Monday, March 9, 2009

Assassin Avenue: My Lunch with Franco

It seemed to be a normal day in my brief tenure as Assistant to the Campaign Manager for a US Senate campaign. At about 9:30, as usual, I fielded a call from the campaign's finance director (who lived in Washington DC).

This call was different, though. After my typical "Yo" he asked:"Are you wearing a suit?"

"Hell no," was my reply. He knew me well enough at that point...

"Do you have one at home?"

"Yeah, I do." I reluctantly replied. I dreaded what came next. Putting on a suit likely meant having to go a function no one else wanted to attend.

"Well, if you want to have lunch with Franco Harris, go home and get it on."

holy. fucking. shit.

I knew that Franco was a big Democrat, but this was a shocker. Franco wanted to know how he could help the campaign. The Finance Director was driving to DC for the lunch. He knew how thrilled I would be to join, so he decided on a whim to invite me along.

Obviously, I went home and suited up.

A few hours later I found myself downtown at Ruth's Chris steakhouse with the Finance Director, Franco and his son "Dok."

It was pretty clear from the beginning Franco didn't want to talk about the Steelers. However, when the Finance Director told him I was a fellow Nittany Lion, Franco's eyes lit up. He gave me the hand jive and we talked Penn State football for quite a while. It was clear that talking Steelers was boring for him, but he loved to talk about the Lions. (Though I must state for the record he certainly didn't come off as anti-Steeler, just a guy that didn't want to have the same conversation over and over again about his work -- and who came blame him for that.)

These memories come to light today as I see it reported that Franco's son is running for Mayor of Pittsburgh.

This makes perfect sense, as during the lunch Franco and his son were much more interested in politics than football, and I had the sense Franco was holding the lunch more for his son than anything else.

We chatted about the campaign, talked about the need to fundraise and other current political issues we faced and wrapped up lunch.

Franco was kind and surprisingly soft spoken. You had to really pay attention to hear what he had to say. Needless to say, I listened close and hung on his every word.

On and off the field, Franco is an example to us all. He is a successful business man who runs a bakery specializing in nutritional donuts and also a, community servant, working to supply natural gas to the less affluent. Franco Harris consistently puts others before himself.

And when the bill came, Franco left no doubt that he was picking up the tab.

In the interest of a clear record, Franco's son didn't make a big impression on me one way or the other. But if he is anywhere near as kind as his father he certainly deserves attention in his bid for Mayor.

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