LeBron James Sparks Nasty War of Words Among Nation's Top Magazine Writers
If you don't frequent the journalism aggregate website Gangrey.com, you are missing out on some of the best writing in the country (in addition to an occasional New Times story).
But more recently, you've been missing a very entertaining (and very nasty) war of words among some of America's best magazine writers -- all inspired by the most controversial member of the LeBroshades.
Here's what happened:
It was a post directing people to ESPN.com senior writer Wright Thompson's extraordinary tale of the heartbroken Clevelanders left in LeBron's wake. (If you have a few minutes, it is certainly worth the read.) The story opens with the sentiments of Esquire writer Scott Raab, a devoted, tattooed Cleveland sports fan working on a book about LeBron leaving who calls James "The Whore of Akron."
In a comment complimenting the article, magazine writer Stephen Rodrick, who penned the cover story in this month's Men's Journal, also pointed out something about Raab, saying:
"Did anyone notice that Raab doesn't live in Cleveland? He left Cleveland a long time ago to live in suburban NYC and work with all-stars at GQ and now Esquire. Kinda like LeBron leaving Cleveland to go live in Miami and work with all-stars! Everyone moves to be near like-minded people and be in a place that fits them. I did it, Raab did it, James did it. It's pretty much an American rite of passage. Ok, James did it in a supremely dickish way. But call me when Scott moves to Shaker Heights, takes a pay cut, and goes to work for the Plain Dealer."
Less than 24 hours later, Raab came on and responded:
"Seriously? A journo comparing me and my career to LeBron and his? To make a point about what? How much I meant to Cleveland? How hard the city wanted to keep me? How I shit all over it on my way out?... You didn't seem like an ignoramus or a schoolmarm. But this is such bullshit that to further engage with you about it is beneath even me."
He pointed out that he once gave Rodrick a ride, adding, "Call a cab next time, dickwad."
Then Rodrick replied. "Well this once again proves that journalists are the folks who most like dishing out criticism and punishment," Rodrick said, "but least like it when it comes back their way even in the mildest form."
He pointed out that they've both done stories about Dennis Rodman, and they both know "how a fucked up family life can give you a skewed sense of right and wrong that takes a lifetime to put right." He said:
"When James announced his decision, I couldn't believe it, the audacity for him to do it as a hour long special was the greatest wrong moves in American history since Custer. But the rage toward him since then has done the impossible: you've made him an almost sympathetic character!"
Then Raab again:
"Are you fucking insane? I've spent the past month happily giving and happily taking shit in public about this, on the air, in print, and online, and I won't even have a book to sell until 2012. Who the fuck are you to speak for an entire profession? Motherfucking idiot, I wasn't reacting to your 'criticism'; I was reacting to your callow stupidity. Because anyone seriously comparing my departure from Cleveland to LeBron's truly is a fucking moron...Go fuck yourself."
Then Rodrick again:
"I listened to you on a podcast of Dan LeBatard's 12/2 radio show. That's the one where you said you wanted to put yourself in a position to step between LeBron and the chalk and throw a beer in his face. The hosts gave you multiple chances to say you were joking. You did not... That was a great suggestion about going and fucking myself. Best idea of the day. Give me about seven minutes."
"I think you're mischaracterizing the LeBatard spot, which was at least 20 minutes, but anyone who cares can find it and form his own opinion. I tried to bribe the Cavs to put me between LeBron and the chalk, and pledged passive resistance only. They said no. Just for the record...
Finally, 'Call me when Scott moves to Shaker Heights, takes a pay cut, and goes to work for the Plain Dealer' is a call-out, an ad hominem attack. It's not an argument -- it's a cheap shot. I was surprised and disappointed to see your name attached, but then I remembered: You didn't even offer to help pay for gas.
That's a joke, by the way. About the gas. Just for the record."
As they bantered back and forth, other writers -- some of the most celebrated scribes in the business -- weighed in on the bitter discussion. Writers here have been honored with everything from National Magazine Awards to Livingstons to Pulitzers, and their work has been anthologized in several of the Best American books.
There were comments from Esquire's Chris Jones, Sports Illustrated's Thomas Lake, Michael Kruse and Ben Montgomery of the St. Pete Times (who also runs the site),
The thread serves to illustrate two things: 1) The continuously galvanizing debate over LeBron, between the people who it seems will never forgive him for leaving Cleveland and the people who think those people are taking everything too seriously, and 2) That Gangrey has truly become some sort of 21st-century, digital writer's bar, replete with technical discussions, celebrations of some of the best journalism of all time, a reinvigorating zest for storytelling, and, as seen here, some nasty fights.
As the folks at Longreads said recently, "Gangrey.com is the heart and soul of long-form journalism."
Eventually Rodrick extended an olive branch: "I think it was Chief Wahoo who said 'I will fight no more.'" And he offered to buy Raab a steak dinner.
Raab agreed, noting, "You and I have no bad blood between us. Like sports, this shit is good clean fun; however nasty it gets on the field, in the end it's only a game. I can't think ill of you and think well of myself. You're a good guy."
Then the discussion turned to the awesome independent movie Winter's Bone.
As one commenter put it: "Damn... another great barfight turns into a circle jerk." You can read the whole thing here.
It may not have been Ernest Hemingway offering to strap on boxing gloves or Norman Mailer unbuttoning his shirt, but for fans of all things literary, this is good stuff.