Bob Ryan Says Farewell

There has been no shortage of hosannas to Bob Ryan, the legendary Boston Globe sports columnist who’s just retired from regular duty after 44 years at the paper, but I wanted to add my voice to the choir. Like most kids growing up in Boston, I learned to read somewhat begrudgingly from my first grade teacher. But I learned to love reading from the Boston Globe sports page, which I suspect my parents left out on the breakfast table as some sort of trick. Basketball was my favorite sport and the Celtics were my favorite team, so that meant that, along with my daily Cheerios, came a steady dose of Bob Ryan. It’s probably not too much of a coincidence that I work as a writer now.

There’s not a ton to say about it other than that Ryan is as good a sports columnist as I’ve ever read. He’s always passionate and on-point, and I can’t remember a time he ever threw a bomb just for the sake of it. Here’s his farewell column, as well as the last one he filed from the Olympics. The one that’ll always stick in my mind, though, comes from the morning after the Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship back in 2008. The Globe archives system is a little screwy, so apologies for not being able to link to it, but here’s how it began:

NBA CHAMPIONS

131-92.

Embrace it. Ogle it. Relish it.

But, above all, believe it.

The Boston Celtics did not just win franchise championship No. 17 last night. They snatched it. They swallowed it. They demanded it.

So they’ve done it. They have claimed the honor of having the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. One year ago today, the franchise could accurately be described as forlorn. The Celtics were coming off a 24-58 season punctuated by an 18-game losing streak. They had been cruelly treated by the draft lottery, which left them with nothing better than the fifth pick.

And now they are champions. Again.

Lordy, Lordy, what hath Danny and Doc wrought?

It was a wire-to-wire championship that began with a 103-83 dismissal of the Washington Wizards back on Nov. 2 and came to fruition at the TD Banknorth Garden with perhaps their greatest combination of offensive play, defensive play, bench play, and just plain basketball in any game of the entire 116-game exhibition/regular season/playoff season.

131-92.

And here’s how the column ended:

What we had, ladies and gentlemen, was the first six-game sweep in NBA Finals history. The Celtics dominated the three games in Boston, and they absolutely, positively could have won all three games in LA. But isn’t it fortunate for the fans that they didn’t? How many times do home fans get to see an NBA coach get the Gatorade bucket treatment, as Rivers got from Pierce with 30 seconds to go?

131-92.

That’s a score you’ll never, ever forget.

Strangely enough, the final scores of most of the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins’ triumphs have slipped from my mind, but 131-92 has stuck, probably as much because of that column as the game. I know Ryan will still be writing occasionally for the Globe, but I’ll definitely be missing him with my Cheerios.

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