“Day One did not begin well. En route to the Globe for my first day as a summer intern, I was sideswiped on Storrow Drive by a Bloodmobile.”
One of my favorite moments hanging with Bob Ryan was back in Vancouver in 2011 when the Boston Bruins were battling with the Canucks for the Stanley Cup. Bob and I so happened to pull the short straw — or maybe it was the long one — and were asked to stay in Vancouver during Game 6, which was being played in Boston, to save the Globe money and so we could have staff in place if and when the teams would return to the west coast for Game 7. (It was something we anticipated and were ultimately right about.) Those were long flights, and if you’ve covered any team in pro sports, you know that beating the home team to its next destination is nearly impossible. During the Stanley Cup, the Bruins and Canucks had gotten used to holding press conferences after touching down and making their way to the rink.
Anyways, Bob and I had the awesome task of waiting out Game 6, while also enjoying Vancouver. Now Bob is more of a lone wolf, so I didn’t see him out much. But at night, when the NBA Finals were playing concurrently, I caught him at the hotel bar for some pick-me-ups and some basketball talk. It was during those conversations that I got his impression of the NBA lockout, a topic I had dismissed as easily as I had the NFL lockout. And to be fair to myself, the issues in the NBA were still below the radar nationally. But not for Bob. He knew then, ahead of all the hoopla, that the NBA and its players association were far apart. He told me he wasn’t sure the NBA was going to have a season.
After a lengthy lockout, followed by a 66-game season, I realized that he’s not only pretty good at recapping some of the finest moments in sports history, but he’s also pretty good at predicting outcomes as well. If only he were a betting man. Maybe he can take that up in semi-retirement.
One last story.
One of the first assignments I worked on for Boston.com and the Globe was at a Celtics game with Bob in the building. At the time, I wasn’t well versed with the protocol at TD Garden, the seating arrangements, etc. After the pregame locker room access, I made my way to the press seats, which are tucked away in a corner of the Garden. The section has a sort of hierarchy to them, with the front four seats dedicated to the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. The Globe typically has three to five seats at games, with the other seats much higher than the two up front. Because I was (and continue to be an early bird), I took one of the first two seats because they weren’t assigned by name.
Little did I know.
First to come by was Frank Dell’Apa, a Globe veteran, who is by most accounts, unnerved by anything. It was our first meeting. We introduced ourselves, he sat down next to me, and we started to get ready for the game. Next to come by was Bob, who looked over, waved, and continued up the section to the next available seat. And lastly, Julian Benbow, our Globe colleague and the Celtics beat writer at the time, came by on his day off to observe and stopped to talk to me.
“What are you doing,” Julian asked.
“What do you mean,” I replied.
Julian went on to educate me how I was sitting in the wrong seat. In particular, I was sitting in Bob Ryan’s seat. The front two seats he told me were meant for the Globe’s beat writer, Dell’Apa for the day, and the columnist on duty. Feeling a little embarrassed, I said nothing. But as the game got going, and I hadn’t yet moved, Julian decided to come down from the higher seats and talk to me again.
“Do you know people are sitting around and talking about why Bob Ryan is sitting up here and you’re down there?” he queried.
This wasn’t going well. So after the first quarter — a meaningless game against the Utah Jazz — I walked up to Bob, who was sitting next to Julian about six rows above, and told him I had no idea what the deal was with the seating (a weak apology, I admit) and asked him if he wanted to switch spots.
Bob wasn’t worried about it. In fact, Bob just brushed it off.
I remember thinking later that night how cool he was about the situation. Seating can be, and has been known to be, quite a contentious discussion in the press box. Just ask anyone sitting in the back row at Fenway Park. But that moment sort of crystalized what kind of person Bob was. Despite his celebrity — which he doesn’t like to admit to — he is as down to Earth as any other eccentric in this business, and one that doesn’t have the least bit of diva to him.
He’s a good guy and and I’ll miss the opportunity to have any more drinks with him on the road. As everyone who has ever known him will tell you, his stories are great and his memory is phenomenal. That combination, unfortunately for the Globe, is irreplaceable.
Lucky for the Globe, he is still going to write 30-40 times a year on Sundays.