"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.
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.
“A powerful storyteller in full command of his game...wonderfully immoderate.”
-New York Times
“There is more passion, anger and sublime writing in Scott Raab’s The Whore of Akron than any 50 other books you’ll read this (or any other year) combined.”
-New York Post
“The book is both poem and polemic, a lyrical inventory of rage and appetite and loss.”
-Jeff MacGregor, ESPN.com
“[A] pleasure to read. Raab is an inspired, energetic writer. . . . . The Whore of Akron is a poignant exploration of sports fandom. It’s insane. . . . . And it’s also redeeming. . . . . After reading The Whore of Akron, you’ll be hard pressed to think sports don’t matter.”
“[The Whore of Akron] is very funny. It is also wise...If you’ve a taste for the sort of overstatement Raab shares with the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, this is perhaps the sports book for you. Keep it on a shelf the kids can’t reach.”
“A (very heated) Fan’s Notes. . . . . Rollicking and profane. . . . . Raab’s sustained attack on James is diverting, [but] it is the author’s self-portrait of a man and a fan of serious extremes, one who loves his wife and son as fiercely as he hates most of the rest of the world, that engrosses.”
“[A] splenetic wonder…For all of its rousing, air-clearing invective, The Whore of Akron is strangely celebratory, making a particuclarly Jewish-American case for family and place, and for waiting and hoping past the point of reason.”
-Will Blythe, New York Magazine
“In pursuing James pre- and post-‘Decision’ . . . . the author never does complete the subtitle’s mission to find James’ soul. Instead, Raab . . . . discovers his own. And, in some twisted sense, maybe ours, too.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“The Whore of Akron is hilarious, heartfelt and wincingly honest. This is the best kind of book, one that surprises.”
“With all due respect to Frederick Exley, Scott Raab has just written the smartest, funniest, most passionate, loving, hateful, bathetic, honest, and deeply personal sports jeremiad slash memoir of our time…The Whore of Akron is about a basketball player the way Moby-Dick is about a whale.”
-Stefan Fatsis, author of Wordfreak and A Few Seconds of Panic
“Mr. Raab sure-footedly turns his monolithic hatred for Mr. James and devotion to Cleveland into a vehicle for exploring his struggles with drugs and alcohol, the mental illness and abandonment that have haunted his family, questions of faith and Jewish identity and the joy of fatherhood.”
-Wall Street Journal
“The Whore of Akron isn’t really about basketball. It’s about addiction and sobriety, marriage and divorce, childhood and parenthood, loyalty and autonomy.”
“A searing manifesto that is impressively pointed and, in the end, even feels fair—not balanced, of course, but justified. . . . . Whether you’re convinced [of LeBron’s treachery] depends not on whether you care about Cleveland sports, but if you care about sports at all. . . . . Hilarious invective and smart commentary.”
-Christian Science Monitor
“A hilarious and profane love letter to fandom, faith, loyalty, and sports in America.”
“Genius. . . . . Raab is Hunter S. Thompson, Wolfe, and Breslin; every bit as messed up, alienated, angry, bitchy, cruel, and angelic. . . . . The Whore of Akron is a masterpiece.”
-Dan Klores, Huffington Post
“A modern-day Portnoy’s Complaint. Standing in for the piece of liver is LeBron James.”
“As far as I know, a LeBron James is a hat worn by men in the 1920s.”
“Indelicate and unhinged...The Whore of Akron soars because Raab is unflinchingly honest, naked with emotions and embarrassments most of us keep penned inside.....at its heart, this is a book about loyalty, and why attachments count. Basketball could use a little more of Raab’s disorderly passion.”
-Jason Gay, Wall Street Journal
“The Whore of Akron reads like Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes on brown acid. Raab is a bastard, but he’s a funny bastard.”