Monday, April 15, 2013

Reflections on a Personal Hero.

Growing up I was an avid reader as well as an avid participant in many athletic adventures. I was an all star in one and just a mere participant in the other. Guess which one? In all seriousness, I had a ferocious appetite for reading as it took a few passes on the bench before I got a chance to actually play and one of those people who I always found myself reading was a fella by the name of Ralph Wiley.
Oddly enough I began reading Ralph probably around 1994 in a tattered issue of GQ which was about to be discarded unceremoniously from a salon owned by a friend of my mother. He wrote in a way that made words jump off the page and forced you to think, in a good way. That was the day I fell in love with journalism and the written word. I saw the potential of what it could be nay what is should be and 10 year old Brian was officially hooked.

I followed his career as he wrote for GQ, National Geographic and even a few books.
One of the books I remember reading at our local library was “Why Black People Tend to Shout,” big ups to our librarian Ms. Jane for helping me find it, and it just literally blew me away. He spoke so powerfully about the frustrations of racism without being bitter or jaded. It certainly helped a young Puma who was dealing with things that he clearly had no idea about that time in his young life.

Fast forward a few years and we are in the dial up internet age. 2001, I would spend forever trying to log onto AOL to go to and to read their new section “Page 2” where Ralph Wiley was king. During his time manning the Page 2 section he wrote over 200 articles, which I would estimate I have read about 95% of them. He always probed beyond the obvious and not afraid to ask hard questions. After 9/11 he wrote how sports were needed. He probed deep into the career of Jackie Robinson. In an article that is quite apropos for today about abusive tendencies of coaches. And an amazing piece on racism in the south, something that I really wished Brad Paisley and LL Cool J had read before their embarrassing excuse at a song last week.

I don’t claim to be the greatest writer, or even a good, but thanks to Ralph Wiley, a man I never met, a man who passed away in 2004, a man who was so ahead of his time he appeared in hindsight to have the gift of predicting the future, I certainly look at things differently. Without Wiley there is no JA Adande, Israel Gutierrez, Micheal Smith or Jemele Hill (at least on a national platform).

I know I say this a lot but in this case it is absolutely true, if I was as half as good at anything as Ralph Wiley was I would die a happy man.

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