NORMAN — I sat down to write this story about Bob Barry Sr. 15 minutes ago. A deadline looms. I have nothing.
Where does one begin?
Maybe with what others have already said, responding as only they can on the day of an institution’s death.
“We have lost a true legend in Bob Barry,” offered Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione. “He was our eyes when we couldn’t see, our voice when unable to speak and our passion when we needed it expressed.”
Toby Rowland, the man who stepped into Barry’s old job just this season went a different direction.
“I never saw Bob have a bad day. He loved life. And he loved his job. Even after 50 years of broadcasting he would show up at the stadium like a kid in a candy store …His advice and words of wisdom will forever be cherished in my heart,” he said. “This is a tremendously sad day, but I rejoice that heaven just got a legend.”
I like both statements.
They’re both right in their way.
Barry started calling Oklahoma games in 1961. Then he called Oklahoma State from 1973 to 1990. Then he came back and never left.
He was the voice and the eyes of the fan. And he did love it, maybe not every single step of the way, who does, but you get the picture. He was one of the lucky ones.
Nine days ago he was sitting behind me in the press box watching OU get run over by Texas Tech. Last Tuesday he was at Bob Stoops’ press luncheon, breaking bread with Merv Johnson and listening to Stoops try to explain it all.
He looked good.
He sounded good.
Death doesn’t ask how it’s going.
Doesn’t seem right.
David Boren, OU president, said Barry represented “the best of the Sooner spirit,” which is undoubtedly true, even if I’m not sure what exactly it means, or its flip side.
But I do understand.
It’s hard to give a great life justice in a few words, something I’ve been failing to do beginning 15 minutes before writing the first sentence of this column.
Which is why I’m going selfish.
Bob Barry was great to me.
I can’t remember if I introduced myself to him upon coming on the beat in 1998 or if he introduced himself to me, but I’m almost sure it was him because that’s the kind of guy he is.
Let’s go with is.
Anyway, he’ll never not be with us.
That’s what 50 years of calling games can do for a guy, but far more than that, it’s what 50 years of being a fabulous person can do for a guy.
Whenever he’d come in my line of sight, I’d wait for him to greet me. Do you know why? Because I knew that he would and I didn’t want to speak over him.
I think he liked my stuff because he would tell me he did sometimes. On the other hand, he was terrific to everybody, friendly to everybody, helpful to everybody, generous to everybody. Maybe he told white lies to everybody. Maybe he told them to me.
Do you know how few people are like that, that gracious to everybody?
You will hear people say that Barry was a regular guy. Don’t believe them. In all the ways that matter, he was far better than that.
He knew he was one of the lucky ones, but it only made him more grateful. If criticism of his work stung, he never said a word, except to cop to some of it, like the time he told me he began calling OU-BYU off the mammoth big screen at Cowboys Stadium until he realized it was a few seconds behind what was happening on the field.
That’s it, I guess.
He called a good game, too. He always saw the bright side, but not because he was a homer, because the homer fails to see things as they really are, and that was not Barry. When it was bad, I think, he’d find the bright spots because that’s who he was, the nicest guy on Earth.
We can’t all be cynics, thank goodness.
The rest of us aren’t that good.
Let’s go with is.
He’ll never not be with us.
Clay Horning 366-3526 firstname.lastname@example.org