Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks: Bob Ryan

By all accounts, Bob Ryan was once a good writer. But then something happened. The molten lava, burning his features. The painful reconstruction. The cryptic words: "Rise, Lord Vader." Yes, Bob Ryan's journey to the dark side is now complete. With his ubiquitous presence on Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption, he has become what he once despised — a sports celebrity. A talking head of the stripe that makes Max Headroom seem like Noam Chomsky. And a really lazy writer. Let's go to the vital statistics:

Name: Bob Ryan.
Writes For: The Boston Globe.
Born: Trenton, N.J.
Other Notables Born In Trenton: Dennis Rodman, Ernie Kovacs, Charlie Weis.
Attended: Boston College ('68).
Most Often Heard On: ESPN's "Around the Horn," "Pardon the Interruption," ESPN Radio.
Most resembles: Billy Carter.
Best description on a message board: "The single worst idea in television history was the decision to put Bob Ryan in front of a camera and give him 25 seconds to make a coherent point about anything." — Sansho1.

Of course, Bob Ryan will be forever linked to the Joumana Kidd Incident, in which he blurted on a Boston television show one afternoon in May 2003 that the wife of Nets point guard Jason Kidd needed someone — perhaps him — "to smack her." As a result Ryan was suspended for one month and earned a second, unsavory graph in his personal Wikipedia entry. Of the infamous malaprop, his co-host on that show, Bob Lobel, later said the following: "I can't get in his mind. I do know the minute he left the station he knew he made a mistake. To his credit, he didn't try to make excuses. He didn't claim anything but responsibility." Well, uh, yeah. It was all on tape. What was he gonna say?

There are also lesser-known gaffes, such as his summation of the 2004 ALCS series after Game 3. Thought we'd forgotten about that one, didn't you Bob? (Thanks to Boston Sports Media Watch for the quote). Wrote Ryan:

"They (the Red Sox) are down, 3-0, after last night's 19-8 rout, and, in this sport, that is an official death sentence. Soon it will be over, and we will spend another dreary winter lamenting this and lamenting that. ... Nothing good has come from this. Nothing. We all wanted the Yankees. What, dare I say it, idiots we all were."

But Ryan's sins go far beyond a single foot-in-mouth moment on local radio, or the belief that the home team was doomed. He is emblematic of the brand of journalist who prize pancake makeup over printer's ink. He has that disease known as Stagelight Palsy, in which shrieking inanities on television trumps any attempt at journalistic credibility. How do you know if your hometown columnist has this disease? Symptoms include short, choppy one-sentence paragraphs. Inattention to detail. Wild assertions made simply to draw attention. And, in this case, some serious, big-league, sloppy hometown ass-smooching.

Ryan is old enough to know better. Indeed, he helped pioneer this print-journalist-turned-TV-asshole pandemic. There is a special place reserved for Bob Ryan — perhaps in the final scene of Return of the Jedi, as a hologram, right between old Obi-wan and Yoda, if he ultimately finds redemption. Until then, we must endure his evil. Be strong.

Bob Ryan Archive [Boston.com]
Bob Ryan [Wikipedia]