Scribe: My Life in Sports
  • Scribe: My Life in Sports
  • Scribe: My Life in Sports

Scribe: My Life in Sports

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by Bob Ryan

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The colorful, captivating, endlessly entertaining memoir by one of America’s greatest sportswriters—a gift for sports fans everywhere.

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The colorful, captivating, endlessly entertaining memoir by one of America’s greatest sportswriters—a gift for sports fans everywhere.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As a student at New Jersey’s The Lawrenceville School, former Boston Globe sports columnist Ryan was nicknamed “The Scribe” by the school’s football coach. After graduating from Boston College in 1968, Ryan scored an internship at the Globe; he took advantage of it, writing about basketball and baseball, and was promoted to a full-time columnist in 1989. Ryan’s memoir predictably covers memories of games and athletes past: the Boston Celtics’ principled center Dave Cowens was the “most fascinating person I had ever encountered,” although golf is Ryan’s favorite sport to cover. As a guide for aspiring sportswriters or a personal reflections on a life covering professional sports, Ryan’s book falls short. He relies too often on anecdotes, almost like he’s writing an extended column. But that might be the point. The book shines when Ryan describes his childhood in Trenton, N.J., the foundation for his sports-filled future. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
“[Bob Ryan is] the greatest basketball writer of all time.” —Bill Simmons

“The quintessential American sportswriter.” —Tony Kornheiser

Kirkus Reviews
The classic American sportswriter reflects on a half-century of covering the games we play. Boston Globe mainstay Ryan (The Best of Sport: Classic Writing from the Golden Era of Sports, 2005, etc.) is one of this country's finest writers, period, fashioning wit, drama and sincerity into a wealth of stories about all kinds of sports until he went into semiretirement in 2012. Here, he recounts the arc of his career, shares advice from the golden age of old-school journalism and pens terrific anecdotes about some of basketball's larger-than-life figures. He admits readily that his career was something of an accident, from his first internship at the Globe to inheriting the sports desk at the age of 23. "I was confident I could write a decent basketball story," he writes. "But covering a team is something entirely different than writing about a sport. There is no manual. I've never discovered a course anyone can take. It is the ultimate trial-and-error experience." Along the way, Ryan levies praise on giants like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, weighs in on the Michael Jordan versus LeBron James debate, and shares his memories of provocative coaches like Red Auerbach, Bob Knight and Chuck Daly. The author provides a solid mix of candid, respectful and honest assessments, with much of his trademark humor added in. Despite being known for his basketball lore, Ryan is also something of a multi-instrumentalist, offering thoughtful reflections on football, baseball, Olympic hockey and even the Great American Songbook. "I love sports and I want people to know it," he writes. "I'd like to think the word people most associate with me is ‘enthusiasm.' Give me a good game and I'll be happy; as a fan I may regret the outcome, but as a journalist, I'll appreciate the drama." A terrific memoir with lessons for young journalists, sports fans and anyone who shares the love of the games.
Library Journal
The latest book by veteran Boston Globe sportswriter Ryan (Forty-Eight Minutes) is a collection of observations and anecdotes on a wide range of sports topics drawn from his long and distinguished career, plus a bit of autobiographical detail that links the author to notable games, athletes, and coaches. Nearly all of the chronologically organized chapters focus on basketball and baseball; with hockey, football, and golf each getting one chapter's worth of his wit and intelligence. Ryan is at his enthusiastic and eloquent best when reminiscing about his beloved Boston Celtics, giving readers deep insight into the team's championship runs in the 1970s and 1980s as he shares memories of covering legendary performers and colorful personalities such as Larry Bird and John Havlicek. While the author does reflect on his many years as a television commentator for ESPN, including recent controversial remarks that temporarily knocked him off the air, the emphasis is squarely on his nearly five-decade-long writing career. Fans of Robert Lipsyte's An Accidental Sportswriter will appreciate Ryan's similarly anecdotal and partly autobiographical approach. VERDICT This thoroughly engaging book is recommended to all sports enthusiasts, especially readers interested in Boston-area teams.—Douglas King, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia

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Bloomsbury USA
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6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

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My Life In Sports

By Bob Ryan


Copyright © 2014 Bob Ryan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62040-506-2


Shootaround: "Do You Mind If I Call Red First?"

The Boston Celtics' morning shootaround was over on October 1, 1980, and I was back in my hotel room around noontime speaking on the phone to my old friend Paul Silas, who was starting his third season with the Seattle Supersonics and his fourth after leaving the Celtics for financial reasons in 1976.

We were in Terre Haute, Indiana, a site carefully chosen for a good reason. For Terre Haute was the location of Indiana State University, alma mater of Larry Bird. The Celtics had booked an Indiana exhibition trip, scheduling games in Indianapolis, Terre Haute and, after this particular evening, Evansville. As coach Bill Fitch would say—and he was the first person I ever heard use the phrase—scheduling pre-season exhibition games in Indiana when you have Larry Bird on your team is a no-brainer.

I heard a knock on the door.

After asking Silas to wait a sec, I opened the door. There stood Dave Cowens, still in his green practice uniform with the number 18 jersey. He was holding a small sheaf of papers.

Cowens had been a member of the Celtics since the 1970-71 season. He had been a co-Rookie of the Year, an MVP, the center on two championship teams and a player whose intense playing style had labeled him, for some, as a pejorative. To refer to any college player as "Cowens-like" was to identify the young man as a ferocious competitor. But more than that, he was the single most fascinating personality I had yet encountered during my then dozen years as a working sportswriter. He had an unrivaled dossier of iconoclastic, principle-based behavior, both on and off the court. There was a much better chance of finding a player who resembled Cowens than of finding a person like him.

"Come in," I said. "I'm talking to your old buddy Silas. Want to say hello?"

The two chatted briefly. I wrapped up the call and said, "OK, what's up?"

"Here," he said, handing me the papers, "read this."

I began to read, but after several paragraphs I realized something. The pages were out of order. I wasn't quite sure what the purpose of it was until I started at the top.

It didn't take long for it to hit me. "Oh my God," I thought. This is a retirement statement.

Retirement? Why? OK, he didn't have a good game the night before in Indianapolis, but in an account of a pre-season game in Milwaukee played five days earlier I had noted that "Cowens" was again the best Boston player." That's right: "again."

But here it was. "... I used to treasure the individual confrontations with Kareem or Bob McAdoo, and relished the fact we were playing against teams like the Knicks of the early seventies and the old Chicago Sloan-Love-Walker quintets, who made you reach for everything you had in order to compete with their type of play. These challenges were exciting and real; they were invigorating and exhausting.

"However, I can no longer play that caliber of basketball, and it is unbelievably frustrating to remain in an occupation which is wearing and in which one has seen better days."

Further on he wrote: "The primary reason I will not remain on the roster of the Celtics or any other professional basketball club is due to the fact that I have a highly-weakened and worn-out set of feet and ankles, and their respective anatomical members."

How many players would address their body parts as "anatomical members?" It was classic Cowens.

He addressed the fact that he would be forfeiting his salary from the final year of a five-year contract, stressing that he didn't think he could earn it. "Therefore," he wrote, "I don't want preferential treatment from the coach due to my status as a seasoned veteran, because then I wouldn't be able to expect maximum efforts from my teammates. Fairness goes hand in hand with dedication, especially when one is involved in a group participation effort."

So what do you want from me?" I said.

"Two things," he said. "Help me put it in order. You know, give me some professional help. And tell me what you think." Then came the punch line: "And I'd like to have this printed in the paper." I told him I thought the Boston Globe could accommodate him.

The truth is it was very nicely and powerfully-written, which did not surprise me because this was not the first time I had recognized his writing ability. I felt I could improve it without making it anything less than The World According To Dave Cowens.

"I'll need some time," I told him. "Maybe an hour."

He was heading out the door when he turned around. "Do you mind if I call Red first?" he inquired.

Excuse me? Do I, Bob Ryan, mind if he, Dave Cowens, calls the hallowed Red Auerbach, Mr. Celtics, on my phone to inform him he is retiring from active duty in the National Basketball Association, effective immediately?

I gave him my blessing.

The conversation was brief. It went through Mary Faherty, Red's longtime secretary.

"Hello, Mary. It's Dave. Is Red in? Red, it's Dave. Remember what we talked about the other night? Well, I'm doing it. OK, see you when I get back."

And he returned to his room.

After phoning the Globe office to alert them to a pretty nice exclusive story, I began working on the statement. He had begun by writing it longhand on yellow legal pad paper, but had then decided to do it on a typewriter. The statement consisted of four and a half pages of copy, and the finished product was about 80-85 percent Cowens and 15-20 percent Ryan. I was able to edit it in an old- fashioned handwritten way, suitable for dictation.

The story did not end there.

Sometime around 3:30 or 4 o'clock, the team assembled on the bus for the trip to Evansville, where they would be playing the Chicago Bulls. Cowens boarded with his mates to break the news. He briefed them on the whys and wherefores of his decision, and he told center Robert Parish, acquired from Golden State in a draft day deal the spring before, but off to a very poor start with his new team, that he was sure Parish could do the job.

According to multiple sources, resident team comedian M.L. Carr piped up.

"Are you done now?" he asked. "Is that it?"

"Yes," Cowens replied.

"Then get the (naughty word) off our bus!"

The bus pulled away, and there I was, standing with Dave Cowens.

"What happens now?" I asked.

He told me he'd be going back home to Newport, Kentucky for a few days. But there was a problem. He didn't have his credit cards, and he was low on cash. This was 1980. There were no ATMs.

So I went to the nearest Avis office, rented a car, and handed him the keys. Off he went.

I then got into my car for the drive to Evansville and the game with the Bulls. I seem to recall coach Bill Fitch leaving Robert Parish in after he picked up four fouls in the first quarter, as if to say, "OK, pal, you're on your own. You'd better figure it out." Anyway, the Celtics won, and the post-Cowens era had begun.

I never went to Journalism School, but I doubt there is a J- School anywhere that can prepare any sportswriter for a day like that.


Excerpted from Scribe by Bob Ryan. Copyright © 2014 Bob Ryan. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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