There are times in life when you will say that you know someone even though you have never met them. I've heard it said for many different individuals about sports figures, TV personalities and family members of previous generations. I wasn't quite sure how that would feel but this past couple weeks I have felt that twice.
I became interested in sports at a young age. I played sports of all types and I watched sports on TV. And one of my favorite shows was Wide World of Sports. It was during years of watching that show that I became "friends" with Jim McKay. It didn't seem to matter what sport was on Wide World, I was on the edge of my seat. Whether I was pumped up because of the "thrill of victory" or devastated because I was experiences the "agony of defeat", my friend Jim was there taking me there.
Like many Americans, I was glued to the set every four years to watch the Olympics. I was a recent graduate from high school when the summer Olympics of 1972 took place in Munich, Germany. I was excited to see the competition of the XX Olympiad. There were many stars of the Games such as Swimmer Mark Spitz and Gymnast Olga Korbut and the USA basketball team. But it was not the seven gold medals that Spitz won or the controversy at the last 3 seconds of a gold medal basketball game between the US and USSR that I will remember. I will remember McKay going from sports commentator to the newscaster at the tragedies of what has become known as "Black September". It was McKay who spoke directly to me (and millions of others) about the events surrounding the hostage takeover in the Olympic Village. I felt like I was there and I felt the hurt and anger because of the conversations Jim had with me.
McKay spent 40 years on Wide World of Sports. Saturday afternoons haven't been the same since he left the show. He was sports to me. He was my friend. I will miss him.
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Politics have become my hobby and a passionate love over the last three decades. Over the years, I have watched political commentary by many reporters. Interviews of political figures, along with their biographies were a big part of my diet. My wife would say that I would go through withdrawal symptoms in odd numbered years. She's right.
My recent daily fix came from Tim Russert. If he was on the NBC Nightly News or Hardball, I was watching live or catching a replay on the web. Since I worked on Sunday mornings, I would watch clips of Meet the Press on line or set the VCR to tape the entire show.
Over the last couple of days, I have thought about what it was that was the draw to Tim Russert for me. Many people said it was the way he would deal with political figures, asking the questions that viewers wanted to know. That was a true statement and I found myself talking the TV during interviews finding out that Tim was one step ahead of me in asking a follow-up question.
Russert had a way of making the complicated simple. When trying to explain issues of campaigns, whether it was the electoral college or just voting by demographics, I would sit down with my sons and do my best to make the complicated clear. Some times the answers came to them from me using an explanation by my friend Tim that I had seen earlier.
But even though we shared a love for politics, Tim and I became friends through the writings in his first best seller, Big Russ and Me. I bought a copy of the book and learned to love this guy not because he was tough on political leaders of the world. He had a love for his father and a passion to be a good father to his son. I was drawn to every page and at the end of the book; I knew I had made a friend for life because of our common passions.
His second book was a response as he shared letters and stories from readers of the first book. Wisdom of Our Fathers shared story after story of "friends" who were touched by his first book and wrote to tell him so. Again, I was drawn to every page.
Every night, I would turn on MSNBC to see what my friend was saying about the latest political talk or happening. I couldn't wait for primary night to hear my friend's comments on the day's activities and the analyzing of the day's vote.
The rest of the 2008 campaign will not be the same. He was politics to me. He was my friend. I will miss him.
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For my friends Jim and Tim, you will be missed. Peace to their memories.