Bob Ryan: ‘Wasn’t Comfortable Doing TV Reporting’

In 1982, Bob Ryan left the Boston Globe to become a sports reporter for Channel 5 in Boston, and as he soon found out, television reporting is a whole lot different from writing.

“I wasn’t comfortable,” Ryan said on Ferrall on the Bench. “I went to a great station with great people (and was) given a fair opportunity to find out if this is what suited me and if this is what I wanted to do. And I realized after a year – it took me a year – to come to the conclusion that no, this isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my working career.

“The difference in working in television and writing can be summed up in one word: collaboration,” Ryan continued. “Television is a collaborative medium. You do nothing by yourself. You’re nothing without the assignment editor, you’re nothing without the cameraman and you’re nothing without the editor. People always see you, and yet, they don’t realize that without the other three, there’s no you. It was a difficult transition for me to accept that.”

Eventually, Ryan made his way back to the Globe.

“The paper never wanted me to leave in the first place, and I was able to get back,” Ryan said. “No harm, no foul. It was a very good lesson and a nice opportunity.”

Ryan, who began working for the Globe in 1968, is still on television a great deal – whether it’s on Around the Horn, PTI, or The Sports Reporters.

“Well, the vast difference is we’re talking about two entirely different aspects under the umbrella of television,” Ryan said. “One is working for a living on a daily basis for a local station doing a reporter’s job and all it entails – live shots and all that. I never anchored. Not one second.”

And now, Ryan is – as he called it – “a talking head.”

“It’s performance art there, no doubt,” he said. “We figured out our inherent roles (on Around the Horn) as time went on. Woody (Paige is) the class clown and I’m kind of like the resident historian and so on and so forth.

“But anyway, that’s different. I’m comfortable with that – and it’s not a full-time job. It’s not how I earn my living. Since I left Channel 5, I’ve never had a contract with anybody. Everything is piecemeal work, day by day, so it’s different.”

Ryan, as you may have heard, has a new book out called Scribe: My Life in Sports, which details more than 45 years that Ryan spent in sports journalism. The athlete Ryan was most fascinated by in his career? That would be Larry Bird.

“As a player, no question,” Ryan said. “He came along when I was 10 years into the job. I had just gotten through a year before of saying farewell to John Havlicek. And at that point, I totally assumed that I would never cover a better plater. My head cold not even begin to encompass the idea that I would cover a better single individual player than John Havlicek. And then one year later Bird came. It was as if I were an art student signed up for a course and on the first day the new professor walked in and it was Michelangelo. It was everything I loved about basketball in one person.”

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