Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Page 2 Quickie: June 15, 2004
The Lead Item
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
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.
His Page 2 Work
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 ESPN.com
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.
Head to Head
Ralph and I went head-to-head for Page 2 only
once -- "head-to-head" is overstatement,
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
It was, to say the least, an education. No, more like
a K.O. But a badge of butt-kicking I continue to wear
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.
See "Q It Up" for a link to "Remembering Ralph
Wiley," a collection of thoughts from his
"Serenity: A Boxing Memoir" is one
of the great sports books you will ever read. I think
about Serenity a lot, because I use it as the
model of the book I can only wish I had in me.
"Why Black People Tend To Shout" is
simply must-read. You can find it at Amazon or BN, or
-- better yet -- call Penguin Books to give it a
"Ralph Wiley was one of the great writers of
my generation, sports or otherwise. ... His work will
live on to inspire countless others, ballers,
scholars, and poets." -- Steve, Oakland
See "Q It Up" for a link to SportsNation's
Ralph Wiley message board.
I sent Ralph e-mails of unabashed,
idolizing praise. He always provided a humble and
uplifting reply. When I first launched this column, I
sent Ralph an e-mail asking if he had any
As always, he replied, and -- much like my colleague
Eric Neel -- I printed out his answer and pasted on my
bulletin board, right in front of me, where I see it
all the time. Feedback matters, he
"But in the end, it's you against your
standards ... if you hit that mark, you can live with
what everybody else thinks."