Ed’s Vault: Ch2 Looks for a New Sports Director

Featured Photo Credit: Ed Kilgore's personal collection.

Even though the Bills season is over – thinking a 3 point loss to the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs is somehow encouraging – it’s kinda dead. Yes, we hope the Sabres wake up, and how many more mock NFL drafts can I read?

During these lulls in the action, this old timer’s thoughts often think back to some crazy events in 40 years as Sports Director at Ch2. Current SD Adam Benigni called to let me know he’s stepping down as Ch2 Sports Director now, although he’ll still be hosting his weekly Sports Talk Live show and pop up now and then as the search for a new Sports Director commences. Loved working with Adam, who I hired in 1997 as our third sports person just out of Syracuse, and he waited patiently 16 years for me to say “enough already” to take over. Clearly, the job he inherited was not the one I left in 2013.

No comeback coming here! The new SD will have to WORK. HARD!

Not only will he/she become the featured M-F sports anchor, but they’ll also be producing/editing their own shows, and shooting videos of various local events as a “one man band” as it’s referred to. There’ll be lots of traveling, but it’s a do it yourself operation. Instead of satellite trucks and a photographer, they’re now doing just about everything on their iPhone. The hours are long and weekends are busy much of the time.

The job is already posted, including the salary of 80K. Van Miller, Rick Azar and I were REALLY lucky looking back. We all had some other perks the new SD won’t have. I did Sabres intermissions on Ch2 for 9 years (actually replacing Azar from Ch7), Van did Bills and Braves play by play and Rick was also on the Bills broadcast team. Not only were we more appreciated financially, we didn’t have to keep up with blogs, podcasts and X (Twitter). Social media has really changed the way sports broadcasters do their jobs now. Everybody has a camera. There’s also a ton of false news out there, and it amazes me how many people simply believe what they see if it’s posted on Facebook. 

Right here a quick thank you to my sponsors: Atwal Eye Care. They did cataract surgery on both my eyes last summer, and the results were incredible. 

Also, BluTusk Tech of Orchard Park for your used and new computer needs.

We all had our share of breaking stories from various sources, and it was easier because we spent more time around the players by traveling with them. Not only players, but other personnel associated with the teams we were able to develop relationships of trust with. Before cell phones appeared, it could be more difficult to reach people, but now cell #’s and text #’s are how most information is shared. Getting those numbers in the first place was, and still is, the trick. You have to be trusted, and that takes time. If they say “off the record”, you don’t use it. Sometimes they ask you to report something in a way that doesn’t make it too obvious where the info came from.

What’s in it for your “source”? If the front office person or coach etc. trust you, they can shoot down rumors that often pop up. Or, maybe lead you in a different direction. Sometimes you have to trust them too. 

Years ago one of the Sabres star players in the Scotty Bowman era broke his collarbone just before the playoffs. The official “word” from the team was that he’d tripped over a garden hose and fell down some basement stairs. Within a very short time, I was called by three separate Sabres players I knew well, and they were all ticked off. It seems the injured star had actually been injured riding an ATV vehicle that hit a hole, tossing him over the handle bars. Crazy that could happen, but it did.

I reported this, and immediately the Sabres PR staff called me in to talk to Bowman. Scotty and I had a good relationship by then, since I was traveling with the team etc., but I knew he’d be livid. He was, but not at me. He said “Ed, I’m gonna believe you wouldn’t have run that story without good sources”, and I told him that was true. He didn’t know. The next day, he called in every single player one on one, and they ALL denied calling me. I’d given my word I’d never reveal their names, and I still won’t, but here’s the kicker.

If the player in question had actually tripped over a garden hose, I’d have heard about it quickly. Not only was there no reaction, the player wouldn’t speak with me for years. BTW Bowman was, and is at 90, an amazing man. He could be tough at times, but fair.

But in my days, you had to be adaptable and resourceful to get stories.,

For instance, and this happened several times, I learned from a good source the name of a new coach or details of a coming trade. But that just starts the process. Now, you have to nail it down with hopefully two other sources, or one more if you really trust them. More than once, I called people I knew would know but wouldn’t want to tell me. So I’d say “if I report so and so is the next Sabres coach, will I be wrong?” 

Silence is golden, let’s just say.

A few years ago I was asked to speak to a Sports Journalism class at my alma mater, the University of Missouri, which has one of the top rated journalism schools in the nation. Obviously Syracuse/Newhouse is right up there too – don’t @ me! This was a dream come true, because I so appreciate the knowledge I gained there. My dad, sister and daughter all graduated from Mizzou.

After I talked to the class for a half hour or so, one of the questions surprised me. A student said at Mizzou, they were told never to rely on information from sports agents.

There’s the difference in the “perfect world of academia” and the real world.

In my experience, many of my best stories came directly from agents I’d gotten to know from various sports events. It is a two way street however. Of COURSE they are using you to get their spin out there. But many times they had other info that led to the revelation of an even different story.

The Mizzou Journalism staff probably didn’t appreciate my response to that question, but if so I never heard about it.

Photo from Ed Kilgore’s private collection.

It’s hard to keep up with all the changes since I left Ch2 in 2013, as Stu Boyar retired a few months ago. Adam, Stu and I had an incredible relationship and we all looked forward to whatever came our way. We even had time to solve many of the world’s problems in some lively ‘BS’ sessions, and we still stay in touch. Although I no longer watch the local news as much as I once did, and I still keep in touch with Scott Levin and MaryAlice Demler, I have noticed the great work of Lindsey Moppert, who joined the Ch2 sports team a couple years ago right out of Temple University. She’s a Philadelphia girl, so my guess is if she doesn’t hit ESPN or something, she’ll have the chance to return to the nation’s fourth market if that’s what she wants. She’s really good. Great personality that shines through, and she knows sports. The lack of experience is the only potential pot hole on the road to becoming the new SD. The job listing says 10 years experience is preferred.

Van and Rick came before me, but all three of us anchored the three affiliates sportscasts for many years, and usually enjoyed having people produce/edit the shows for us. We never had to lug around a camera, although I did my share of that in San Antonio and Houston before shuffling off to Buffalo in 1973.

We had it good. At one time, we even received comped season tickets for the Bills and Sabres and traveled with the teams on private jets. We played golf for free just about anywhere, skied gratis at KB or Holiday Valley, and took guests to dinner at Buffalo Raceway. Movies? Dinners? They seldom questioned our expense receipts, although for years Azar and I laughed about a dinner we had one time in a fancy Cincinnati restaurant where I picked the wine. We both heard about it! 

But. The world was our oyster!

One year Buffalo Braves (the NBA was SO fun) owner Paul Snyder flew several media people – and a guest – to a Braves game in Boston. We left Buffalo on a big private jet and eventually went to a beautiful restaurant on the water for dinner, then on to the game. The Braves lost but it was the Boston Garden and we had a blast. We then flew straight home after the game.

Nothing close to that would happen now.

We can’t have the appearance of being “bought off”, and maybe in a sub conscious way we did sometimes give somebody the benefit of the doubt. Admittedly, it was much easier to criticize Gregg Williams than Marv Levy, although it was sometimes necessary to both applaud and boo.

I was not always right or lucky.

One time one of the Big Four (UB, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bona) basketball coaches, who wanted to leave but didn’t want his school to know, flew to a nearby city to interview for a vacancy there. After getting wind of this, I had two other coaches (not from Big Four) tell me he’d impressed them and was offered the job.

My BIG mistake, because by now it was very close to air time, I reported the story before being able to reach the coach. I’d left a message, but that’s not good enough.

This really blew up, because while it was true he’d been offered the job, it was rescinded when another coach changed his mind and he was the school’s first choice. So, no job and now his bosses knew he’d been looking. He called me, screaming, and I was forced to issue an apology and admit I had the story wrong, even though things had changed. I lost a lot of sleep over that one, but learned a valuable lesson I’d “forgotten” in my eagerness to break the story.

All journalists have experienced some form of a story changing, causing it to become untrue instead of a good scoop. When stories change, all we see then are denials and more denials. Awkward.

Best to be RIGHT, than FIRST.

So hopefully Ch2 will find the right person for their new SD position, and just know they’ll be busy busy busy.

Again my thanks to sponsors Atwell Eye Care and BluTusk Tech of Orchard Park.

Editor’s babble: Times have definitely changed! We’re thankful Ed Kilgore shares his memories with us on the blog. You can also find ‘Gramps’ on Xwitter @Kilgore2Ed.

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3 thoughts on “Ed’s Vault: Ch2 Looks for a New Sports Director”

  1. Great memories and commentary. I think my dad (don Dussias) was on that flight from Boston. He’s being considered for the buffalo broadcasters hof.

  2. Ed great words of wisdom… The media is not what it use to be on all fronts… I am Journalism Grad (1975) myself and can only picture my Professors turning in there graves.

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