Nobody has had more conversations with me about the Cavs than Fred McLeod.
Granted, all but one of those times were pretty one-sided, with me sitting on the other side of a TV screen. But they felt like conversations nonetheless. In some weird way, it felt like Fred was the only one that ever cared about the Cavs as much as I did. With his relentless enthusiasm during the LeBron years and his solemn disappointment when the opponent ripped off yet another 11-0 run during the, uh, Lester Hudson years, he poured his heart out in the mic every night and left no mystery about how deeply he cared for this team and the city of Cleveland.
When I stumbled upon Fear the Sword however many years ago, I just didn’t have anybody to talk to about the Cavs and the community we were able to build here helped fill that gap. And I suddenly had a place to share all of my ideas and concerns and ramblings with a group of like-minded, similarly passionate people. But since I haven’t been living in Cleveland, I’ve never lived around other Cavs fans that cared as much as I did. Sure people would ask me about the Cavs or how they’re doing or what I think about their chances, but nobody ever wanted to actually talk about the progression of Tyler Zeller’s catching ability (not great) or JJ Hickson’s trade value (very low). Nobody got fired up talking about Tristan’s potential like I did. You couldn’t hear the excitement in their voice bubbling over when they talked about the Big Three. Nobody knew which bench guys played well the game before like I did. Nobody read every post game quote like I did. Nobody followed the team like I did. Nobody watched every game like I did. Nobody except Fred McLeod.
The one exception to the hundreds of one-sided conversations between me and Fred took place at the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery. Twenty year-old Conrad worked up the courage to walk over, introduce myself, tell him the dumb name of my blog (fear the what? huh?), and be completely unmemorable. As someone who often struggles thinking of something to say and typically finds the right words several hours later, I always admired how Fred was never at a loss for words. In moments that left me speechless, he was right there, narrating and bringing the whole thing to life with all the passion and emotion and catchphrases that Cavs fans deserved. Ironically, I can’t remember exactly what Fred said to me at the Draft Lottery back in 2013, but he was gracious and warm, of course. That was the only time I ever met him. I know there are lots of Cavs writers & fans that knew him much much better than me and had a much deeper personal relationship with the man. I urge you to read every single thing they write in memory of Fred. But when I opened Twitter this morning and saw the news, I immediately thought back to that moment.
I thought about how I’ve always wanted another chance to introduce myself now that I’m a little older, a little more confident. We could talk about our shared passion, maybe even have a real conversation. But we won’t get that chance. Instead I’m left in a familiar place, with Fred McLeod’s catchphrases ringing through my head while I struggle to find the right things to say.