Donn Esmonde moved to Buffalo in January of 1982, after accepting the job as sports feature writer/columnist at The News. “It was bitter cold and the snow was piled high all over the place. I stayed because I discovered a sense of community that seemed non-existent in the Long Island suburb where I was raised. It seemed like one person here could make a difference, whereas down there you were just another ant on the world’s biggest anthill. And I also stayed because The News has been kind enough to allow me to switch jobs as my interests changed per cause or project. Fighting to resurrect history at Erie Canal Harbor became, for years, like a part time job,” Esmonde said, adding, “Besides, the world doesn’t need another bad electric guitar player!”
Best thing to happen in Buffalo in past 20 years?
A: The conversion of long-vacant downtown buildings into lofts and apartments; the resurrection of our history at Erie Canal Harbor (OK, that’s two things, but I’m trying to accentuate the positive!).
Q: Worst thing to happen in Buffalo in past 20 years?
A: Continued job losses and outward migration.
Q: Would you rather have the power to fly or the power to make yourself invisible?
A: My friends and I always pondered this question back in elementary school. Flying appealed to me back then, given an addiction to ‘Superman’ reruns on TV. Now, as a journalist, the power of invisibility — to hear the private conversations behind closed doors and in back rooms — is an easy choice.
Q: You’re on death row ordering your final meal, what Buffalo restaurant and meal do you pick?
A: Fat Bob’s for the ribs — the guilty pleasure of a man living in a house full of vegetarians!
Q: What was the last thing you Googled?
A: Information on the historic tour at Forest Lawn Cemetery. My dad’s remains were recently placed there, and I think Mom would enjoy the tour.
Q: Which animal most matches your personality?
A: Cat. Independent, laid-back (although less so as I get older, oddly) and averse to a herd mentality.
Q: Hot, Medium or Mild?
A: Medium. The digestive system rebelled against the hot stuff years ago.
Q: Favorite Buffalo event?
A: As much as I love the Taste of Buffalo, a slight proprietary interest tips the scales to the annual National Wingfest on Labor Day weekend. I planted the seed for the festival in my column, and entrepreneur Drew Cerza has done a fabulous job nurturing it into a mighty, internationally recognized event.
Q: What’s the most frustrating part of Buffalo?
A: The self-interest, pettiness and narrow vision of too many of the politicians and so-called civic leaders who hold power.
Q: Favorite Buffalo sports figure of all time?
A: Gil Perreault, the rare athlete-as-artist. The image of him winding around the net and taking the puck up the ice, as opposing defensemen retreated in fear, is imprinted on my memory bank. Runner-up: Thurman Thomas, the complete running back.
Q: What’s your favorite spot in the city?
A: Erie Canal Harbor. A decade-long, grassroots effort forced state and local officials to resurrect our history and to create a great public, waterfront space. It was a long, hard fight, but one — as the results show — that we can enjoy and be proud of.
Q: What should Buffalo’s motto be?
A: City of Untapped Potential.