And everything that I’ve read about it has been a eulogy. Why is there a rule that when somebody retires or dies they only talk about their positives? It’s almost offensive to the deceased and retirees. When I die, call me crazy, I want my family and friends to remember me as I actually was: a flawed individual. I will now write about Bob Ryan, a flawed individual.
I will always remember Bob Ryan as the nasty participant in Around the Horn that I never wanted to be on. Please, let it be Jackie MacMullan or Michael Smith. Not angry Bob Ryan; not Woody Paige without the ability to laugh at himself. He struck me as a writer who supported his opinions with conjecture and casual observations, and then tried to convince people that he was right through force of voice, i.e. yelling.
There is no better example of why I think of Mr. Ryan this way than his reaction to the 2011 Bill James Projections. He disagreed with them, thinking that they undersold the Boston Red Sox as a whole. This is fine. Projections are always guesswork, and it’s healthy to question them and argue about whether they are accurate or not. The shape of Mr. Ryan’s argument, however, was not healthy.
Instead, he personally attacked Bill James, trying to discredit him by repeating Dan Shaughnessy’s joke that James “doesn’t even like to watch baseball.” First, anyone who cites Shaughnessy as a reliable source loses some credibility in my eyes. Beyond that, using a derisive joke isn’t just using an ad hominem argument, it’s the worst kind of ad hominem argument. If an ad hominem argument is made that addresses real character concerns, then it implies that care was taken in the argument. To make a flippant joke is to dismiss your opponent as insignificant; he doesn’t deserve any more attention than that.
I have not read or seen 99.9% of Bob Ryan’s work as a sports reporter. It’s entirely possible that he was a wonderful reporter. That, however, was not my impression of him, and I know that this side of Ryan existed. He probably deserves a lot of credit for a long and successful career, but he also deserves criticism for his penchant for mean-spirited ad hominem arguments.