We have been in the same press box, press row and press conference a hundred different times. And I can't even see the Mendoza Line. Yes. I am 0-for-100. To this day, I've never summoned the courage to introduce myself to Bob Ryan.
Or more to the point: shake his hand and say, "Look. You and Lupica are why I always wanted to do this. Thank you."
And it was with much appreciation — and a twinge of sadness — that I watched the press box at Fenway Park give Ryan a standing ovation Monday night, his final Red Sox assignment.
Bob Ryan, the man Tony Kornheiser calls "the quintessential American sportswriter," is retiring from the Boston Globe after the Olympics.
Bob started at the Globe the year I was born. It was 1968.
And before we immerse ourselves into more tweeting, blogging, hostility and anonymity — you know, the new, everyday tenets of sports journalism — a full timeout is required to digest how the only assemblage worse off than the profession upon Ryan's retirement is the readers.
I grew up reading Bob Ryan. It meant I had to go out of my way to buy the Globe in Middletown, CT. I was a high school kid from 1982-1986, the salad days for Larry, Kevin and the Chief. The Globe was a religious experience every day. Bob Ryan is the best basketball writer in the history of the world. Period. And he knew more about the Celtics than everyone else but a man named Arnold.
It wasn't until college and I was writing for the same newspaper Ryan did — The Heights — that I realized readers don't identify with newspapers. They identify with writers. Because writers, whether with the turn of a phrase or a locker room nugget, take them where they can't go. But want to go more than any other place.
He was part of my life. Every day. I've since chuckled at stories of how referees would go out of their way to explain calls to Ryan on press row in the middle of the game. Or how Dennis Johnson would tell him to hold it down when Ryan started coaching.
I've been known to get a little loud at games myself, as a few colleagues in the Connecticut media can attest. It's called channeling my inner Ryan.
I always wondered what it would be like to have that kind of job when you got to know the coaches and athletes you cover. Ryan inspired that fire within. I've thought of him often now in this new media age when locker rooms are closed and we get canned quotes that offer less insight than your average blogger.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe underscored as much in a column a few years ago.
"Rajon Rondo has a publicist. Think about that for a second," he wrote. "I'm pretty sure Greg Kite never had a publicist. I know this because Kite was my neighbor when I covered the Celtics and we used to share rides to Logan Airport. We both knew that Monday was trash day in West Newton."
Shaughnessy went on to quote Ryan: "With me, it was Rick Robey," Ryan said. "Robey lived in Hingham and he'd pick up myself and Mike Fine (of the Quincy Patriot Ledger) on the way to the airport."
More Shaughnessy: "We were able to tell you a lot about those Celtics because we traveled with them. On commercial aircraft. On buses. In hotel lobbies and hotel bars. … We knew that Cedric Maxwell would always have Dolph Schayes paged over the terminal intercom when the Celtics were waiting for baggage. Anywhere in America. Every trip. For years. One day in Salt Lake City, Dolph Schayes just happened to be at the airport and appeared at the carousel asking who was looking for him. Max loved that one."
Ryan announced his retirement in February. He said, "I really and truly believe that my time has come and gone; that the dynamics of the business, of what it takes, what it means to be involved in the sports business with all the Tweeting and the blogging and all the stuff, and an audience with a different taste. It's not me anymore. I'm not comfortable."
It's just so distasteful. It feels like the bastards are winning.
This age of sound bites, anonymous reader comments and soap-box squealing leaves sports journalism with all the depth of a roadside puddle. Ryan's departure is a haymaker for the good guys.
Maybe one of these days I'll actually call Bob Ryan. But the day he leaves the Globe full time, someone should blast Carly Simon in the background as Ryan walks out the door.
Nobody does (or did) it better.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.