Sunday, February 12, 2012

Happy retirement, again

Back when I was an impressionable sports fan of the age of 11 or so (we're talking 1966), I loved to read all about my favorite sports through newspapers and magazines. That meant, at the time, that if I wanted to read about the American Football League, I could study every word written in Sporting News or in Street and Smith's Football Yearbook. (The Elmira Star-Gazette wasn't known for its football coverage at that time.)

That meant I became very familiar with Larry Felser's byline. Felser not only was the beat reporter for the Buffalo Bills for the Buffalo Evening News, but he was the AFL writer for both of the other publications. Felser stayed in that role over the years to come, and I got to read his work every day once our family moved to Buffalo in 1970.

Once I graduated from college and went to work in the Buffalo media, I slowly developed a different relationship with Felser. Not only did I read him all the time, as he made the transformation to columnist, but he became an acquaintance and then a friend. As a former talk-show host, I could always count on Larry to come on my show a couple of times a year and get the phone lines lit up. You learn to appreciate people like that. He was always friendly and open to me and everyone else in the business, and it was always appreciated.

Then in 1994, I was hired by The Buffalo News, and wound up working side-by-side with Larry on a few occasions. That was always a pleasure. Not only was Larry good company, but he was willing to confer with me so that the game story and the column on the same event didn't overlap. That happens more than you'd think.

I also had the chance to edit Larry's work when I had office duty over the years. Let me assure you that there was nothing better than reading Larry's column before anyone else when the Bills did something stupid. It was particularly fun when you could tell that Larry had finished one column attacking the move, obviously thinking "I'm not done with this yet," and banging out another column that read like a continuation of the first. His no-nonsense, straight-forward style was always welcome. One time in the late 1980's I told someone that I wished the News had a columnist in the news department was followed that example.

Larry retired from regular duty in 1999, but stayed on at the newspaper as a Sunday columnist. He was still popular, according to the surveys. It was particularly fun to have him spin stories about those AFL days; having the thoughts of a guy who was on a first-name basis with AFL owners added plenty of perspective.

Felser wrote those weekly columns for more than a decade, and threw in a good book on the AFL along the way. His last column appeared Sunday; you can read it here.

Not many people get to retire twice like Larry is. Let's hope this one is a long and happy one too.

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