On a typical day
Rick and Pam Barry get up between 10 and noon in their house on Mercer Island
outside of Seattle and begin their exercise routine: First, there's 15 minutes
designed to develop the arms and upper body and then, to improve their
flexibility, the hour-long Jane Fonda Advanced Workout.
After the workout
Barry cooks up a pot of natural grain cereal, and they eat one of their two
daily meals. Their diet permits virtually no salt, no sugar, no fat, no oil.
They are committed to the pursuit of physical perfection, even at the cost of
Barry adds bran,
raisins and bananas to his cereal, flavors his one piece of Pritikin toast with
a smidgen of butter and finishes his meal with fresh papaya and freshly
squeezed orange juice, nonfat raw milk and so many vitamin tablets that if you
turned him upside down and shook him he would rattle like a pinball machine. As
a result of the exercises and the diet, Barry, who is 6'7", now weighs 202
pounds, 20 less than he did at the end of his playing career, and though he
looks gaunt, with so many sharp edges that he appears to have been put together
from an Erector Set, he's convinced he's in the best shape of his life.
After their meal
the Barrys set aside a few hours for "business." Barry answers letters
and phone calls, talks to his business manager, Harry Stern, about things like
sportscasting possibilities, and checks on the progress of his television
"projects," which are in the developmental stage and include a golf
show for American distribution and a golf and baseball show for Japan. Along
with the sports projects, Barry is also interested in hosting a game show.
"I love game shows," he says. Although he hasn't worked in more than a
year, he says he's financially secure. Still, it galls him that neither
basketball nor broadcasting, the passions of his life, has found room for him.
He has told Pam, "I think it's not because of my ability. It's because they
don't like me."
the Barrys play tennis. And then there is dinner with Jon, 13, Barry's
second-oldest child and one of five he had with his first wife, also named Pam.
They divorced in 1981 and Jon was sent by the court to live with his father.
The three eat soup and salad and fish and talk of the things they did that day.
Then Jon goes to bed, and Rick and Pam go to their bedroom to watch the soap
operas they have taped during the afternoon, such as The Young and the Restless
and All My Children. They frequently watch until two in the morning, commenting
on the behavior of the characters. Then they go to sleep. The next day they do
it all over again.
Rick Barry is in
exile, the Napoleon of Mercer Island.
Rarely in sports
is so extraordinary an athlete singled out for such public wood-shedding. Most
often a hero is, was and always will be a hero. If he wants to stay in sports
he becomes a coach, an executive or a broadcaster. If he doesn't, he finds his
way into a corporation, a restaurant deal or, at the very least, the lobby of a
casino. Somewhere, someone is happy to tell him, "You've earned it, pal.
Thanks for the memories." Nobody says that to Barry.
Once Erving and
Barry were the yardsticks by which all forwards were measured. Barry's
situation discomfits Erving, a friend and an admirer. "I look at Bruce
Jenner and see the different types of things he has gotten into, capitalizing
on his Olympics success, and Rick was every bit the all-American guy that
Jenner was," says Erving. "You could easily picture Rick making the
same kind of transition." He shakes his head softly and something like
wonder appears in his eyes. "It's heavy. Rick Barry could have had—should
have had—a better time than he's having. You ask me if I see any parallels
between Rick and other athletes. Let's put it this way. There aren't a whole
lot of white guys I can find parallels with. I mean, it's really heavy to
When Barry was a
sophomore at Roselle Park High School in New Jersey, his goal was to be a
professional baseball player, just like his idol, Willie Mays, whom Barry
honored by wearing the number 24 most of his career. Barry pitched for the
junior varsity, and he wanted to play the outfield when he wasn't pitching, but
his coach wouldn't let him. Barry went to the coach and said, "How come you
won't play me when I'm not pitching? I'm batting .500, and you're playing guys
who are batting .167." The next game, Barry pitched and went 1 for 2. The
game after that, it wasn't Barry's turn to pitch and the coach kept him on the
pine. "It was stupid to waste my time sitting on the bench," Barry
says. That afternoon he quit the team.
wanted to be Number One in whatever he did," says Wayne Beckner, who roomed
with Barry at the University of Miami and captained the basketball team in
their senior year. "There were four of us living together. The phone would
ring, he'd have to answer it. We'd go out for a milk shake, he'd have to ride
shotgun. If you beat him to the front seat, he'd pout. Anything we did, he had
to be first. We had a three-man drill where each threesome had to make 10
lay-ups in a row before it could quit. The two guys teamed with Rick sometimes
would get to nine and deliberately miss so they'd have to do it over. It would
blow Rick's mind because he then couldn't be first into the shower."