June 15, 2004
More than words:
"All a man's got is the integrity of his work." The lead of Ralph Wiley's last column for Page 2, June 10. As always from RW, larger truths.
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 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.

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, 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.

From Colleagues
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 colleagues.

Best Books
"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 re-printing.

From Readers
"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.

Ralph's Reminder
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 critiques.

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 said:

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

Today on ESPN.com
Remembering Ralph Wiley
Ralph Wiley archive
Ralph Wiley message board
Five favorite Wiley Page 2 columns:
Anything NBA
Visit the archive and read
Down to the last Straw
The demise of Darryl
The real master
Hootie on friends
On Rickey Henderson
Explaining the misunderstood
After Sept. 11
Why we need sports now

Spin on today's six biggest news stories:

The Pistons have played so well they *deserve* to clinch the NBA title tonight at home (BTW: 3-0 in G3-5 has never happened) ...

Kobe's Game 5 "guarantee" is the lamest media-created non-story of the year: Is there another option for LA besides winning? ...

Bob Knight signaling interest in Ohio St.'s coaching job should send the school *running* another direction, to Xavier's Thad Matta ...

So much for Clemens' win streak; he should still start the All-Star Game, but I'll take Prior down the stretch ...

Tim Couch will remain familar with the bench sitting behind iron man Brett Favre in Green Bay. "Future?" Of what? ...

Ueberroth named chairman of USOC Board: Perhaps the worst executive role in America today, but the ticket perks are great ...

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