I was standing in my kitchen with Tony, Marisa and a few other people getting ready to grill hot dogs, brats, and some weird vegan sausages for about 30 people for a TLO cookout / get-together. I checked my phone. The first text said...
"Have You Heard the Rumor?"
"No. Been busy. Having a cookout. What's up?"
"Don't go public with it. Bob Barry died in a motorcycle accident according to two people I have talked to."
I'm not sure what I did or said, but I couldn't believe it. Tony said my jaw was literally on the floor. Bob Barry Jr. dead in a motorcycle accident? What?!? This can't be true. I was just listening to him the other morning while I was on my way to Braum's to get a biscuit. He was whining about this column on CBSSports.com. He just couldn't believe columnist Tom Fornelli picked OU to be a 2015 National Championship Dark Horse. "There's no way Oklahoma is a National Championship title contender!!!" BBJ exclaimed. I then yelled out loud, by myself in my car, "Yeah, but isn't that what makes them a Darkhorse National Championship Contender? If everyone thought they were good and had a chance, they wouldn't be a dark horse!"
I'll admit it, I found myself saying things like that many times while listening to Bob Barry Jr. on the radio over the years. During my college and Corporate America days, I listened to parts of his show almost every weekday. The fact that I disagreed with him so often is what kept me listening. He had this unique way of both annoying me and keeping me entertained. I'd roll my eyes anytime he started talking about the Packers or Red Sox, but would for some reason pay close attention to his chats with Running Girl and Effie. It was odd.
I think BBJ's most annoying / likable trait was his eternal happiness and optimism. That's what made him awesome. When BBJ talked, you could almost hear a smile in his voice. He was always so happy, positive, friendly, enthusiastic, and most importantly, sincere. It was a rare combination of talents. It made me jealous. Why couldn't I be like that?
This charm and enthusiasm translated even better on television. I remember watching BBJ every Sunday night in the early 1990s. My mom would let my brother and I stay up late and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation after the news. BBJ's extended sports report was always our lead in to Captain Pickard and Commander Data. Whether he was giving the NFL football telepoll numbers or going over highlights from the Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament, you could tell the story really mattered to him. He was genuinely excited to look into a camera and tell you about the sports news.
We have had some fun at BBJ's expense over the years. He had the personality, attitude and name that was ripe for jokes and roasting. Some of our criticisms and one liners were fair, and in hindsight, some were not. In 2012, BBJ wrecked a motor scooter at a radio remote. At the time, I made light of the incident in a post and tossed out some jokes that now ring way too close to home. Yesterday, a local radio DJ posted it to his Facebook page, making it look like we published the column yesterday afternoon. Come on, man, really? Like we'd really do something like that. Out of respect, we have removed that content from the site and apologize for it.
On Saturday night, as I was sweating over a grill trying to put out flames with a can of beer, the TLO get-together kind of turned into a BBJ Memorial Service. The news spread fast. We all shared memories, laughs and had a drink in his honor. It was like everyone lost a friend, a buddy, a neighbor, or a co-worker. And you know what? Even though most of us had never met the man in real life, we did.
We sure are going to miss BBJ. I'd like to think his spirit is high up in some eternal place right now, listening to death metal, sitting in front of a pile of Johnnie's Burgers and telling Vince Lombardi and Red Auerbach: "I don't know... Why don't you tell me?" Our most sincere thoughts, prayers, and sympathies are with his family and friends. RIP.