It’s not often I sit down at a laptop to type and don’t know what to say.
But I am finding it difficult to describe a day like today.
Today, I learned Fred McLeod died suddenly Monday night at the age of 67. McLeod had been FOX Sports Ohio’s play-by-play man for Cavaliers broadcasts since 2006. I started writing about the NBA out of Cleveland full-time in 2007.
Fred immediately became a friend. Not because of anything I did. But because he basically insisted. That was just Fred. Always asking about my family, always wondering what was next in my career, always telling me how much he enjoyed my work. He never once talked about himself unless I pried.
I remember telling him once, “Fred, you build me up more than my own mother — and that’s hard to do.”
“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it,” he said. “You do great work.”
And guess what?
Everyone I know who spent time around Fred, mostly other writers, will tell you Fred behaved the same way with them. He was always gracious, always had something positive to offer.
But for me, one particular exchange with Fred stood out above the rest.
Like Fred, I was employed by FOX Sports Ohio. My stint as Cavs beat reporter lasted from 2010-2015. I was a victim of the layoffs prior to the 2015-16 season, but FSO offered me a chance to return as a broadcaster, solely working on the television side as an NBA insider.
In order to continue to write, I launched this website — more or less as a hobby. Miraculously enough, it turned into my full-time job and an important source of income.
Fred asked me about the site often, nearly every time I saw him, in fact.
But prior to a preseason game last October, Fred stopped me in the media dining area. He clearly had something he wanted to say.
Without me ever telling Fred what I hoped the website would become, he offered his opinion. He said the site was a “true chronicle” of what’s happening in the NBA. “I check it three times a day,” he said.
I thanked him, but my delivery didn’t do justice to how I actually felt. His words were all I thought about during the game. They motivated me to make the site better, to work harder. Fred was reading. Maybe others around the league were, too.
I never told Fred any of that. I doubt he knew how much it meant to me.
But since that moment, I honestly have written every post with Fred at least partially in mind. Because I knew no matter how small the news, he would likely be reading.
It’s a tradition I intend to continue.
It wasn’t just what Fred said that offered a glimpse into who he really was. I occasionally observed him while he worked. I’ve been in this business for two decades, and I never saw anyone prepare like Fred.
It never mattered who the Cavs were playing — from the snazzy Los Angeles Lakers to the run-of-the-mill Memphis Grizzlies, Fred got ready for a broadcast the same way every time. He printed out article after article from newspapers covering the Cavs’ opponent the day before the game. He digested everything — newspapers, websites, blogs, social media.
His job wasn’t his life, but he flourished because he cared. Lots of people would love to be a play-by-play announcer for an NBA team. Fred exemplified what it took, likely even surpassed it.
His car adorned license plates that read “RU KDN ME,” one of his signature phrases.
He cried when the Cavaliers won the title in 2016, both while calling the game for a fan party at The Q and the next day during an appearance on 92.3 The Fan.
He offered advice when I started as a broadcaster. He even talked me into following his daily exercise regimen, a half hour of cardio with a half hour of weights. He stressed to only take 30 seconds to a minute between sets. “Bring a timer,” he told me.
And he never knew this, but my wife and I implemented in our own marriage what Fred and his wife, Beth McLeod, showed to us.
They were best friends, seemingly inseparable, always loving and supporting each other. From what I could see, their marriage was the type of union every person longs for. My wife and I worked toward that, using Fred and Beth as our primary role models.
OUT OF WORDS
I saw Fred earlier this summer at a Cavs event and said a quick hello. I got pulled away before getting a chance to talk with him beyond that.
I had repeated chances to tell him how much his words about my website meant to me, but never really came close. I didn’t want to make too big of a deal about it. But in my world, and in my daily work, Fred’s presence was indeed a big deal.
Fred is gone now. This Cavaliers season will not be the same. It still doesn’t seem real. He meant the world to so many fans.
I too will always remember him for his work and his call of the games. He was probably the biggest homer in the NBA, and I say that with love.
But I will always remember Fred McLeod the man, the friend, the example. That is who I am really going to miss. I miss him terribly already.
There have been days where I didn’t want to update the site. There have been times where I didn’t want to post that Team X was signing some guy who nobody knew and who had no real shot of making the team.
Then Fred came to mind. I knew at least one person would read. So I pushed through, wrote the post, linked to it on social media.
It won’t mean much to anyone else, but I’m not going to change a thing. It will be the one way to honor a person who, in my mind, deserves to be honored the only way I can come up with, in the best way I can.
It will be my way to never forget my friend.
So, thanks for everything, Fred. You impacted me more than I could ever express.