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Basketball Guru Bob Ryan Inspires Springfield Students

Bob Ryan speaks to Springfield College Students on Sept. 26. (CJ Legner/SCTV3)
Staff Writer
For the first time ever, “The Basketball Guru” and the “Birthplace of Basketball” have coalesced. On Monday, Sept. 26, Springfield College students were given the opportunity to attend a Q-and-A session with the legendary Bob Ryan during his first ever trip to the school.
The event was held in the Dodge Ballroom of the Rich­ard B. Flynn Campus Union. For 43 years (and counting), Ryan has proven to be a cardi­nal member of the sports writ­ing world, consistently writing for The Boston Globe while con­tributing to other publications and writing books along the way. He is a man of many ac­colades, including being named National Sportswriter of the Year on four occasions. Ryan is most known for his stature as a prolific basketball writer, so it is only fitting that he paid a visit to the place where it all began.

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

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