Esquire writer-at-large Scott Raab is not one to politely overlook the things he dislikes, as we quickly learn in his rollicking and profane jeremiad, The Whore of Akron. The book's title refers to the nickname that Raab, a long-tortured Cleveland sports fan, has bestowed upon Heat forward LeBron James. And while James—whom Raab foresees languishing in the ninth circle of Hell for the sin of leaving the Cavaliers two summers ago as a free agent—is the chief target of Raab's scorn, there are many others. Raab hates most members of his family; Detroit ("a sinkhole of permanent despair"); Pittsburgh ("a human sewer"); Heat fans (first "sun-baked cretins," then "sun-dried cretins"), president Pat Riley (one of the undead, he suspects) and p.r. man Tim Donovan; Willie Mays (for the Catch); Art Modell, the 86-year-old former NFL owner who moved Raab's beloved Browns to Baltimore; and Raab's own body, which mid-book balloons to 380 pounds and resembles, he says, "a silvered land walrus."
It is with such vitriol that Raab chronicles the soul-crushing conclusion of the Akron-born James's career in Cleveland and then follows his first season in Miami. For the latter he mostly relies on StubHub, as Donovan quickly stops issuing the author media credentials. (Why? Look no further than Raab's blog and Twitter feed, on which he addressed James directly as a "loser," "gutless punk," "motherf-----" and, presaging the book, "the Whore of Akron.") Along the way Raab finds new and increasingly gymnastic ways to insult James and those complicit in his "treachery." Raab's mastery of invective is one element of The Whore that lifts the book above the standard of the average late-night sports radio caller. Another is his self-awareness in plumbing the source of his hate, which he attributes to his dysfunctional, drug-addled past, here rendered evocatively.
Raab several times comes close to admitting that his loathing of a 26-year-old basketball player is a bit much. "I acknowledge the validity of the view that fanhood is a matter of rooting for laundry," he writes. Later, he notes, "the real suffering to come has nothing at all to do with sports," referring to the sickness and death that he, and all of us with him, eventually face. In fact, while Raab's sustained attack on James ("no guts, no heart, no soul") is diverting, 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.