By Beacon Staff

I have to admit I was intimidated when I first leaned across the aisle on a bus in Salisbury, N.C. a couple of years ago and started a conversation with a white floppy-haired guy I knew as a legendary sportswriter and accomplished television panelist.

I’m sure I was bumbling, maybe even stuttering, when I asked the venerable Bob Ryan, who has worked for more than 40 years at the Boston Globe, questions about one of the television sports shows in which he appeared, such as the “The Sports Reporters” on ESPN.

But one of the things that you quickly discover by attending the yearly get-together of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association is while the heavy hitter sports journalists across the country routinely are in attendance, they are far easier to converse with than the athletes and coaches we spend our lifetime interviewing and writing about.

The NSSA affair is something to behold.

The first year I attended back in the 1980s, organizers told me to sit back and be treated for a couple of days just like, or maybe even better, than the people we cover on a daily basis.

Now while that is less true when you live where we live, make no mistake there is a sense of entitlement among some sports figures.

But back to Carolina where Salisbury and the organization just know how to host this event and have done so for more than 50 years.

While transportation to North Carolina isn’t covered, everything else is, including all meals and lodging and even being shuttled to and from the Charlotte airport.

And with Dave Goren, two years now at the helm, the event hopefully will continue to grow in popularity and, more importantly, in substance with additional panels, discussions and national exposure.

Last month at the annual awards dinner, Ryan was inducted into the NSSA Hall of Fame, along with Montana’s own Brent Musburger.

Ryan patiently talked me through the process about how he originally was selected to participate in the four-panelist weekly setup – because he knew the people, Valerio Productions, who originally pitched the show to ESPN – and the amount of preparation required to produce it.

It’s indeed a challenging format because the participants come from different perspectives and interests and you have to be a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.

I had encountered Ryan previously after the Grizzlies beat Nevada to advance to the second round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament against Boston College, which Ryan was covering.

At the off-day press conference, he immediately became enamored with former Griz Coach Larry Krystowiak because of his honesty and straight-forwardness – something, I guess, from Ryan’s perspective that isn’t always present with the people he encounters in sports.

Larry had not caught on with the Nets yet and was living in San Diego: Ryan had nothing but nice things to say about the time he spent talking to Krystowiak.

But what struck me most about Ryan was that he and people like the legendary Bob Wolff, from New York, prolific writer Leigh Montville, who just penned a book about Evil Knievel, Atlanta Journal Sports Editor Furman Bisher, Reds announcer and baseball Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman and a bevy of others on the bus seemed genuinely interested in talking about their craft.

That’s how it ought to be.

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