As it turned out, LeBron James leaving for the Heat didn’t mark the last time Cavaliers fans would feel betrayed by a Cleveland basketball personality. As part of ESPN’s new Heat
Burnout Index project, they hired Cleveland Plain Dealer Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst away. And judging by fan reaction, let’s just say Cavs fans are tired of all this “leaving for Miami” business.
Brendan Bowers at Stepien Rules gave his thoughts on Windhorst taking his reporting talents to South Beach (he wishes Windhorst well) but also examined Windhorst’s appearance on a Cleveland radio show with host Bob Frantz, who’s not high on the move.
Frantz apparently questioned Windhorst’s journalistic integrity, which led to some good exchanges between the two. Windhorst, of course, defended himself, saying he’s someone LeBron’s people “can’t control,” that he was “very disappointed” with LeBron’s playoff performance this year, and that “pulling weeds” would have been a greater financial windfall than his LeBron books.
Additionally, Bowers said one caller told Windhorst his move to Miami was “weak,” but I’ll side with Bowers and The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre in saying that this is the right move for Windhorst personally.
Windhorst cited the chance to become more of a national writer, and McIntyre notes that this move allows Windhorst to position himself as an authority on LeBron the way Bulls reporter Sam Smith was for Michael Jordan (Smith’s book The Jordan Rules is the stuff of legend).
Yet as much as I can’t blame Windhorst for making a sensible career move, the news he was leaving the Plain Dealer depressed me a little when I heard it. Windhorst’s reporting (Bowers called Windhorst one of the best NBA beat writers out there) and LeBron knowledge helped make the Plain Dealer relevant to the city of Cleveland – that, of course, ends with Windhorst’s move to Miami.
Windhorst’s job isn’t to make me feel like the media business – and relationships of newspapers to the cities they’re based in – is thriving (although I’d like that to be a stipulation whenever ESPN reworks his deal). And of course, papers themselves bear much of the blame for their own decline, and it’s a tough task for anyone, anywhere, to measure up to what ESPN can offer.
But the Windhorst saga is a smaller-scale version of LeBron leaving Cleveland – whenever someone who means something to a place leaves that place, well, it’s hard to feel good about that. Even if you’re like me – and therefore, not from Cleveland – you can see why Cavs fans aren’t thrilled about the latest departure…even if it was a no-brainer for Windhorst to do it.