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A broadcaster perseveres, and an old Gator makes his mark

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 3, 2001

This is the new me. Moving from daily newspaper commentary, relocating in a pristine valley beside a tree-loaded Blue Ridge mountain, building a terrific Virginia house to share with the incomparable Marcy, beginning this morning to settle into a Sunday-only pace of communicating in my favorite forum, the Times sports section, on occurrences of sports and life ...

* * *

Tim Ryan is a TV sportscaster with considerable perspective and an uncommon challenge that has zero to do with games.

For 30 years, he has worked for CBS and now NBC, never becoming as renowned as Bob Costas, Pat Summerall, Chris Berman or Howard Cosell, but still a dependable and quite familiar voice.

Eleven years ago, Ryan's wife, Lee, at 50, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. They have four children. As she gradually fades, the disease's curse, Tim manages the family, commuting to Idaho where Lee is in a nursing home, meeting broadcasting obligations with personal grit and heroic attitude.

A few months from now, Ryan will cover alpine skiing for NBC at the Salt Lake Olympics, with his usual professional grace, stealing swatches of time to bound over to Boise and visit Lee. Tim is co-chairman of the Alzheimer's Association Public Policy Forum. "My life is dedicated," he said, "to finding a cure. If not for Lee, for the millions of others who are affected."

Gold-medal fellow.

* * *

Many of my golf-purist pals didn't want Casey Martin to win. I say cheers to seven Supreme Court justices. Law, not emotion, rules their ballpark, but Casey long ago won my non-counting vote due to guts, charm and attitude despite a prognosis that even now is sad.

Motorized carts are Martin's way of getting to work, but he still must do the job sans assistance. Spare me any suggestions that Casey might have been granted any physical advantage. Look at him walk. Advantage, indeed.

There will be ramifications.

Each should be considered through long, tough channels like Casey faced. I don't care if a quarterback, point guard, swimmer, goalie or tennis player uses a wheelchair to get to an arena, as long as athletic deeds beyond that point are performed with no unusual equipment.

That's pure enough for me.

* * *

Jack Youngblood, first former University of Florida player to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has something to pitch to NFL policymakers during his Canton induction Aug. 4.

He's the tough, old Rams defensive end, native of Monticello, who played in the 1979 NFC title game with a broken leg, helping with a 9-0 beating of the Bucs. Now an Arena League operative, Youngblood thinks the 50-yard indoor league should become the NFL's official farm system.

Good thought, but wrong option.

I'd sooner see the NFL help create a customary, 100-yard minor league in the spring, similar to the short-lived USFL (dang you, big-britches Donald Trump), even if it means trashing NFL Europe, which has made little continental impact.

* * *

Troy Aikman took a few too many direct hits on his Cowboys helmet stars, the quarterback retiring because medically it was time. Always a good, likable fellow, No. 8 had some intriguing teammate analysis:

He says Michael Irvin was the "most intelligent player I knew" and that "Moose" Johnston was the "most consummate pro" and Jay Novacek the "most underappreciated guy I played with."

Surely, as Aikman decompresses from the oft-unreal state of pro athletics, he'll come to note that "the best, most dependable player I ever lined up with" was Emmitt Smith, the old Florida Gators tailback being the most obvious Hall of Fame name among all the foregoing.

* * *

The time is overdue for a more-than-justified termination, Jerry Reinsdorf giving the Chicago bounce to the little fat guy who keeps proving he cannot make anything good out of the Bulls without Michael Jordan.

Guillotine for Jerry Krause!

Players, when real ones were based at old Chicago Stadium and new United Center, despised the arrogant and uncommunicative Krause. Jordan among them. A dazzling era was blown apart before necessary, Jordan retiring a second time, coach Phil Jackson leaving in disgust, awaiting his Lakers opportunity, while the Bulls turned from giants to goats.

Ax, ax where's the ax?

* * *

Here's whatever: It's an old habit I'm renewing, but I won't ever ask you "whatever happened to" some celebrity who's no longer in obvious view if I know the answer. Every time I will be asking for help. Asking you. If anybody knows the whereabouts, like with the old pro in the final line of this column, let me know by e-mailing:

Reader's Word: Another regular section of this new Sunday column, offering Times readers a quick pulpit to pontificate. Use the above e-mail address, giving me a comment of 30 words or fewer on some sports subject or person, and the best of them will appear here before long.

* * *

Whatever happened to Robert Parish?

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