All a man’s got is the integrity of his work.
Any rational person could probably come up with a dozen objections to that statement, a quality that probably holds for a lot of Wiley’s writing.
Ralph Wiley passed away of heart failure yesterday at the age of 52. Wiley may not have worshipped at the altar of Objective Truth (he called objectivity “a sham”), but he did write with integrity: he was true to himself. I admired that.
Conan O’Brien said it took him 10 years just to learn how to be himself. Elmore Leonard said it took him 10 years, or about a million words, to “find his sound“. You could probably point to Ralph Wiley as an extreme example of this phenomenon. I’ve followed Wiley his whole career, as I read his columns in the Oakland Tribune as a kid, followed his later work in Sports Illustrated, and then on ESPN.com. At the Trib, Wiley wrote in a fairly straightforward, conventional style. But in the end, Ralph Wiley found his sound, and it was unique.
I can only hope, when my day comes, I will have been so fortunate.