During the past week, many of Dean Barnett's friends and admirers have written tributes to him. An updated, but by no means comprehensive, list can be found here.
Paul Seyferth, who was Dean's co-blogger at SoxBlog, writes this:
Like many others, Dean's death has hit me pretty hard.
He didn't mean to, but Dean astonished us, living life with a brutal disease the way he did, hand firmly on the throttle of it, no goggles, no fear of the sharp curves, and, most important, no excuses. He didn't mean to, but Dean implicitly challenged others to venture off the flat driveways.
As with others who have paid him tribute, I met Dean by becoming a faithful reader of his beloved Soxblog. After a time, Dean asked me to become a co-blogger with him, and insisted that I use the nom de blog of "Carl Bernard," an alias that paid homage to Carl Yaztremski and Bernie Carbo. (Mindful of my leverage in the situation, Dean refused my preferred choice of "Stonewall, " and gently reminded me that, technically speaking, no Red Sox player had ever used such a name.)
It took no great coaxing for Dean to convince me to jump in with him. We had by then exchanged many dozens of emails. I considered Dean an intellectual brother-in-arms. The situation was more realistically akin to varsity quarterback letting a peach-fuzzed freshman sit in on a few practices "to get a feel for the game." Dean practiced hard.
In early 2006, I happened to be in Miami for work, and we set up a golf game together. It seemed an odd prospect to meet someone in person after so much correspondence, and, both of us being avid golfers, we were both looking forward a little friendly competition on the links. In working out the logistics, Dean reassured me we would have a great time: "you are traveling halfway across the country to spend half a day with someone you have met on the Internet. What could possibly go wrong?" He turned out to be right, but the drama of the day was heightened by the fact that, prior to the day of our golf game, we had never once actually talked to each other.
On the way to his golf course, I got lost in some West Palm suburbs and had to call him. The person who answered could not have been Dean Barnett; the person on the line was, instead, apparently an actor, playing his part with great joy and the thickest of Boston accents, and one graciously looking forward to finally meeting me at that. After a brief stumble, I politely pretended to understand Dean's directions, stayed lost for another 10-15 minutes, and found the golf course by sheer happenstance.
By about the 5th hole, alas, I could understand Dean completely.
In contrast, from the very first time I read Dean's writings, I understood him completely, as did so many of his loyal readers. Dean's unique appeal was not just a combination of brains and experience. Yes, Dean had run a business and had worked on "commission" in his life, pursuits that create a healthy respect for the complexities of the world. And yes, Dean had a brain worthy of Harvard, along with a healthy skepticism about placing too much faith in an Ivory Tower view of the world. In my opinion, however, what truly distinguished Dean's writings was his coup d'oeil, his "stroke of the eye." Abraham Lincoln's generation referred to this as prudence, the ability "to size things" up instantly, and to do so wisely. This gift is God-given, severely rationed, and most in demand in the Internet age. Dean had this rare gift and he shared it with us.
One of my favorite lines from Dean's writings was his comment, when speaking about his health, that "the good times could go on for years, or it could all crash tomorrow." Yes, the good times crashed, as he knew they inevitably would, but they crashed with Dean's hands on the throttle.
Good for him.
And good for us.