Earlier today, we wrote about the entire home crowd at the Portland Timbers’ MLS home opener joining together for an exceptional performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was passionate, it was heartfelt, it was just plain fun – in other words, the kind of atmosphere it’s impossible to dislike.
Unless you’re Bob Ryan, it seems. The sometimes-Around the Horn guest appeared on the program today, and the Timbers Army’s performance came up as a topic for debate. But there was nothing to debate, was there? Host Tony Reali said of the anthem, “Gotta love that.” Panelists Kevin Blackistone, J.A. Adande, and a literally flag-waving Woody Paige offered up their endorsements as well. Ryan? Ugh:
“I don’t see it as any better – what they did – than the stupid Boston crowd singing “Sweet Caroline” every night. There’s certainly no respect [shown] whatsoever; it’s a big civic joke.”
OK, first off, the sneering contempt with which Ryan delivered that “stupid Boston crowd” line had to be seen, and heard, to be believed (below, you’ll do both). As far as the rest of it, he was either being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, or simply betraying a hatred for…pretty much everything, and certainly for anything containing the slightest bit of fun. Witness his particular dislike for the fans raising their arms between lines, because clearly that was a grave affront to our great land.
It’s also instructive to look at what Reali tweeted after the show:
Wow. Did not see the Timbers Anthem going there. I was so gobsmacked by Bob’s response there I didn’t even mute him.
The skeptic in us thinks, “But if he’d muted him, the most provocative opinion on the program today wouldn’t have gotten much airtime. Was he really that shocked?” But then we go back and look at the clip, and we’ll be damned if Reali doesn’t sound just a tad, well, gobsmacked when he asks, “What are you talking about, Bob?” before Ryan starts yelling again.
Punctuating his crotchety, terrible argument, Ryan shot back at Reali’s reference to Oilers fans putting on a similar performance for “O Canada” by saying, “That is not what’s going on here.” Well…yes, it is. Fans joined together for a genuine, electrifying display, and there was simply no reason to tear it down except for the purposes of feeling falsely high and mighty.
In the immediate aftermath of the segment, I said to a colleague, out of sheer frustration at what I’d just seen, “God, Bob Ryan is awful.” That wasn’t fair. Ryan’s had a long career, during which (while he’s certainly had some low moments) he’s contributed much. For these couple minutes, though? God, Bob Ryan was awful. Video, via ESPN, below.