The last couple of years, I had the pleasure of having Ray Ryan’s undivided attention for 10 minutes two times a week — I got to drive him home after his assignments at The Daily World were done.
On Monday, the Twin Harbors lost one of its sports icons when Ryan lost his battle with lung cancer. He was 86.
Since learning of his passing, I’ve been working on this column, a small tribute to a man who influenced so many people over the decades. I’ve erased several versions of this already and I’ve run through what to talk about that didn’t overlap the great work Rick Anderson and Dan Jackson did with their pieces on Ryan in today’s paper. This isn’t an easy task.
Yet, I keep going back to those little car rides from the office to his portion of a triplex on Third Street that allowed me a little of his time.
Many of those conversations were brief, since it didn’t take very long to get from the newsroom to his front door at 10:30 p.m. We talked about the games we covered, a tidbit here or there, and how everyone was doing. Other times, it was a quiet ride, especially if it was late at night. Only once or twice did I ask him a question that would need more than the car ride to answer. I wish I asked him a few more than I did. I enjoyed every trip.
As a sports writer, Ryan’s style was nothing that I’ve ever seen or read, before or since. He was an old-school writer, when the newsroom air was filled with cigarette and cigar smoke and the sounds of typewriters crashing stories a mile a minute. His turns of phrase were funny, but all had the added benefit of being true, to borrow a phrase from former editor/publisher John Hughes.
His knowledge was enormous and each story out of his recollections always had a funny or anecdote or two included. He set a level of excellence that is tough to achieve, yet one I aspire to reach one of these days.
One of the many things I’ve learned from Ryan was his passion for what he loved. He loved covering games. He loved talking to the coaches and players afterward. And, he loved writing his column, Uncle Ray’s Raspberry. It contained his high school picks, his musings on the sports world, an occasional trip down memory lane and more than his share of gripes. He loved what he did and it showed, even in his final high school football picks columns last year.
Ryan loved his gimmies, the games that were locks, to keep his self-proclaimed “break even” mark at .800, which will be known as the Ray Ryan Line here in his honor. He was pretty good at it, especially since he was picking games played by high school athletes — who are unpredictable by their nature.
On one of the car trips last year, I mentioned to him that I’d like a crack at picking games, but only when he was done.
“That won’t be for a while,” he noted. He then warned me that even if I picked every game right, there will be more than one person angry at my picks. It is just one of those Ryan’s Rules that was reinforced every time he turned in a picks column.
Duly noted, Ray. Duly noted, and thank you. For everything.
• • •
Record: Last week’s slate of games would have made Ray proud — more than your share of gimmies. I went 8-2, but honestly could have had my first perfect week with an Aberdeen loss that should have been a win and a Montesano upset loss that very few people expected. For the season, I am at 41-19, a 684 clip that inches me closer to the Ray Ryan Line. This week’s games are a mixed bag of gimmies, tossups and flip-a-coins.
Aberdeen Bobcats (0-3, 2-5) at Hockinson Hawks (1-2, 4-3) — I’ve picked Aberdeen to win for three straight weeks. Both the Bobcats and I should have been 3-0 in this picks. Maybe I’m still stuck on the fact that AHS has outgained every opponent this year, but when will the streak end? … Bobcats 24, Hawks 14.
Hoquiam Grizzlies (1-3, 2-5) at Tenino Beavers (3-1, 3-4) — The Beavers are one win away from turning their rivalry game vs. Rochester into a possible Evergreen 1A title game on Nov. 1. The Grizzlies, who are still mathematically alive for the postseason, stand in their way. … Beavers 42, Grizzlies 14.
Forks Spartans (2-2) at Elma Eagles (3-1, 4-3) — If the Eagles want a shot at the Evergreen 1A title, they’ll need to take down a Spartans team that has played the spoiler all season. The East County Civil War on Nov. 1 will get co-title game status with an Elma win as well. … Eagles 35, Spartans 27.
Montesano (2-2, 3-4) at Rainier Mountaineers (0-5, 1-6) — You are the Bulldogs. You’ve been knocked for a loop last week and you need a pick-me-up before taking on your hated rival. Enter the Mountaineers. … Bulldogs 42, Mounties 6.
Ocosta Wildcats (1-2, 3-4) at Naselle Comets (0-3, 1-5) — This is the most important Pacific 2B League game of the week. A win sets the victors off to a district postseason crossover game. The loser begins plans for basketball and wrestling. … Wildcats 21, Comets 20.
South Bend Indians (0-2, 0-5) at Willapa Valley Vikings (2-1, 3-3) — This Pacific 2B League encounter is the second meeting of the season between the two rivals. It should go as well as the first one. … Vikings 35, Indians 6.
Morton-White Pass Timberwolves (7-0) at North Beach Hyaks (5-1) — On ScoreCzar.com, the computer rankings site, has this as a No. 1 at No. 3 matchup. It should be fun, one that I’ve been looking forward to seeing in person. … T’Wolves 34, Hyaks 21.
Muckleshoot Tribal Kings (2-4) at Taholah Chitwhins (2-2) — This is back-to-back games for the Chitwhins, who should have their feet underneath them on offense now. Home cooking does the Chitwhins well. … Chitwhins 42, Kings 21.
Wishkah Loggers (5-2) at Mary M. Knight Owls (3-1) — In the independent eight-man ranks, this is a huge matchup. Both teams have speed and size and a defense that can shut down opponents. The edge goes to the Loggers, who’ve played a tougher schedule. … Loggers 54, Owls 44.
Rob Burns is a Daily World sports writer. He can be reached at (360) 537-3926 or via email at email@example.com. You can also follow Rob on Twitter: @RobRVR.