Bob Ryan Reflects On A Life In Sports In 'Scribe'

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In "Scribe: My Life in Sports," semi-retired Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan discourses on everything from basketball to cross-country skiing. Ryan's range over the past five decades has been enormous.

The author joined Bill Littlefield to discuss his new book.

Highlights from Bill's Interview with Bob Ryan

BL: You are perhaps best-known for your work as a basketball writer. Your colleagues nicknamed you "the Commissioner." But you maintain in "Scribe" that your favorite sport to cover is golf. How did that happen?

BR: Well it's because of logistics. It's a simple matter of the reality that television dominates sports, but the one sport that television cannot mess up for the print writer is golf. It's in the daylight! The worst thing they can do to you in golf is to start the final round of a significant tournament on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. rather than at 2:00 p.m. And that's about it. Golf has to be played in the daylight. And therefore you can write what you want to write without the encumbrance of an onerous deadline. And it wouldn't matter though if I didn't like golf — but I do like golf and I enjoy the whole rhythm of a golf tournament.


BL: And are you a player as well?

BR: I've been playing on and off since I was 12. I probably peaked at 15 — seriously! Never had a lesson. That's the big mistake. I learned how to grip the club from an older friend, I read Golf Magazine and I launched my golf career.

BL: Your chapter about pro football is entitled "I Can Hardly Believe It's Legal." What particulars about the game lead you to decide on that title?

BR: It's a brutal, barbaric game of carnage. It's a game that literally maims people. That, if you were going to play it at a high level — college football or professionally — there's a very good chance that you will be afflicted for the rest of your life with problems with your back, your shoulder, your elbow, your arm, your neck, your ankle, whatever. In addition to which, we now know for sure, there is a frightening chance you will have cognitive impairment way too early. The NFL has actually said this year that one out of three players playing can expect to have this problem as they age.

So, step back. This is America's favorite game. This is the game we've chosen as our favorite game. What does this say about us as a society? And I say in the beginning of the chapter: what the premise of the game is, if I were explaining it to someone who had never seen it before — and I would like to think that when you explain the premise of this game and the way it's waged — that the person would say, "That's legal?"

BL: The state of newspapers being what it is, a lot of people know you primarily as a television personality because of your regular appearances on The Sports Reporters, Pardon the Interruption, and Around the Horn. Do you have as much fun doing TV work as it looks like you're having?

BR: I enjoy those programs, yes, but in particular Pardon the Interruption. That format is right up my alley. It suits me ideally as well, I believe, and I enjoy that. That is the single most amount of fun one can have in television, in my judgment, is being one of those two people on Pardon the Interruption.

Bill's Thoughts on Scribe: My Life in Sports

Bob Ryan's new book is great, opinionated fun. This will not surprise the many people who've enjoyed Ryan, either in print or via any of the TV programs he regularly graces.

[sidebar title="An Excerpt From 'Scribe: My Life In Sports'" width="630" align="right"]Read an excerpt from Bob Ryan's Scribe: My Life in Sports. [/sidebar]Ryan's interests within sports are spectacularly diverse. Though he maintains that he likes "to write from a position of comfort and supposed expertise," that has never stopped him from opining about sports with which he has only a passing acquaintance.

That said, his energy has generally led him to quickly learn a good deal about any sport that he encounters. Ryan loved the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway; he writes of baseball that "no other game has so many nuances, so many interesting situations, so many what-ifs;" his favorite sport to cover is golf...and of course he's best known for what he's had to say about the NBA over the past forty years or so. ‎

The aforementioned energy is part of what has made Bob Ryan so popular among sports fans, but in his daily work and now in his book, he has also managed to devote himself to the work without taking himself too seriously. Like writing about games, that's harder than it looks.

This segment aired on October 25, 2014.

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Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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