After LeBron James’ return, Cleveland sports radio becomes weepy mess

A Cleveland Cavaliers fan talks with a reporter from CNN outside Quicken Loans Arena on Friday following LeBron James' announcement that he would return to the Cavaliers.
(Angelo Merendino / Getty Images)

This is a story about joy and tears; about Matt, the villain from Canton, and about a great deal on windows.

This is the story of Cleveland sports talk radio, which was rendered a weepy mess Friday morning after LeBron James announced his decision to return to the Cavaliers.

The Really Big Show on WKNR, a sports talk station, was a giddy, emotionally fragile wreck, as if the hosts and callers and guests had all been slipped doses of ecstasy. It was beautiful. The tears flowed like a mighty river set aflame. (The Cuyahoga, perhaps?)


Here is a look at an hour inside that world — a chronicle of tears and joy and one community’s celebration. All calls took place about 90 minutes after James’ announcement, the news of which prompted one of the show’s hosts, Aaron Goldhammer, to weep on the air.

“We go back to the phones,” one of the hosts says.

Get your tissues ready.

Let’s begin with the curious case of Eric, who is not from Cleveland. Eric is from Los Angeles. Eric is a Lakers fan.

Eric said, “It actually brought tears to my eyes.”

A bit weird, considering Eric’s geographic and basketball allegiances, but there is no space for shame on WKNR. These are real emotions, and real emotions are healthy.

“I’ve been crying off and on for two hours,” Goldhammer tells him.

One of the hosts says, “This is the first time someone chose us.”

So cry your tears all the way from Anaheim to the San Fernando Valley, Eric. You are in a safe space now. A space where DJ from Cleveland, another caller, can say proudly that he “cried like a little pup.”


“Do you hear me?” he said, and you get the sense that he’s really not kidding around. “Like a little pup!”

Someone makes a solemn vow: “We’ll never take him for granted again.”

The LeBron James stories and the tears roll across the phone lines. There are jokes and laughs and yells.

But no good story is without its villain. Ours is called Matt in Canton. Don’t be taken in by Matt in Canton. Matt in Canton will try to worm his way into your good graces by promising that he’s not trying to be a downer. Matt in Canton doesn’t want to rain on anybody’s parade. He’s happy about James, too. But, he says ...

“Let’s save our tears for the really important things in life.”

How could you, Matt in Canton?

“I want to respond to that,” Goldhammer says.

And Goldhammer proceeds to hit the nail on the head. This is about more than basketball, he says. This is important. It’s about what Cleveland means. It’s about whether it can survive as a city.

(It’s also about our sponsors. And now a word from them: Not only does Cleveland have LeBron James. Not only does Cleveland have Johnny Manziel. It also has a great deal on windows from Window Nation. “If you were going to buy new windows, today is the day,” one of the hosts says.)

It’s all pretty funny until Paul calls in. Paul says his best friend had died in a car accident, and soon after his mother died unexpectedly, and today is the best he has felt since.

And in this moment, it was clear that Goldhammer had been right. This stuff matters. That’s why grown men cry.

It’s funny. But it matters. That’s what Matt in Canton missed.

Later, Ryan from Las Vegas, also a crier, calls in and asks, “Am I acting like a little girlie here?”

No, Ryan. Not at all.

Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter: @zhelfand