Something really stopped me last week.
Not the occasion of a birthday, for there’s one of those every year and it always happens to fall during a busy time where there’s little chance to really kick back and enjoy things, not with the deluge of games, tournaments and meets to keep up with.
It was something else, sad news from where I grew up. Larry Felser, the longtime writer and columnist for the Buffalo News, passed away at age 80. Just like that, a large and important part of my childhood and development was gone.
Far too many sports journalists in Western New York have left us in the last few years. Jim Kelley, Tom Borrelli, Allen Wilson – these were all dedicated reporters, knowledgeable and passionate about sports, and by all accounts great people who left long before their time.
But Larry Felser was something else. He was, quite simply, the person I wanted to be as a child, the beacon to which I turned when in search of a way to make a decent living, back when this business could bring a decent living.
To understand this, you must follow me back to a somewhat idealistic childhood, mostly spent in the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga. Like each place and period, it had its own distinct rhythms and patterns, and one of those routines was picking up the Buffalo News every weekday afternoon, and weekend morning.
Sports nut that I was, inevitably I go to the sports section, to read about the Bills, Sabres, Bisons or some other topic that cropped up. Inevitably, the face at the top left corner, the main column, belonged to Felser, spreading his unmatched knowledge of the Buffalo sports scene, and the NFL, to tens of thousands of readers seven days a week.
That’s important to understand – Felser was a columnist, yes, but he knew his stuff. He didn’t offer forceful opinions at every turn, but when he did, they were taken seriously, and he had an innate fairness sorely lacking in today’s sports media culture where noise and negativity count for more than wisdom and perspective.