When I first heard rumblings of Brian Windhorst leaving the Plain Dealer to join ESPN in coverage of LeBron James a few weeks ago my initial reaction was wait, didn't he say during the decision that if LeBron James left he was going to still write for the Plain Dealer and not follow LeBron wherever he goes? After I confirmed this thought in my mind, I then remembered what I thought when I heard him say that at the time, which went something like this: he sounds like Nick Saban right now, of course he'll leave.
Which is what he is doing - sort of - as reported by a number of outlets on Monday, including WaitingForNextYear.com:
"What was just a discussion between two parties a few weeks ago appears to be confirmed: Brian Windhorst will be leaving Cleveland’s Plain Dealer to cover the Miami Heat exclusively for ESPN and ESPN.com."
By sort of I mean that I don't think it's as simple as just following LeBron to Miami. I know some Cavs fans view it that way right now, and are angry about it, but I'm not one of those fans. I'm not mad at Brian at all for making this move, and I really don't see how anybody could be angry with someone who makes a decision to take a better job with more exposure, more opportunity, and more sunshine. I'm pretty sure those people are called haters.
I'm disappointed though that I won't be able to read his coverage of the Cavaliers going forward, because he is one of the best beat writers in the NBA, but I'm not mad at the guy. Isn't that how you get opportunities like working for the mothership afterall, by being one of the best beat writers around? From there, what they do with that opportunity is up to the individuals I suppose, but here's wishing Brian nothing but the best of luck down in South Beach with his new gig...which is kinda new and kinda the same gig he has had since he first started covering the NBA but that's besides the point. Count me as a guy that will continue to read his work wherever he posts it regardless of all that. He will be missed around here.And hey, maybe Windy can actually go down there and be the one who breaks the types of stories us bitter Cleveland fans are desperately hoping deep down in our broken sports fans hearts eventually get broken about Lebron James next season while he's in Miami. Maybe he can work as like a double secret agent on the Cavs fans revenge detail in that regard, or something like that.
WTAM 1100's Bob Frantz has been outspoken on this topic though, and critical of this move by Windhorst. Frantz questioned Windhorst's journalistic integrity in taking this new position to cover LeBron James on his radio show when this story first broke. In response, Brian was on with Bob Monday night from 9:30 to 10:30 to talk about it.
They spoke for about an hour, and at the end of the conversation they took three phone calls from callers who weren't too happy with Windy "following" LeBron to South Beach.
A guy named Tim told Windy that "following that scumbag to Miami is weak, bro."
Another guy asked why Mike Trivisonno had more inside information on LeBron James than Windy did.
Bob Frantz repeatedly questioned the journalistic integrity of the move, and asked if he covered things up to make LeBron James look better when he covered him for the Akron Beacon Journal and The Plain Dealer throughout his career.
If I can find the transcript somewhere I will post that link, but below are some exchanges and comments that I found interesting.
Brian Windhorst on the Bob Frantz Show Monday:
"I'll be working for ESPN.com. A lot of my material will be going to the Heat Index. I will be paying a lot of attention to the Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Chicago Bulls as well. The opportunity for me here is to go to the ESPN main site. This is an opportunity to take a step forward towards being a national writer."
A caller, followed up by Frantz, then referenced the ESPN Press Release for The Heat Index which reads as follows:
"ESPN.com will launch The Heat Index, a special section devoted specifically to daily, season-long coverage of the Miami Heat and their new superstar core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, on Monday, October 11. The Heat Index will be housed under the ESPN.com NBA section and will include in-depth editorial coverage (columns and blogs), video, audio, automated modules, social media elements, photo galleries and other multimedia offerings.
Editorial contributors to The Heat Index:
Brian Windhorst – formerly with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Windhorst is one of the leading authorities on LeBron James. Windhorst has written two books about James and has covered him since middle school. Windhorst has been the Cavs beat writer/blogger for seven years and has won awards from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the Associated Press. Windhorst will be based in Miami as one of two regular beat writers assigned to the team."
In response to the question about how he will be able to cover those other teams, and why it appears he was hired specifically to work on the Heat Index in coverage of LeBron James solely as opposed to ESPN's main page, Brian said the difference was "a matter of semantics."
On benefitting from LeBron...Windhorst on the Bob Frantz Show:
"There is no doubt that I have benefited over the years because of LeBron. I knew when I made this decision it would be a difficult one, because I knew I would be sending a message to my hometown that I don't care anymore. I will stand on the way I covered the Cavaliers and the way I covered LeBron over the last few years. I felt I was one of the most critical people of LeBron when the situation warranted. I also think that when he was getting a bad wrap I did step up and defend him on that as well if the situation warranted that."
He then followed that up with some pointed criticism directed due south towards LeBron James himself with regards to his feelings towards LeBron's decision to leave Cleveland...Windhorst on the Bob Frantz Show:
"I was very disappointed in him because he went out with a wimper. There were a lot of guys on that team that played as hard as they could. Mo Williams was playing as hard as he could, Shaq was playing hard, it was a last chance for Z, and he let them down. And to not accept that blame publicly, and to let the fans down the way that he did, was very disappointing.
People will never forget the way that he played in those playoffs. He did not play like an MVP. I voted for him for MVP over the last three years and I don't care if he scores 35 points a game next year I don't think I'll ever vote for him for MVP because he's proved he cannot be an MVP when it counts the most."
On the argument that he benefited financially by writing books about LeBron...Windhorst on the Bob Frantz Show:
"LeBron had nothing to do with the book. He would have rather us not do the book, and I would have made more money pulling weeds around the neighborhood. It [the book] was more of an assignment from the Plain Dealer."
On the argument that he is a trusted lackey of sorts for LeBron James and his people...Windhorst on the Bob Frantz Show:
"LeBron's people never trusted me. They still don't trust me. They don't want me there because they know they can't control me. If you look at the big stories that are done on LeBron they are written by GQ or from Vogue, or people like that they can control.
"Why the move to ESPN?
Windhorst: They approached me a few months ago and it really took awhile for them to figure out what the vision of this thing was going to be. I really didn't know if I wanted to go. Regardless of what people think, it wasn't a snap decision. It wasn't like it's easy to leave your home and it's not like we're going to be welcomed with open arms in Miami. There's a lot of acrimony that surrounds that beat right now, a lot of negativity. It wasn't an easy decision. It took ESPN making a historical commitment from a national outlet to a team to do this. They're really doing something here they've never done before, and I believe the interest in that team is going to be higher than the interest in any NBA team in history. Whether they end up holding that interest for more than a couple years is yet to be determined."