Those who grew up following sports in South Florida should recall the name. Those who faithfully lifted the Miami Herald off their lawns every morning should remember it well.
Bob Rubin, longtime sports columnist in a quarter-century career with the newspaper, passed away Tuesday at his Weston home, surrounded by family. He had briefly been in hospice care following complications from a stroke suffered Jan. 2. He was 76.
A native New Yorker who grew up loving the Yankees, Rubin moved south and joined the Herald in 1976 and retired in 2002, and for two decades formed a powerhouse columnist tandem alongside Edwin Pope. Rubin’s distinction was a humorous writing style driven by wry, deadpan wit. His lead from a 2000 column on the Heat: “To hear the stories of survivors, Pat Riley’s practices are the basketball equivalent of the Bataan Death March or an Adam Sandler movie.”
Rubin is survived by his wife, Lena, three grown daughters and four grandsons. The boys called him “Grandpa The Great,” or “GTG.” They wrote him love letters that he was able to read before lapsing into a coma.
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Rubin fought through many medical hardships in his later years, including cancer that necessitated the removal of part of his esophagus and stomach. The recent stroke affected his left side and prevented his ability to swallow.
“He said, ‘That’s it,’” said Lena, his wife of 27 years. “His feeling was he wasn’t going to be hooked up to a feeding tube and sit in a chair half paralyzed. He really enjoyed his life.”
Rubin was able to spend his dying days saying his farewells and finding closure before slipping into a coma and passing away peacefully.
Even years into retirement, if Bob and Lena were watching sports on TV and something extraordinary happened, he would murmur two words and she would smile.
Bob was a mentor and friend of mine. We’d fallen out of touch over the years but spoke last Tuesday for the last time. It was the hardest telephone call of my life. I heard his voice. He called me by the nickname only he ever used.
I had to fight tears in telling Bob how much he’d meant to me, and to South Florida readers.
I asked what stood out most to him in his writing career. His answer was unexpected, but not entirely a surprise.
“I look back most fondly at my coverage of the high schools at [Long Island] Newsday,” he said. “Standing on the sideline, I was so enthusiastic, so in love with what I was doing, and the purity of the competition. As I moved up the ladder, covering colleges and the pros, I became somewhat disillusioned with all of the layers between that purity I once felt. The bigger the event I covered, the less it held for me, including Super Bowls and World Series. I do not miss the profession one iota. But I met a lot of nice people. I do miss that.”
Bob sounded at peace.
“I kept dodging bullets. I aged out,” he said. “But I’m comfortable. I am surrounded by people who love me.”
There will be no public service, but the family invites those wishing to pay tribute to consider a donation in Rubin’s name to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.