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The Bills are good, Buffalo is better

Today, the readers take over. Here are a couple of dandy ideas suggested to me by readers:

TIM RUSSERT AND BILLSVILLE: A friend called to tell me to watch Tim Russert's panel appearance on Bob Costas' HBO show.

So I did. And sure enough, as I'd been warned, indefatigable Buffalo ambassador Russert declared to other panelists John McEnroe and Cris Collinsworth that, for Buffalonians, the Bills are "all they have," as if we were all exiles on an island tethered only to the American cultural mainland by the Buffalo Bills. Dan Marino was once roundly lambasted for saying such a thing.

Well.

Where does one begin?

I defer to no one in my avid fidelity to the Bills. If it is our local secular religion (and, in a way, I suppose it is), you'll find me devoutly worshipping in front of the tube every autumn Sunday afternoon (or on those Monday nights that we're lucky enough.)

I may not be scarfing tailgate burgers at the stadium in my zubaz pants but I'm often enough on the edge of my seat, yelling and pumping my fist (or, on bad days, I'm sunk back into the couch sneering or moaning at fate's cruelties.)

And too, I'm always pleased to hear "Go! Bills" inserted into every Russert conversation that need a non sequitur. Any guy who named his son -- in part -- after the Buffalo Bisons' Luke Easter is a Buffalo guy for real, wherever he lives.

As we have to assume from reading "Big Russ & Me," Russert didn't grow up immersed in Buffalo cultural life -- the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Studio Arena Theater.

Nor was he in town when the Hallwalls Gallery was founded by artists who would become pivotal in American art (Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman.) I would submit that his understandable and commendable allegiance to his blue collar Buffalo past has obscured the profoundly major cultural life that has been here since he was a boy and is, at the moment, on something of an upswing.

As I wrote last week, both the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the BPO give constant current evidence of renewed vitality. And, as we speak, the Studio Arena Theater "Ring of Fire" is getting ready to head to San Francisco and Broadway.

Times here are wickedly tough, true, but the idea that the Bills are "all we have" in our pathetic privation and isolation from the rest of North America is simply ludicrous, at best, and always has been.

Sometimes, even the best and most tireless ambassador could use a little revisionist visit.

JOHN HUNT AND THE BROADCASTING HALL OF FAME: One caller left a message reminding me that John Hunt, the former music director of WBFO, died tragically of cancer 25 years ago this month. A correspondent from Rochester separately wrote to ask why, in heaven's name, then, John Hunt wasn't in the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Very good question, that.

It was Hunt who put WBFO in the jazz broadcasting business. It was Hunt, whose exhaustive efforts (including broadcasts from Buffalo that were aired all over America on National Public Radio) did as much as anyone to make Buffalo a major jazz town in the modern era and it was Hunt who could be the most delightful interviewer of jazz musicians I've ever heard on the radio.

He was a great and singular figure in Buffalo broadcasting. His impact, in his time, was as large as the venerable Hall of Fame member Joe Rico's was in his. Hunt's death is still felt 20 years later. No one has ever come close to replacing him.

Few, it seems to me, deserve Hall of Fame induction more.

e-mail: jsimon@buffnews.com

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