I know that this has nothing to do with college basketball, but I felt the need to write this. Like so many others, I was stunned to hear the passing yesterday of Tim Russert. For a very long time, since we have been married, my wife and I have had one unwritten tradition. Simply put, in Tim's great words, "If it's Sunday, It's Meet the Press". That great tag line was our Sunday thing. My wife and I would have breakfast, usually me making an omelet, read the paper, then watch "Meet the Press". Tim usually had a really interesting guest on and would ask insightful, probing questions. But he did in a way that was never hostile. Our favorites were always Carville and Matalin, who are a traveling comedy team, John McCain and of course when Russert would hold court with his reporters round table.
There are things that you might hear about the passing of Russert and some you might not. Yes, Russert was a big Buffalo Bills fan and he would always root them on at the end of his program. What you might not know was that Russert was a board member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He had season tickets to the Nationals. He went to a lot of Yankees/Red Sox games. The man loved his sports, loved family and truly loved his work.
He was vacationing with his wife and his son in Italy to celebrate his son's graduation from Boston College (Russert was a man of strong Catholic faith who attended the catholic university Canisius, so its fitting his son Luke went to Boston College). Russert came back early from the vacation to finish up "Meet the Press"and suffered his heart attack at work.
I remember staying up all night during the 2000 election watching the NBC coverage with Brokaw and Russert. He never went to bed that night, because I remember him being on like at 3:00 in the morning and then later, there was Russert talking on the Today show at 7:00 am. I also remember one interview on CNN last year about this 2008 campaign season. He was running through all the possible candidates on each side and there was just such glee in his face. Often I listened to Imus in the morning and always relished when he had Russert on the air. Russert always showed a very funny side to him on the show. He really loved his job, loved politics. And he knew it well being the former chief of staff for Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Some of my other fond memories of Russert are his interviews of John McCain, who has the second most appearances in the history of "Meet the Press", no doubt in respect to Russert. That's when I really got to like John McCain and first heard about "Faith of My Fathers", one of all time favorite books. Russert, despite the apparent affection for McCain, would often ask difficult questions of him. McCain said in tribute yesterday that Russert was "always tough but always fair". When McCain hosted SNL in 2002, there was a "Meet the Press" skit with Darryl Hammond playing Russert who did various ways of asking McCain if he was running for president again. It was a pretty funny skit and in some ways pretty accurate, as Hammond played Russert as the probing, relentless bulldog he often could be on "Meet the Press".
I will be going on Amazon shortly to get "Big Russ and Me", the NY Times bestseller Russert wrote a few years ago. I look forward to getting it. He will be sorely missed and for me always, "If its Sunday, It's Meet the Press". It just won't be the same though. Rest in peace Tim.