The older you get, the more you understand how hard it is to find a “good man” in this life.
The outpouring of emotion this week in Oklahoma, following the premature death of TV sportscaster Bob Barry, Jr., proved that in spades.
I honestly encourage you to have a look at “BBJ’s” memorial service, which was televised live. It is compelling, heart-rending and enlightening viewing.
Loving husband? Check.
Doting father? Check.
All round good guy? Check.
Even so, I’ve heard of many men who checked all these boxes.
But in my 35 years of working in or with (frequently “precious”) media types, I have never seen such a tidal wave of love from friends, colleagues, competitors and “plain, old, everyday people.”
Obviously, BBJ was a “chip off the old block,” the son of legendary Oklahoma sportscaster Bob Barry, Sr. (a.k.a. Big Bob).
He obviously had his Dad’s DNA, and was even mentored by the old man.
But BBJ also had a lot of Will Rogers in him. Seems like he never met a man he didn’t like, or wasn’t really interested in.
This week, Oklahoma media have been inundated with stories from John and Jane Q. Public, and their kids.
Stories about BBJ’s authentic kindness, goodness, curiosity, support, generosity, and his unique ability to “make everybody feel like they were the most important thing in the universe.”
As one of his own loving kids wrote, “He really didn’t know how big of a deal he was.”
For three decades, literally hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans got their sports fix from BBJ on radio (The Sports Animal) and television (KFOR).
Even though he was a Big Dog, turns out that he never acted like one, if you can imagine such a thing in this day and age.
He was the last guy to leave work, always trying to improve a story, always making sure everyone got a fair shake.
Personally, I have been so impressed by his positive outlook on life, and his relentless efforts to promote young athletes, right across the Sooner State.
Unless you have lived in a small town, you simply cannot imagine what it would’ve been like on a Football Friday Night for KFOR’s chopper to fly BBJ into Podunk, Oklahoma.
And then for him to interview your local hometown heroes with as much enthusiasm as if they were the Selmon Brothers.
Never Saw It
Even though I grew up in Norman and went to school with “Bobby” for a long time, I never had an inkling of what he’d turn out to be; as a man, I mean.
He was a year younger than me, so it’s not like we were close friends or anything. Plus, I was a football player, and he was a round-baller.
Even so, I’ve rediscovered more than a few vivid memories of him, which sort of bubbled to the surface after his tragic death. (He was riding his motorcycle when a driver did a U-turn and killed him).
My abiding memory of Bobby is that he was a real character; skinny, thick glasses, and pretty much always up to something.
At the memorial service, one of his oldest friends said, “We had Robin Williams before there was a Robin Williams.”
At Norman High, Bobby was always worth the price of admission.
He could mimic anyone — teachers, vice principals … pretty much everyone in authority.
He could be funny doing anything, especially if it was sports related, which makes perfect sense.
Countless times when we were messing around in the gym, Bobby would show off his patented, goofball, basketball move.
He’d jack a one-handed jumpshot from half-court, his face all contorted, staring at the ground, stiff-legged, with his feet spread about four-feet apart, and making an annoying noise like “uh-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
Seems like about half those ridiculous shots were swishes. Or maybe they were all air balls.
I just remember that he made me laugh. Every time.
Just like when he’d hold court outside the Senior Center, making a comedy routine out of simply saying his name.
“Uh-beee- beeeee-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” he’d stammer for about 5 seconds, then pound his chest and spit out “Bob Baaaarreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.”
I must have heard him do that bit 50 times. It killed me every single time, especially the time he actually knocked the wind out of himself. You should have been there.
That’s really all I have on Bobby in my memory banks.
(Well, there’s that one NHS party memory that didn’t end very well, when his Dad came charging up like John Wayne. Whoa.)
Funny, I never had an inkling that little, skinny, always-entertaining Bobby had “greatness” in him; like what was so evident during yesterday’s memorial service.
Great kindness. Great love. Great friendship. Great humility. Great manhood. Great humanity.
I wish I’d know him better and for longer. The last time I saw him was probably in 1974.
In many ways, I wish I was more like him now.
I’m honestly going to try. Maybe we all should.
Rest in Peace, Bobbeeeee Baaaarreeeeeeeeeeeee.
Blessings from an old Norman Tiger in New Zealand.