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Scribe: My Life In Sports

November 21, 2015

ScribeBob Ryan is a lucky man.  He loves sports and writing, and he got to do both for his whole life.

Ryan wrote his first column when he was 11 years old:

The column’s name was ‘The Sportster.’ It had a circulation of one. It was a typewritten sheet, on standard eight-by-eleven paper…. The main topic was an assessment of the Mercer County Parochial Basketball League’s 1957-58 season….The columnist’s view expanded near the end, as he offered an analysis of the NBA season’s status, focusing on the play of the Boston Celtics. The columnist was particularly enamored with Bob Cousy….” (p. 5)

And he hasn’t stopped since, still writing occasionally for the Boston Globe (despite his “retirement” last year) and making regular appearances on radio and television, speaking volubly and enthusiastically (a word that comes up a lot when people describe Ryan) about almost anything and everything related to sporting competitions that come within his purview.

Scribe: My Life In Sports is Ryan’s recounting of his lifelong love affair with sports and writing, and of a life filled with good luck.  What good luck to grow up in Trenton, NJ after World War II when there was a never-ending cascade of opportunities for young boys to play and watch sports, to have a father who conveyed his own love of sports to his only child, a widowed mother (Bill Ryan—a man who never quite found his place in the world—died suddenly when Bob was 13) who took a job at the Lawrenceville School (and defied her parish priest) so that her son could have access to the best education available, to attend Boston College when Bob Cousy was coach of the men’s basketball team, to get hired by the Boston Globe when it had (arguably) the best sports section of any American daily newspaper, to cover the Boston Celtics through three championship eras, to travel the world while covering 11 different Olympic games.

Ryan writes well and flowingly as he recounts his career, offers his reflections, and makes the occasional plug for rethinking the historical records of the athletes he covered, perhaps most passionately when he argues for the greatness of John Havlicek’s NBA career:

I can’t say this is a fact, because it’s an opinion, but it is an honest and a reasoned one: at the moment of his retirement, John Havlicek had established himself as the best all-around player in NBA history. Yes, better than Oscar Robertson, better than Jerry West, better than Elgin Baylor, better than Dr. J, and thus better than anyone in the pre-Jordan, pre-Magic, pre-Larry, and pre-LeBron eras. If you’re picking a twelve-man All-Time NBA squad today, he has to be on it. There has never been a better two-position player. He was the greatest sixth man in NBA history, and when he outgrew that job and became the team’s focal point, he was first-team All-NBA in 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1974, and second-team the next two years, when he was thirty-five and thirty-six years old respectively. He was first-team All-Defense in 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1976. Before the triple double was invented he played too many games to count in which he had double figures in points, rebounds, and assists. This is my story and I can assure you I will always stick with it. (pp. 90-91)

It’s that blend of passion and perspective, confidence and humility, statistical knowledge and feel for the game—whatever the game is—that has made Bob Ryan a great sports scribe, and that makes Scribe such an enjoyable, informative and entertaining read.

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From → Books, Sports

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