A Day With Tim Russert

Tim Russert will be remembered as one of the greatest journalists of our time, if not, THE greatest. His medium was television; his concentration, politics; his passion, his family. Tim Russert also loved sports.

As a sports journalist myself, I've always aimed to be impartial to teams, respect every athlete I interviewed, from a high school shot put champion, to a World Series MVP. I learned how important that was from watching Tim Russert work. The nation watched him because he broke down politics, explained elections, and helped Americans formulate their vote—these were his skills, the professional qualities he possessed as a television journalist.

On Thursday, September 27, 2007, Russert took a break from the Democratic and Republican primary debates to focus on something else. In fact, to those in New England, … something more important: The Red Sox Nation Presidential Debate. The always inventive Red Sox ownership pulled a few strings, and after a season-long presidential campaign, put a validating stamp on this venture—Tim Russert would moderate the debate on NESN.

At the time, I was the Red Sox Field Reporter for NESN. For some reason, I was asked to be the co-moderator. I am so grateful for that one assignment. It was A Day with Tim Russert.

Since his passing, many political watchers, even candidates themselves, said they never knew how Tim voted. On "this day" you would have never known Tim was a Yankees fan. Prepared with tidbits of Red Sox History, poignant with his speech, passionate about the game of baseball, Mr. Russert seemed a loyal citizen of Red Sox Nation. I knew of Tim's devotion to his Buffalo Bills, and his seat with the Baseball Hall of Fame, but only found out Yogi Berra was his hero days later in follow up articles.

Nervous and a bit star-struck, I immediately felt at ease when I met Tim. His booming voice and warm smile were what I first noticed, even though I had witnessed it all hundreds of times before on "Meet the Press". As we introduced ourselves, he said to me, "I'll follow your lead". I knew he was kidding! But his sincerity was calming.

Our quick pre-show meeting was focused, but he always kept things light, referring to the fact that he'll be wearing a Boston College golf shirt, on the campus of Boston University. He had to pay tribute to his son, Luke, still attending classes up the street. These were the little things that stood out to me that day, and sure enough, it were those very references to his son that always stood out to the many kings, queens, and great leaders he was in touch with each day with his role at NBC.

How dedicated was Russert to this "made for TV, made for Red Sox fans ONLY event"? He challenged each candidate with their issues and asked them poignant questions, just as he did a day earlier in the Democratic Presidential Debate in New Hampshire. Tim even singled out (Red Sox broadcaster and eventual Presidential winner) Jerry Remy for "trying to seize control of the Presidency in a near coup, proclaiming (himself) already in charge!"

When the debate was complete, Tim said to me, "It was nice to work with you, Tina." He complemented my NESN work and then added … "and now when I watch the Red Sox, I'll think differently." (I was humbled, honored, and at a loss for words.)

That was My Day with Tim Russert. I saw Tim one other time in-person, it may have been a split second—Game 2 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park. Heading into the 9th, I was already setting up at the Red Sox Clubhouse for Post Game interviews when I saw him running past the clubhouse door towards the ramp into the ballpark. I called out, "Tim!" He turned … almost guarded, because he is so recognizable. He saw me and quickly yelled something to the effect of, "Hey Tina … Hi." Still running, I was shooing him to get to his seat saying, "Go ahead, I just wanted to say HI". He shouted something about "… Papelbon finishing this…" He then waved and vanished into Fenway Park—indeed, disappearing into a heaven, … a heaven for many.

Rest in Peace in the ultimate Heaven, Mr. Russert. May your family find strength in all the Americans, Baseball Fans, and Journalists you inspired with your life.

Tina Cervasio
June 13, 2008