Advice from the Masters: Bob Ryan

Dec 3, 2014 | Better Writing

I don’t know if this meets the test for “dirty little secret,” but some of my favorite writers are sportswriters. My first writing hero, long before Ernest Hemingway, was Jimmy Cannon who wrote for the New York Journal-American when I was a boy.

Since I’m also a basketball fan, I’ve always been a Bob Ryan fan, too. If what you know of Ryan is the white-haired smartmouth on ESPN’s show, “The Sports Reporters,” all you’ve seen is the public persona of one of the best sportswriters ever.

Ryan is the master of what sportswriters call the “gamer,” the newspaper account of an individual game. The best of that genre are a mix of factual reporting, insight, and colorful writing. Nobody has ever done it better than Bob Ryan.

He’s on a tour to promote his memoir, Scribe, which is why he showed up on the Charlie Rose show. That’s where he said this.

“I wrote basketball game stories with the eye of a critic to tell someone who was not there what it was that they missed.”

If you’re seeking advice about how to write business stories, commit that sentence to memory.

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