Bob Ryan Teaches Class, Schools Bill Simmons

1212598260I’m no historian, but I’m guessing this is exactly how things unfolded right before the Civil War. One minute, two brothers are laughing and tilling the soil together, the next they start talking about a touchy topic of great importance — namely, Lakers vs. Celtics. Then, boom — suddenly the nation is divided and you can’t get good grits north of Alexandria.

(Check your 8th grade social studies books. It’s all right there.)

In today’s modern-day reenactment, we have legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan firing a shot at ESPN scribe (and local product) Bill Simmons. Apparently, Ryan takes umbrage with a piece that Simmons wrote, in which The Sports Guy dared to claim that Boston vs. LA really isn’t a rivalry at all.

Blasphemy! To arms!

Ok, so I may be exaggerating a touch. Ryan’s piece about Simmons isn’t quite like Sherman burning Atlanta. But Ryan still manages to defeat Simmons, mainly by never mentioning his enemy by name.

Beware of False Prophets.

Beware of clever people who know what they know, but don’t know what they don’t know, which is far more important.

There is a younger writer of great renown who loves the Boston Celtics, which is fine. He commands an enormous national audience, who have come to regard him as The Authority on all things Celtic. And he has an exhaustive knowledge of the current team. No problem there.

But he has over-stepped his bounds. He is trying to sum up the whole Celtics-Lakers thing in his dot.com forum, and he starts off by saying that it wasn’t really a rivalry because the Celtics won the first eight times the two played in the Finals. He completely dismissed the six series of the 60s because the Celtics won all six, as if this somehow means by definition the two teams did not have a viable rivalry.

Ryan goes on to detail how good the Lakers were back then thanks to Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, how three of the Finals during the ’60s went to Game 7, and how both sides had great respect for each other. It was obviously a rivalry, Ryan says, and if Simmons did a little research, he’d know that:

I’d tend to forgive him on the basis of him not being there, but that would mean that history requires that you had to be there. I wasn’t present for the Gettysburg Address or the Bobby Thomson home run, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a good idea of what it must have been like to be there. That’s what being an historian entails. You do your homework.

So true. Somewhere, President Abraham Washington is smiling.