With the Cavaliers and Hawks squaring up for the last Sunday home game of the 2010-11 season, there was actually one moment where the entire Quicken Loans Arena was on their feet: a standing ovation for Joe Tait, broadcasting his first game of the season since undergoing heart surgery roughly five months earlier.
“The Voice of the Cavaliers” took to his perch Sunday evening, where he will be for the remaining four Cavs home games. Unfortunately for the Hall of Fame broadcaster, he was treated to a 99-83 loss, the Wine and Gold’s 58th of the season.
Admitted to a Houston area hospital following a Cavs preseason game, Tait was diagnosed with pnemonia, but was later told that the medical staff had found a heart issue that could only be corrected with open-heart valve replacement surgery. Tait had attempted to return to his spot in the WTAM play-by-play booth several times this season, but doctors nixed each attempt due to concerns of his stamina and the stress that could be placed on Tait’s heart in the event of a high-emotion play.
“There are mixed opinions in the medical world as to whether this was the smartest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Tait told the media. “But I wanted to give it a shot.
“I’ll be interested to see if the voice holds up for four quarters.”
While the surgery and subsequent recovery may have taken away some of Tait’s energy and weight (he is now 50 lbs. lighter), the one thing he did not lose was his uber dry sense of humor…and his love for DiGiorno Pizza. Tait did not take kindly to multiple Alonzo Gee airballs (10 points on 4-for-11 shooting, six rebounds on the night), deemed the Cavaliers roster as being “thin of talent,” and told the Plain Dealer that his advice for Jim Chones – tasked with providing color commentary, something Tait has done on his own more often than not – was to “be quiet.”
With Tait’s return, it was once again “Basketball Time at The Q.” Rookie forward Luke Harangody was the first recipient of a “Wham!” response when the newly-acquired big man threw down a two-handed dunk. And if all goes as planned, the team will host a Joe Tait appreciation night, most likely on Friday, April 8 as the Cavs host the Chicago Bulls on the second-last home game of the season.
As to not overlap with Fan Appreciation Night on April 13, when the team will play “Have a Goodnight, Everybody” – the documentary on Tait’s legendary career – hopes are that Tait (who will not travel) will be willing to be the subject of such an evening as he has attempted to make his return as big of a non-event as possible.
(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)