"If there was an opportunity for me to return to Cleveland and those fans welcomed me back, that'd be a great story."—Lebron James
Scott Raab is a last vestige of Gonzo Journalism in an era when sanitary decorum reigns. Crude but warmhearted, poetic but raving, Raab has chronicled—at GQ and Esquire—everything from nights out with the likes of Tupac and Mickey Rourke to a moral investigation into Holocaust death-camp guard Ivan the Terrible to the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, but the book you hold in your hands is neither a story nor a job: The Whore of Akron is the product of lifelong suffering, and a mission bound with the meaning of existence.
Raab sat in the lower bowl of Cleveland Stadium on December 27, 1964, when the Browns defeated the Colts for the NFL World Championship—the last sports title the declining city has won. He still carries his ticket stub wherever he goes, safely tucked within a Ziploc bag. The glory of that triumph is an easy thing to forget—each generation born in Cleveland is another generation removed from that victory; an entire fan base "whose daily bread has forever tasted of ash."
LeBron James was supposed to change all that. A native son of Akron, he was already world famous by the age of seventeen, had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, was already worth $90 million to Nike. He seemed like a miracle heaven-sent by God to transform Cleveland's losing ways. That the Cavaliers drafted him, the hometown prodigy, with the first pick of the 2003 draft, seemed nothing short of destiny. But after seven years—and still no parade down Euclid Avenue—he left. And he left in a way that seemed designed to twist the knife: announcing his move to South Beach on a nationally televised ESPN production with a sly title ("The Decision") that echoed fifty years of Cleveland sports futility.
Out of James's treachery grew a monster. Raab, a fifty-nine-year-old, 350-pound, Jewish Santa Claus with a Chief Wahoo tattoo, would bear witness to LeBron's every move, and in doing so would act as the eyes and ears of Cleveland itself. (He did not keep this intentions a secret and was promptly banned by the Miami Heat.)
The Whore of Akron is an indictment of a traitorous athlete and the story of Raab's hilarious, profane (and profound) quest to reveal the "wee jewel-box" of LeBron James's very soul.About the Author:
Scott Raab, a writer-at-large for Esquire since 1997, is a graduate of Cleveland State University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His work has been widely anthologized, including in The Best American Sports Writing. Born and bred in Cleveland, he now lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. This is his first book.
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