Wednesday, August 06, 2008

This Hard Land mourns Tim Russert

As mentioned previously, I have the best parents ever, in that they devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to burning me DVDs on their DVR of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Dad does the recording and burning while mom makes sure they get to me, is generally the division of labor, as they tell me, and furthermore, once I'm back in the U.S., neither of them is sure what my dad's going to do with the time he doesn't have to devote to editing out the commercials and burning the episodes to DVD. And at some point, noticing that most Mondays' shows included a reference to an interview done on NBC's Meet The Press, they started recording that as well and including it on my packages. So between these and my Newsweeks (referenced here), I am generally up to date about six to eight weeks after the fact. My various podcasts keep me in the loop on a more realtime basis, and it's sometimes confusing to be mentally occupying two different points on the calendar.

So on July 22, when I popped "IBE Pkg 81" into my laptop, which includes programs from June 10-16, 2008, I had known of Tim Russert's death for over a month, and I knew that the program for Sunday, June 15, would be a tribute to him, hosted by Tom Brokaw. Seeing Brokaw on the verge of tears up was telling about what Russert must have meant in the NBC family, and I was happy they were able to give Russert such a fitting tribute.

I was also happy to see clips from episodes that I could remember seeing when they aired, and when I saw telling interviews from the 1990s and early 2000s, I kicked myself for not having watched it before late 2006. Some of the things they told about him I had known about and seen online closer to the time of his death, but I was somewhat stunned to learn that while a student at Cleveland's John Carroll University, Russert was a concert promoter and had brought a then-unknown singer named Bruce Springsteen to campus. On tour in Europe, The Boss dedicated a song to Russert's memory on that Saturday night, and NBC closed the hour playing a montage of photos of Russert and his family to the sound of Thunder Road.

Springsteen's music is often of a fairly depressing character, writing, as he does, in large part about tough times in the Rust Belt. (Listen to Youngstown, My Hometown, and basically the whole album "The Ghost of Tom Joad" for a pretty good sample.) And even a Meet The Press "New Timer" such as myself knows that Russert was a diehard Buffalo fan; I don't think it would be unfair to characterize him, in the words of Howard Fineman (speaking of himself), as being "absurdly proud of [his] hometown." (In fact, Fineman and Russert, both big-time Washington media guys coming out of Rust Belt cities, seem to have had similar life trajectories. I wonder if they themselves ever meditated on that fact.)

All this combined for me, a sometime member of the Rust Belt Pride fraternity (you may be eligible if you're from Joel Garreau's Foundry) no matter where I might currently be registered to vote, to feel more personal than it should have. So I had a very depressing evening a few days ago, I'll miss Tim Russert on NBC's election coverage this year and probably won't be able to hear Thunder Road again without thinking of him.

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