"What a Country!" -- Remembering Tim Russert

Posted by on 06/15/2008

I'm sure no one would argue that reporting Country Music news, or any entertainment news for that matter, is not quite the same as reporting your national, political news.  Delivering the scoop on the hot Country stars as well as the rising twinklers is indeed important, and contributing to a website like CountryHound that does so with journalistic integrity makes me feel proud.  I hope you Country Music fans that visit CountryHound feel as though we are doing a good job in bringing you the news you want to know.

But now, I want to respectfully reach out to a different area of journalism.  I don't have any idea how many of you tune in to Sunday morning political TV, let alone the long-running NBC show, Meet The Press.  If you have watched, you'll know what I am talking about.  If you never have, I hope that you will read this anyway, and after doing so, read more elsewhere.....read more about Tim Russert, the host of Meet The Press since 1991, who died unexpectedly this past Friday. 

Like me, Tim Russert was from Buffalo, NY.  And like me, he was raised by a blue-collar family, attended Catholic schools, and (also like me, I just discovered) Tim went to college in Cleveland, OH.  I have been tuning in to the Sunday morning shows, including Meet The Press, for many, many years now.  I watched interviews with him discussing his two books, Big Russ and Me and The Wisdom of Our Fathers. I knew of where Tim had come from, and I have to admit, knowing we shared the same birthplace did make me like him just a tad more!  :)  But his untimely death, along with the beautiful tributes to him over the last couple of days, have increased my appreciation and respect for Tim Russert, the person, to an insurmountable level. 

It was obvious in this morning's Meet The Press tribute to Tim Russert that this passionate lover of journalism, politics, family, and life made such an impact on so many people.  As sappy as I can be sometimes, I don't usually get choked up about the death of someone I never met, and I had not gotten sad about the death of a journalist since the passing of the beloved Peter Jennings.  But this time is different.  Although Tim Russert was still someone I had never met, I feel like I did know him.  What Tom Brokaw and the other guests discussed in this morning's memorable tribute perhaps showed me why I feel this way.....

Tim Russert was not only unashamed that he came from South Buffalo, he was exhuberantly proud of it.  And he made sure everyone knew it! Through all the years of his life, Tim remained a Buffalo Bills fan, a Buffalo Sabres fan.... That may seem trivial to most of you, but to me, a Buffalonian living near Dallas, TX, well, it meant a lot.  Sometimes during playoff season, I most looked forward to the end of a Meet The Press show, eager to see Tim root on his hometown team on huge national television.  He did that so many times during his tenure as host.  Not many people in that role would do that, as perhaps it would be deemed too unprofessional.  But Tim's passion for the things he loved left no room for doubts about what it might mean, or what could go wrong.  And that was evident in everything else Tim did.

Tim Russert loved who he was, how he was raised, the life he had lived, and the life he was living.  All he wanted to do was grow up to be a good citizen, a good worker, a good family man......more specifically, a good lawyer, a good husband, a good father.  He was proud to be Irish.  He was proud to be Catholic.  He loved being an Irish Catholic!!  Fostering ethnicity was so important to him.  It was a part of everything Tim did, whether it was in work, family, anything. 

The basic values of integrity and hard work, very often lost in today's world, were never lost in Tim, no matter how much success and celebrity came his way.  Many times he went against the grain, standing up for what he believed in. Tim consistently rooted for the underdog (and not just his Buffalo sports teams). He hired Katie Couric because he believed she would make a great journalist, even when his bosses at the time wanted him to hire someone else....  Tim always made his guests on Meet The Press be accountable for themselves...  Without formal journalistic training, he believed journalism to be one of the most honorable professions one could have, and maybe even the most crucial to the rest of our society.  Journalism is the only access we have to the issues and happenings that concern us, but are too far out of our own reach.  It's obvious to me now how serioulsly he took that belief.  Again, his passion for what he loved, his passion for what he believed in....it can not be praised enough, or its essence accurately described.

I could go on for a long time, and probably already have more than I intended to.  But I feel like I lost part of my family on Friday. I feel like not enough can be said about this man that was so great; there is so much to appreciate in him.  Tim Russert made a very big impact on a lot of people, and I am one of them, someone who only knew him through a television screen. 

Reflecting on his life makes me reflect on my own.  It makes me want to be more as a person, share my enthusiam like he did his... I am proud to be from Buffalo.  I am proud to be a die-hard Sabres fan since I was itty bitty little.  I am proud to have attended Catholic schools from pre-kindergarten through high school.  I am proud to be Polish, and I love to eat pierogies and duck soup and authentic chicken wings available only in Buffalo.  I am proud to have yankee blood and to like snow and cold weather!  I believe it's the underdog that has the real advantage, and I love the glorious feeling that arises when the underdog is victorious! 

"What a Country" it is when a working class kid from Buffalo can rise to such great success, Tim often said. And he accomplished every bit of it by working both tirelessly and passionately.  I can only hope I will do my best in attempting to follow in his footsteps.

MSN.com has a wonderful variety of videos in tribute to Tim Russert.  I encourage you to watch them, and learn more about this man who will be missed in more ways than we can even fathom right now.  Like I said earlier, if you are unfamiliar with Tim Russert, Meet The Press, or political journalism in general, hopefully this will be the start of your interest in all of that.  Had he met you, Tim would have asked you, "What do you know?"

I admit to throwing around the phrase "you are my hero" rather frivolously, mostly as a way of saying "thank you" when someone does something nice that helps me.  Those four words have a more sincere meaning to me now.  I never claimed having a hero before, not a serious one...  There were always many people I deeply respected, for their integrity and passion  -- Bill Moyers, Jimmy Carter, others.  But I think I will claim a true hero now.  A hero, to me, being someone that lives each day with enthusiasm, an unending thirst for knowledge, severe integrity, and a deep, personal, generous love for all the people he met as well as the ones he had hoped to meet......but add to that the part of the hero I understand well, the part of the hero I myself lived...Buffalo, blue-collar, ethnic-Catholic, hometown sports fan, root for the underdog......yeah, put all that together.  Tim Russert is my hero. 

Tim Russert came from where he came from, wore no excuses, sought no fame, and lived a beautiful, successful life.  Regardless of where any of us come from, how we were raised, or where we are now, each of us ought to be proud of who we are, yet remain hungry to always be better, for the good of all of us as a whole.