Life Gets In The Way

October 6

Sports is a cocoon. Entertainment. A diversion from the nasty world.

We’re very lucky at KNBR. We get to nestle in that cocoon every day for a living, and if we are sane, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Sometimes, however, real life breaks through the walls of that cocoon. That’s when we have to take things very seriously.

KNBR afternoon host Ralph Barbieri knows this well. For years, he has been battling Parkinson’s Disease silently. Until this week.

The Chronicle’s Scott Ostler told Ralph’s story better than I ever could, so I won’t go into much more detail. I’ll just give you my perspective as someone who looks across the glass at Ralph and his co-host Tom Tolbert daily.

I told Ralph I could not do what he did: keep his disease secret for so long. He told me, “it wasn’t easy,” and he made it clear on the air how much of a relief his disclosure has been.

I have a ton of respect for him because of that. All the while, raising a small child and trying to stay on top in a competitive business. Sports is a cocoon, but radio can be rough-and-tumble.

It’s also remarkable that Tom knew about the disease for five years, and was a good enough friend to respect Ralph’s wishes and tell no one. Fortunately for Ralph, his condition was not obvious to the untrained eye. I certainly had no earthly idea.

He is doing his best to battle Parkinson’s to a standstill, and hopes to do so for a long time. While some may question the timing of going public with the disease — before his contract expires — I would ask them to walk in his shoes. Would they do it differently ?

Let’s face it: the timing of revealing his disease might be benefit him, but it can also be risky — depending on the circumstances.

My take? As a human being, he has the right to handle his disease as he sees fit. As a co-host of a top-rated show who has been at KNBR for 27 years, he should be cut some slack as well.

Ralph is a polarizing figure who pulls no punches. He generates strong emotions among detractors and supporters. Honestly, a considerable number of people find him annoying. How do they know? They listen. That is one of the reasons he’s still on the air.

Whatever you think of him, I hope you will join me in giving him full support — and if you’re so inclined, prayers — in his battle. I hope he’s physically able to keep pulling no punches on KNBR for a while longer.

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One Response to “Life Gets In The Way”

  1. Mark Says:

    Well said Ray. I’ve enjoyed him since the beginning. Prayers and best wishes to Ralph and Tayte.

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