Friday, June 13, 2014

Thinking of Ralph Wiley Today

Just tweeted this out, but collected them here:

*10 years ago today, the all-time great Ralph Wiley passed away. In the decade since, his voice and his brilliance have been so missed.

*I was lucky enough to hit in the early-00s Page 2 lineup where RW "bat cleanup" - being his colleague remains a personal/career high point.

*This is what I wrote in the wake of his passing.

*And if you haven't read Wiley's "Why Black People Tend to Shout" or "Serenity" yet, here's an Amazon link.

*In the meantime, enjoy Wiley's Page 2 archive. Here is a page of memories from colleagues.

*When I first launched the Quickie, I asked Ralph for any critiques. The last bit of his reply remains printed out and carried in my wallet:

"Feedback matters, but in the end, it's you against your standards ... if you hit that mark, you can live with what everybody else thinks."

*His final column carried this lead: "All a man's got is the integrity of his work." Ralph, you are so missed.

-- D.S.

Here is the full text of the first few items of that Daily Quickie column:

Two Words For You:

"Bats cleanup ... for Page 2."
That's the tagline phrase at the bottom of Ralph Wiley's Page 2 columns, and it was always the last thing I read after engulfing whatever his latest column was. It's his baseball metaphor, so I'll run with it:

The cleanup hitter is the heart of the order. Ralph brought the heart of Page 2. And its soul. Its brains and its brawn. Its conscience and consciousness.

The cleanup hitter brings the players in front of him home and sets the table for the ones behind him. With his unmatched combination of voice and insight, clarity and style, and -- most of all -- his passion, Ralph made Page 2, its contributors and its readers better.

When young writers ask me for advice about how to get better, I send them the link to Ralph Wiley's Page 2 archive.

When budding bar pundits want to talk or Page 2 with me, my litmus test is Ralph; similar to how my editor Kevin Jackson feels, if people don't see the genius, I have no interest or reason to keep talking with them.

See "Q It Up" for a link to his Page 2 Archive, which is worth book-marking and re-reading any time you want to read the best sports columnist -- online or off -- of the last four years.

Ralph and I went head-to-head for Page 2 only once -- "head-to-head" is overstatement, actually:

He wrote a column on why the NBA is better than college hoops:

I came up with the bright idea to take him on with why college hoops is better than the NBA.

I guess I thought I was pretty smart ... maybe even knew my stuff ... R-Dub proceeded to file a "last-word" column, taking each of my arguments -- point by point -- and just crushing them.

It was, to say the least, an education. No, more like a K.O. But a badge of butt-kicking I continue to wear with pride.

 Passion ... generosity of spirit ... big-hearted... tried to make everything smarter... a giant in our industry... important.

From Bill Simmons to Mike Lupica, the way Ralph's colleagues described him is really just an inkling of the admiration and respect for a writer and man who was confident and passionate enough to return those feelings to all of us.

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