Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan pulled the plug on his regular contributions to the paper yesterday after 44 years with a classy sayonara that cited Jackie MacMullan never having sacrificed, “a shred of femininity.” That weird portion aside, Ryan’s wit and insight will be missed by those of us who’ve actually read his work over the years rather than fixated on his more contemporary appearances on ESPN alongside the likes of Tony Kornheiser or Screamin’ Jay Mariotti. And with that in mind, let’s flash back to December 6, 2005, when Deadspin’s Will Leitch (“Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks : Bob Ryan”) castigated the writer for “becoming what he once despised — a sports celebrity.”
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.
Of course, in the nearly 7 years since the above premature burial, Leitch has become something of sports celebrity himself, one whose own appearances on radio, television and advertisements for Taco Bell haven’t exactly been covered in glory. Back in 2005, I suggested that Ryan, “has forgotten more about sports than Leitch will ever know.” Of course, with his references to Ryan having been scarred by “molten lava”, Leitch has probably forgotten more than the rest of us will ever know about taking sickening cheap shots at older writers he’s deemed no longer useful to his career trajectory.