Dog and Dub, RIP

Selfishly, it has taken me this long to get around to this, my eulogizing the death of Ralph Wiley, the sportswriter who passed away June 13 at the age of 52. His impact was felt by many, as evidenced by the warm tributes at ESPN.

Basically, I don't have that much to say about him myself, because I didn't know him. I am only familiar with he and his gritty Road Dog alter ego through his Page 2 columns on I don't even remember any of his writings from his nine-year Sports Illustrated tenure, though I'm sure I must have liked them, since it was my favourite magazine while growing up and I used to consume it voraciously from cover to cover when it arrived every week.

(Side note: our copy of SI almost always seemed to arrive late … we presumed that our mailman was taking it home for a quick read before delivering it, since it certainly seemed to have a used look when I finally pulled it out of the mailbox. A pox upon you mailman!, though maybe he liked Wiley as well…)

What I can say about Mr. Wiley is that he got it. He really understood the world, in my opinion, and could write about it in ways that made you want to keep reading, with a voice of experience and gravitas to back it up. We were actually quite dissimilar, in many ways, what with skin colour, age, life experience, etc. Yet he got it, and I would have loved for him to tell me that I got it as well.

You see, if and when I ever finished my book, the person I had most wanted to send a copy to was Ralph Wiley. I wanted to write a letter thanking him for how influential his writing had been, I wanted to present him with my take on the sports world and beyond, I wanted him to read it and nod approvingly. And I wanted him to tell me that I got it as well. Selfishly.

Fortunately, the enduring legacy of Ralph Wiley's writing is that it used sports as a lens through which to understand human beings, both in our quest for perfection and our inevitable legacy of imperfection. Dog and Dub understood the concepts like passion and honour, but they also acknowledged the selfishness and prejudice that lies within us all.

So I hope you will understand my selfishness in mourning your passing, Mr. Wiley: from now on I will no longer be moved to understand the world in your unique way, nor be stirred to the core during the process. But if I ever do get it, your work will have been a significant reason why. Yours in sport and life…


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