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Friday, June 15, 2012

Book on LeBron short on LeBron, long on narcissism - Philadelphia Daily News

It's called "The Whore of Akron," and it's not about one man's search for the soul of LeBron James, even though that's what it says in the little gold balloon on the cover of Scott Raab's venomous book.

That would seem to mark Raab as a narcissistic fraud, which is just one of the many bitter ways he describes James, the best player in the NBA. It is the ultimate hater book, written with a can of white spray paint on an El overpass.

The same folks who gush about graffiti exhibits in museums have gone gaga over the book, comparing Raab's purple prose to the gonzo style of Hunter Thompson.

Yo, it sounds more like Hunter Pence to me. I call it humorless. Buzz Bissinger calls it "hilarious" in a blurb in a bigger gold balloon on the back cover. You will get more laughs reading a parking ticket.

"The Whore of Akron" is a memoir, a nasty, vulgar little book about the sorry life and hard times of Raab, who has risen from those ashes to write Important Pieces for Esquire. Writes them well.

It's all there. Alchoholic, addict, adulterer, and we're not even out of the A's. Keeping score on shattering the Ten Commandmants? Raab 6, Moses 0. Used a crowbar to pry coins out of vending machines in college. Graduated from petty larceny by snatching the bank deposit bag from the shoe store that employed him. Lugged it to the airport and bought a plane ticket to London.

His mother, whom he ridicules throughout the book, bailed him out of that mess by repaying the owner of the shoe store. His father comes off as a depressed putz who hooks up with younger women out to swipe what's left of his self-esteem and his bankroll.

Raab scatters Yiddish phrases throughout the book, some italicized, some not. Method to his madness? Nah, just sloppy editing.

Wears this sarcastic tattoo, "Mother" inside a heart, with an arrow poking out either end. Probably knew he couldn't be buried in a Jewish cemetery when he got it. Wasn't thinking of dying, just acted that way, dealing drugs to biker thugs in Texas.

Raab never gets to sit down with James to poke around inside that sculpted body, searching for his elusive soul. The so-called new journalism doesn't require direct quotes. If you are so smart, so smug that you know what the guy is going to say, you need not be there to take notes when he does talk.

Raab viciously twitters his way out of Miami credentials, so he pays scalper's prices to sit in the stands and sneer at James. There is nothing duller in sports journalism than the diary of a writer tracking his target from a distance. And Raab, for all his writing skills, can be wicked boring at times.

Who gives a rat's ascot for details about his sex life with his shiksa wife? Who has a twitch of sympathy for a guy so morbidly obese he needs to beg a stewardess for a seat-belt extension?

OK, so he lugs a plastic bag around with him, containing a ticket stub from Dec. 27, 1964, Section 7, Row Z, Seat 9 when the Browns beat Baltimore and won a championship.

He was a 12-year-old fanatic then and he grew into an old, fat fanatic as the decades trudged by without another championship. What did he expect in Cleveland, a drab city located near a river that caught fire, for crying out loud?

And James? What did he expect from James, who became famous as a teenager when ESPN televised his high school games? Punished soon after for driving a gaudy set of wheels before his time.

Raab expected loyalty. Raab hated it when James wore a Yankees cap to a baseball game at Jacobs Field. Even if he wore it straight-on, not cockeyed like some street punk. Raab hated that wretched television show called "The Decision" when James told the bored world he was taking his talents to South Beach.

Raab sneers at the time it has taken to win that first championship out of a promised six or seven. Raab thinks James chokes in the fourth quarter and has the evidence of that timid pass to Mario Chalmers in last year's playoffs.

Raab rehashes rumors about James' mom without providing hard evidence one way or the other. That's garbage, not gonzo.

Me, I just wish James would trash-can that ritual chalk-dust toss before every game. Twenty years from now, some of those folks at the scorer's table may come down with emphysema or cataracts, and wonder why they sat there and inhaled that stupid chalk dust and why Raab didn't ridicule him for that, while he was throwing all those other darts his way. Haters just hate, they don't think. n

Contact Stan Hochman at stanrhoch@comcast.net.

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