Associate Professor of Communications Marty Dobrow, who is a contributor to ESPN Boston in addition to his teaching, introduced Ryan with great praise.
“I think it’s no question where Bob would be without a couple of peach baskets and a gentleman from Canada named James Naismith, the original Dr. J. I would submit that Bob would be exactly where he is, which is as not only one of the best sportswriters of our time, but one of the best of all time,” said Dobrow.
It is not uncommon for journalistic colleagues such as Dobrow to commend Ryan. Dobrow would later add, “To me, his success isn’t some trophy on a mantle; it’s the sustained excellence and the sustained enthusiasm for it.”
Ryan, an energetic, animated man with resplendent white hair, took the microphone for an hour, buzzing with enthusiasm while speaking about his experiences and then opening up the session to questions from the audience. He was just one day removed from covering a day-night doubleheader between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Ryan spoke to an intimate crowd, consisting mostly of students who aspire to mimic his success someday.
“I liked the overall experience of listening to someone who actually does this for a living, because it helped me put sports talk into a professional and experienced perspective,” said freshman communications/sports journalism major Steve Starr.
For students like Starr, Ryan is a familiar face from television. Despite his success on a variety of ESPN shows such as Around the Horn, The Sports Reporters and Pardon the Interruption, Ryan was quick to denounce himself as anything other than a writer. He modestly explained to the conglomerate of students, “When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I do not see a television person. I see a writer.”
Writing is certainly an expertise of Ryan’s. His most beneficial statements of the day were his opinions on the importance of attentive writing. He has been known to have a distinct, unique voice in his writing, with absolute command over his descriptiveness.
“I put myself as a surrogate fan in print,” Ryan said. “I have to write to my personality, and that’s my personality—I’m still a fan of the sport.”
Throughout his presentation, Ryan preached the importance of both reading and writing. Ryan even suggested that as a sportswriter, reading must be your number one passion, above and beyond your love for sports.
“Writing is a craft; it’s an aptitude that is developed into something. And it’s something that you have to truly enjoy for its own sake,” he would later say with a firm, booming voice.
Students were introduced to Ryan’s two theoretical rules of writing. The first rule pertains to rhythm. Every word, sentence and paragraph must have a continuous, frictionless flow. The second rule involves the proper use of quotes. Ryan heavily stressed judiciousness and the ability to write into a quote, explaining, “I think it’s vital to separate the good from the great.”
The eyes of future journalists stayed focused on Ryan as they soaked in the master’s tricks of the trade.
Many students were eager to know Ryan’s opinions on current sports topics, as he entertained questions and responded with lengthy, thoughtful answers. But at the end of the sunny, surprisingly warm autumn day, it did not matter who Ryan suggested will win the American League MVP award or whether he believed there will be an NBA season. What did matter is what Ryan taught about writing. The event was highly valuable to potential writers, and Dobrow deserves applause for putting together such an event.
Tyler Leahy may be reached at email@example.com