When University at Buffalo graduate John Reiss began working on "The NBC Nightly News" in the 1990s, he met Tim Russert at NBC's Washington, D.C. bureau.
Reiss was trying to think what to talk about with the Buffalo legend when a shared love came to mind: the Buffalo Bills.
"I thought, I have to find some point of contact and said, 'Wait a second. The Bills. This is easy,' " remembered Reiss in an interview. "It is genuine. I thought the one problem is he is going to think I am making it up. About a minute into the conversation, he knew that I was real. After that it was our regular point of contact beyond work, I would email him or he would email me on Sundays, saying either 'wasn't that great' or just as likely ugh.' "
Reiss grew up as a fan of the New York Football Giants until they moved to New Jersey. He was looking for a new team when he was living and working in Buffalo.
"You don't choose a team, a team chooses you," he said. "In 1980, they started out 5-0 and I just got swept up in the enthusiasm. OK, this fits. This feels good. By the end of the year I was a real Bills fan and have been so ever since."
He and his good friend, the late Channel 2 reporter, Scott Brown, worked together at WEBR radio and went to a Bills game annually.
Reiss is now the executive producer of Russert's signature program with Chuck Todd as moderator.
Reiss doesn't disagree with Todd's assessment of their working partnership that they share one brain and Reiss' TV experience benefit's Todd's print journalism experience.
"The reason Chuck and I connected is because our two principle interests aligned very well – politics and sports," Reiss said. "I've always believed that people who are intensely interested in politics, tend to be intensely interested in sports as well, partly because of the statistical nature of the two.
He said most days he and Todd have the same idea of what the Sunday and daily shows should be about.
"The TV-print part is probably where we differ the most," said Reiss. "By that I mean, there are times where he has a really real smart idea for a political lead and I will say 'that is a great print piece but it is not going to work on TV.' We'll clash in front of everybody. Somebody just told me that when you guys disagree we say mommy and daddy are fighting.' We're never really fighting. We are thrashing it out in front of the staff. Inevitably, or in most cases, we wound up in the right place."
A Queens native, Reiss graduated from UB in the late 1970s and worked at WEBR and The Buffalo Evening News before going into television.
He was the managing editor of the UB student newspaper, The Spectrum, and said he was influenced by his work there.
"You wind up feeling a great sense of responsibility when you are managing a school paper. Some of the things we had to consider at the time, the ethical considerations we had, still play in my mind today," he said. "The idea of not backing down to authority becomes extremely important. And the lessons I learned at The Buffalo Evening News and WEBR, I carry with me to my experience here."