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Remembering Freddie Mac

Sharing Some Tall Tales About the Beloved Cavs Legend
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Beat Writer

Remembering Freddie Mac

Sharing Some Tall Tales About the Beloved Cavs Legend


As long as someone is remembered by loved ones, he or she is never really gone.

Yep, that sounds like some schmaltzy Hallmark greeting card kinda stuff. But it also happens to be true. Many of us can feel our loved ones all around us, even if they’re no longer physically here.

If the qualification for that charmed afterlife is to have those around you still sharing stories about your time on earth, then Fred McLeod will live on forever. The voice of his beloved Wine and Gold for 14 seasons, Freddie Mac loved to tell a story. And he, himself, was at the center of just as many tales.

One year ago, Fred tragically left us at the age of 67. But he’ll always live on in the minds of family, friends and Cavalier fans everywhere.

Most fans have heard the stories about Fred’s burning passion for his job – working into the wee hours on the plane or going the extra mile for that one little nugget of information. One story that perfect symbolizes Fred is that, without him, no one might actually believe the Cal-Stanford “Play to Beat the Band” finish back in 1982 actually existed.

Fred was working for a station in San Francisco at the time and covering that now-famous contest. Again, in typical Fred fashion, he made sure that his cameraman shot until the end.

”I always had to fight game traffic to get back to the studio, but I always liked to live on the edge a little bit anyway, so I said, ‘Just continue to shoot because you never know what might happen,” he recalled. “It was arguably the most famous play in college football history and we’re the only ones who had it.”

But more importantly than all of the stories about his indefatigable work ethic, his notorious temper on the golf course (and elsewhere) and his undying loyalty to the city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers, Fred’s story is that of a husband, father, grandfather and friend.

So while we honor our old friend, here are a few tales to remember Fred from a few of us who spent some long hours with him on the road.

I’m sure there are dozens of stories from others just like these, but then this article would be about 30,000 words and 70 pages long, and even Fred McLeod couldn’t get through all that reading.

(Who am I kidding? Of course he could!)

We miss you, Freddie Mac.

Fred McLeod was always looking beyond what players did on the floor, looking for the story behind the guys.
Photo by FIBA.com


BRENT VALENTI
SENIOR PRODUCER, FOX SPORTS OHIO

Here’s my story, and I think it epitomizes Fred – at least for those of us who traveled together with him for years.

We’re on the plane, heading somewhere out West – I think it was for the second game of a back-to-back.

So, anyone who’s traveled with Fred know that he’s adamantly against seafood. On the road, we’ll go to four Italian places before Fred would even remotely think about taking one for the team – McCormick and Schmick’s or something.

So it’s late and it’s dark and we’re on the plane. Fred, who sits two rows in front of me, has all his stuff laid out – big piles of paper, his laptop open, highlighters everywhere.

And every now and then they serve us something really good on the plane – and that night it was lobster ravioli. It was a big hit with everybody. And I noticed Fred handing his plate to the flight attendant. (That’s another thing about Fred: he always ate the on-flight meal.) So I got out of my seat and went up two rows and told Fred he’d just eaten lobster ravioli. And he said: ‘WHAT?!’ and started cursing.

A.C., who was sitting next to him playing solitaire, started asking him: “Are you OK? You gonna be alright?!”

I’ve known Fred for 15 years, and like most of us, I thought he was allergic. We all thought he was going to have a reaction right there on the plane!

But he said, “No, I’m not allergic to it. I just don’t like the smell.”

And just like that, he popped open a highlighter and went right back to work.

Nothing could throw that guy when it came to the NBA and his work! Even the lobster ravioli couldn’t break his flow.


ANGEL GRAY
CAVALIERS SIDELINE REPORTER, FOX SPORTS OHIO

As a rookie in the NBA, starting with a major professional organization and joining a team that’s fresh off success, there was a ton of pressure.

I remember the first game, he was like: ‘Hey kid, let me know if you need anything.’ It was pretty simple.

But after he heard my huddles and started seeing my tapes, I think our first road game was in Minnesota, and we were in the tunnel and he pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey kid, you’ve got something, you’re really good and you need to trust your gut. You’ve lived this life, you know the stories and what it’s like to be an athlete. A lot of us can’t come from that angle. Trust your experiences.’

That gave me much more confidence in what I brought to the table. And I really appreciated that.

He’d been doing this forever, and he was revered. And the fact that he would take the time – that, in game two of my career, he would be a mentor for me.

I remember once I was getting my oil changed and he called and was like: ‘Hey, I’ve got the game right in front of me; you wanna go over a few things?’ And I’m sitting there at Goodyear and he’s going over things. But it’s because he wants to make our broadcast better.

And I never took it as: ‘Hey, you need to be better.’ It was always like: ‘This is good, let’s build off this.’ Or ‘this would be cool if you took this angle.’

He wanted me to be better. He wanted me to be great.

But the story that’s special to me happened to be on Craig Sager Night. We were playing in Boston.

We all were gonna wear crazy ties; I wore a crazy outfit. (I don’t think the other guys participated.)

But I recall telling Fred that I wanted to wear a tie. And he looked at me and said: ‘Are you sure you’re ready to do this?’ And I said: ‘Yes, I’ve worn a tie before! I just don’t remember how to tie one.’

So that afternoon before the game, he sends me a video of himself tying his tie in the mirror – ‘Alright kid, now if you want the dimple here, you have to …’ and then ‘*$%& … %$#* …. crap!’ And he’s cursing and tearing the tie off.

So, he did three different takes, frustrating himself just trying to teach me how to wear a tie!

And it was so weird that that night we were honoring a legend in sports broadcasting. The next year we wore ties again to honor Fred. And I thought about that moment that he helped me get ready to honor a legend in sports broadcasting. And now we were wearing ties to honor him.

And the photo I posted on his birthday was him in the hallway helping me with my tie before my pregame interview with coach. There’s a huge amount of love in that photo; I’m laughing because he’s talking about getting the perfect dimple in the tie.

That was our thing. Of all the things that brought us together outside of basketball, it was fashion!


JOHN MICHAEL
CAVALIERS PLAY-BY-PLAY, FOX SPORTS OHIO

One thing that I will always fondly remember about Fred is how kind and generous he and his wife, Beth, were to my children.

Both of my little ones were born after I started working with the Cavaliers, and those who know me know just how much of a central role they play in my life.

Fred took a genuine interest in their well-being, and he’d always get the biggest kick out of them when he’d see them at the arena and the practice facility. While Fred and I logged countless hours together watching practices, in retrospect, it seemed like we talked about family almost as much as we talked about basketball.

My message to Fred as he looks down from the 18th green upstairs: Your concern for my family made me feel like a part of the Cavs’ family.

Thanks a bunch, it’s something I’ll never forget.


JASON HILLMAN
BASKETBALL CHIEF OF STAFF, TEAM COUNSEL, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Back when I worked as an intern for Fred in Detroit – the summer of 1992 – what I didn’t fully appreciate then, an appreciation I gained over the years, was for his work ethic. But also, what was behind his work ethic.

He was obsessed with making great TV, and ‘good enough’ was not good enough for him – ever.

There was an LPGA event in Toledo – Sunday, final day, final round – and someone had hit a hole-in-one. We were having trouble getting the footage that the local NBC affiliate in Toledo had gotten – a ground-level shot. We actually had the shot from the network coverage; we just didn’t have the course-level footage that the local NBC affiliate got. Had trouble getting the feed in the satellite or whatever.

Nine out of 10 – if not 10 out of 10 people – would have gone with the network shot. But instead, he put me in my car and sent me to Toledo to get a dub of the tape. So, I drove down to Toledo and got back in time for our show that night.

You could make an argument that it was for 10 seconds of the show. Was the juice worth the squeeze? For him, it was.

A little more effort, in his mind, made the show better. It wasn’t even the sports lead. But his view was if we can make it better, let’s make it better. That stuck with me and it’s actually influenced my work ethic to this day. He was one of the people that instilled it in me early on.

I also remember a time back in 2012-13 after I’d done sideline reporting during a hockey broadcast here in Cleveland. At the time I was doing it, I was just filling in when needed on Monsters telecasts.

So I sent him a DVD of the broadcast and asked for some observations. I thought I’d get an email with a note saying “Hey, nice job.” (Or maybe “Hey, not a nice job.”) But instead, I got five pages of handwritten notes.

And that was Fred: If he’s going to take the time to watch it, he’s going to take the time to tell you what he sees.

He wasn’t mentoring me anymore. But I was a person he’d invested a lot of time in. And I was a friend. He didn’t have to do that. What was the benefit to him?

He was going to make it worthwhile and give me honest feedback. And he did.

That’s what Fred was all about.


RAFA HERNANDEZ-BRITO
SPANISH RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

We all know about Fred’s intensity getting ready for work and reading and printing all those articles. That’s one of the first things I learned about when I came to Cleveland.

When I first got here, I was like a nomad. They had a desk here and then a desk there and then somebody else’s desk.

Eventually, I got the desk Fred used on gamedays. And every time I came to the office, (PR coordinator) Alyssa Dombrowski would come in and dump literally 500 pages on the desk!

And then I found out what they were for, because on the plane he would just sit there with those highlighters, highlighting all those articles. That’s how I knew how intense he was, getting ready for games.

So fast forward to 2018 when I started doing the Browns in Spanish. Last summer, he came to me and said that he was going to be doing Detroit Lions preseason games.

Him having such deep roots in Detroit, he came and asked me about how I prepare for games. And I thought it would be a quick conversation. But that’s not Fred. Eventually, I taught him how to do spotting charts the way I’ve done it for over 20 years.

I think he was just so thrilled to be doing a game between the two cities that mean so much to him.

The only time I went to his house was before the Browns-Lions game and we sat on his porch and went over the spotting chart and spent about four hours on his porch.

It didn’t even mean much at the time, because it was just helping a friend and nothing more, but just over a week later, he passed.

I was glad to be part of something that meant so much to him. I met and talked to some of the Lions people, and they all laughed -- the same way we laughed – that Fred went to every single preseason practice and was talking to every single player.

That’s how Freddie Mac would prepare for a broadcast.

You can tell all the stories about Fred going crazy preparing for broadcasts, and that’s a big part of him.

But there’s two things that people should know about him – something that I love and respected about him: One his how much he loved his wife, Beth. They did everything together and just how much they loved and supported each other. And I love the fact that he was a dog lover. He and I used to have endless conversations about rescue dogs and how much we love animals.

Those are two things that are special to me and I know they were special to him.


DAN SEVIC
DIRECTOR, FOX SPORTS OHIO

It was December 2014, and we were leaving for a West Coast trip. It’s a 2 o’clock flight, leaving after practice at CCC.

I always sat behind Fred, and he did what he always does: gets something to eat, then spreads out all his stuff, his paperwork, highlighters, laptop. So, it was a 2 o’clock flight, but Anderson Varejao had ruptured his Achilles’ in a game the night before – and we couldn’t leave until he got an MRI that day. I think we sat on the tarmac until like 4 or 4:30. And Fred just sat there and worked.

So Fred worked the entire way before we left -- and then he worked the entire five hours of the flight out West. And I know this because he had that light on after it got dark and it drove us nuts!

He wound up working eight straight hours on that flight without a break to get ready for the start of that road trip.

And I tell that story to any person who wants to get into this business. When you ask: How do you get to that level? Here’s how: You sit on a plane for eight straight hours researching your next five shows.

That was his whole career in that story. Fred was never going to be outworked. We kidded him about it. When you saw the light go off above him on the plane, it was really a big deal.

On the bus, on the plane: there was always that one light on. That was Fred.


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