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I miss Joe Tait.
The Cavaliers' current radio broadcast team of play-by-play guy John Michael and color analyst Jim Chones is excellent, but Tait was transcendent. He did the play-by-play and the color himself, and skillfully walked the delicate line between calling the game as a professional and watching it like a fan.
He truly was one of a kind.
Tait, now 80, called Cavs games on radio beginning with the birth of the franchise in 1970 through the 2010-11 season, missing the 1981-82 and '82-83 seasons when then-owner Ted Stepien switched the team's radio broadcasts to a new flagship station. Tait returned for the 1983-84 season when the Gund brothers bought the franchise and brought back the Cleveland icon to his rightful spot behind the microphone.
We trusted Tait. He was on our side. His honest, folksy delivery and devil-may-care attitude toward offending people with his observations made listening to a Tait radio broadcast a personal experience. We knew we were getting the straight scoop when Tait called a game, and he called it with the raw emotion of someone who bled the team's colors, whether wine-and-gold, orange-and-blue, or wine-and-gold again.
He wasn't just Joe Tait, he was Joe Fan. He was one of us. He said what we were thinking, he reacted how we reacted, he saw the game the way we saw the game. Only we were seeing it with our ears through Tait's booming, baritone voice crackling through our radio, painting as clear an image of the action on the floor as if we were sitting right next to him at courtside.
When the game was tight in the fourth quarter, Tait was our point man. He was as nervous as we were, and we counted on him to carry us through. With Tait, we weren't alone. We celebrated and suffered together.
You know, All For One.
It was radio magic, and his secret was his uncanny ability to keep it simple. No gimmicks, no shock-value comments, no embellishment. He just told it like it was.
There was no sugar-coating poor play by the Cavaliers, no diminishing outstanding play by the opponent, no upstaging the game with out-of-context comments.
Every broadcast was a work of art. The arena was his canvas, his voice the brush. And the palette of colors carried across the miles on radio waves were a masterpiece forever etched in our memories.
I say all this in context of the current era of the Cavaliers, an era Tait is not part of yet is part of. He will always be part of the Cavaliers, because for three decades he wasn't just the voice of the Cavaliers, he was the Cavaliers. As players came and went, as coaches came and went, as ownership and management came and went, Tait was a constant, holding down the fort through the good times and the bad.
He was there for the birth of the franchise in 1970, the Miracle of Richfield in 1976, the Price-Nance-Daugherty era of Cavaliers resurgence in the late '80s-early '90s following the dark days of the Stepien era in the early '80s, the rebuilding project of Mike Fratello in the mid-late '90s, and LeBron James' first stint in Cleveland that included the franchise's first-ever Finals appearance in 2007.
Tait was there for the The Decision following the 2010 season, then hung up the microphone a year later.
But he's not here for what is a Golden Age of Cavalier basketball, and we can only wonder what that would look -- and sound -- like.
In this, the Cavaliers' finest hour as the defending NBA champions playing in their third consecutive Finals, it doesn't seem right or fair that Tait is not in his rightful place at courtside calling such a majestic piece of Cavaliers history, and it doesn't seem right or fair that we don't get to hear it.
We can only imagine his impassioned calls in Game 7 of last year's Finals, auditory gems describing The Block, The Shot and The Stop, and the unbridled joy of the clock hitting zeroes on the franchise's first championship.
He deserved to call it, and we deserved to hear it.
We did get to hear Tait bring us the Cavaliers for three decades, and we did get to watch our Cavaliers raise the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time.
We did get to experience the best of both worlds.
Only in a perfect world, they would have been one.
On the topic of broadcasting, maybe it's just me but ABC's NBA Finals crew of play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analysts Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy is hard to listen to.
Breen serves as the foil for Jackson and Van Gundy, who often go back and forth with each other throughout an entire telecast. Jackson, who coached the Golden State Warriors prior to Steve Kerr's arrival, does a good job of remaining fair and balanced, but Van Gundy steps all over the broadcast with eyebrow-raising comments, often leaving his cohorts speechless.
Van Gundy is never one to mince words about the officiating, something of which I'm a big fan. If players, coaches, fans and media can be criticized, so can officials. They're not above reproach, and if they blow a call -- or a game -- they need their feet held firmly to the fire.
But Van Gundy makes comments that are beyond the pale -- and distracting.
For instance: During a pregame segment prior to Game 1, Van Gundy was addressing this Warriors team's place in NBA history. Considering Van Gundy coached in the league from 1989 to 2007, including stints as head coach of the Knicks and Rockets, I figured he knew what he was talking about.
I figured wrong.
He made the case -- with a straight face -- that the Warriors are more dominant than Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls teams of the 1990s. He based that on his observation that those Bulls were pushed in the Eastern Conference.
If Van Gundy means the Bulls were pushed in a playoff series here or there, that's fine. But that alone doesn't make the Warriors a more dominant team.
The Warriors are in their third straight Finals, winning one and losing one.
With Jordan on the roster, the Bulls were 6-for-6 in NBA Finals. Had Jordan not taken two years off to try his hand at minor league baseball, it would have been 8-for-8. And had Bulls management not inexplicably broken up the team after its sixth title in 1998, it could have been 9-for-9 or more.
One title certainly does not trump six. And if the Bulls were pushed in the Eastern Conference in the midst of winning six straight NBA championships with Jordan on the roster, I'd like to know what team that was.
A tight playoff series now and again isn't being pushed, it's just the nature of the playoffs. Being pushed is losing a playoff series or two to the same team, therefore interrupting a potential dynasty.
Yes, the Warriors are 13-0 this postseason entering Sunday night's Game 2, a phenomenal feat to be sure. That makes them more dominant in these playoffs than anyone else. But it certainly doesn't make them more dominant than a team that essentially won six consecutive titles.
Van Gundy is a classic case of someone whose historical perspective has been clouded by the immediacy of the moment.
It's a shame we don't get Marv Albert, Hubie Brown, Reggie Miller and some others to call these Finals.
Marv and Hubie are broadcast icons along the lines of Joe Tait, while the depth and breadth of Miller's understanding of the game would add far more to the telecast than what we've been getting.
For now, I've taken to turning the sound down on the telecast and watching in silence. That way, only the action on the floor can be aggravating.