Christin Cooper on the retirement of Tim Ryan
By Christin Cooper
In my 20 years- almost exactly I guess- of covering alpine skiing for the networks, I have rarely called a network race without Tim Ryan as my partner.
His announcement a few days ago that he is retiring from the booth means he and I will likely never call another one together. This frankly has me a little unhinged. I am feeling sad, proud, grateful and a little pissed off. Selfishly, what will a Worlds or an Olympics be like without Tim in the booth to smooth out the rough edges, suggest pertinent questions, encourage Todd Brooker, Steve Porino and me to ask the right ones ourselves (dammit!), push our producers for more depth, more background… more time!!!? Always more time. Tim could be counted on to suggest angles, story lines, and ways for us to articulate our sport to an audience which (he reminded us constantly) is likely enjoying little more than a blur.
I too often failed to live up to his brilliant mentorship, I think, but he rarely let on, aside from making subtle suggestions during the break. Trust yourself. Trust your eye. Be yourself (OK, a more concise version of yourself, please). Whenever I flubbed a thought, went on too long or sunk into a funk over my own incompetence, Tim would salvage the moment, lead us back to the action, and help me shrug it off as well a professional should. Tim did this flawlessly, selflessly and often. He was a team player that way. He knew there’s no time for rambling on in our sport, and was committed to the idea that if he could help his analysts get to our point (ensuring something of value was conveyed before he needed to take us, without a second to spare, to the finish line, or the replay, or the commercial), if he could help us be brilliant and smart, then it was better for him, better for the broadcast, better for the sport.
How lucky we are to have had such a generous and passionate advocate of ski racing at the mike for such a long run. I first met Tim as a teenager in 1978 at the World Cups in Hokkaido, Japan. Tim had convinced CBS to take the entire women’s ski team out for a traditional Japanese dinner of sake and sushi, all of us sitting cross legged and eventually a little cross-eyed, so he (and Billy Kidd) could get to know a little more about this team. Tim Ryan has always cared deeply about telling the essential stories of our sport, and the sport should be effusively grateful.
That I got to partner with Tim for a couple of decades was my good fortune. The man was a worthy traveling companion, by the way, back when budgets actually allowed us to traipse about Europe doing sit-down interviews with coaches and athletes of every nationality, attending races we weren’t even covering (for research! Imagine!) The wine, the food, the debates about the state of the sport, the skiing…. Mmmm, the skiing. Tim trustingly followed too many of his analysts (Kidd, myself, Andy Mill, Cindy Nelson, Picabo Street, Todd Brooker, Steve Porino) down too many icy courses and fogged-in, powder-packed couloirs for his own good. He trusted our judgment; we trusted his instincts for self-preservation. He had to know, because he understands ski racers pretty well, even retired ones, that we were going for – that we needed, to be any good in the booth later - a rush of our own. Well, in retiring, I suppose he has avoided one couloir too far. Smart man.
Since I got the news– news I knew was coming some autumn soon, of course– real life has continued apace. But everything in it – my restaurant work (with four great partners), my rock climbing (with one) – has been… distracted, and so I’ve been a crappy partner to all five. I owe it to Tim to get back on line. Partners depend on each other to show up, prepped and psyched and ready to go. Tim always did that.
Onward then, we conquistadors of the useless, into yet another season, to attempt to convey to our miniscule audience how insanely difficult, and unimaginably cool, ski racing actually is. We’ll struggle to say it in 15 seconds or less. With brevity and wit. With accuracy. Without Tim. A pity. But we'll be minding our Ps and Qs, because he just might be Watching and listening.
Commentator Christin Cooper was a Silver medalist in Giant Slalom at the Sarajevo Olympics, earned three medals at the 1982 World Championships (silver in slalom and GS and bronze in combined) and won five World Cup races (two slaloms, two combineds and a GS). She finished second in 1981 and third in 1982 in the final World Cup slalom rankings, was second in the 1984 GS rankings and finished third overall in 1982.
Cooper photo (from Schladming 1982) from Zoom