You may know Bert Gambini as the author of the latest UB news in the fields of social sciences, humanities or social work. Or, you might recognize his voice from over two decades on Buffalo radio.
But Gambini, news content manager at the Office of Academic Communications, is also a professional football researcher.
As a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA), Gambini has contributed to three books and written numerous articles that delve deep into the annals of professional football. The latest book about the 1951 Los Angeles Rams and the westward expansion of professional football was released in April.
“I think most football fans, like me, are interested in what’s happening this week or what happened last week,” Gambini says. “But I would like to see more interest in the story. Maybe that’s what I do – I proselytize every time I try to engage someone in a conversation like this.
Always armed with stories, anecdotes and facts from the footballing past, Gambini is eager to share his vast knowledge of the game’s history with anyone willing to listen.
One day he might argue that the 1964 Buffalo Bills were the greatest team in American Football League history.
The next day, he will debunk the mythology of the birth of the face mask.
Sometimes Gambini can explain the mysteries, like how moving hashmarks onto the pitch in the 1970s changed the game.
Often, he shares long-forgotten football stories, like the story of the 1940 championship game. The Chicago Bears were winning so many umpires kept them from scoring extra runs because there were no nets. behind the goal posts at that time and that they were losing too many balls.
“I start talking to people until I notice them looking at their watch,” Gambini says with a laugh, “and then I move on.”
Gambini became fascinated with the history of professional football at the age of 8 when he was still a new fan of the game. Seeing old clips and photos, the young Gambini was intrigued by how football had changed and how different the game was from its early years.
He continued to consume all football research he came across, but unlike baseball, the volume of football history written at the time was not as extensive as the body of work today. today.
In the early 1990s, Gambini discovered the Professional Football Researchers Association, an organization of volunteer researchers whose mission is to preserve and, in some cases, reconstruct the history of professional football. He joined and eventually began pitching story ideas and writing articles for his bimonthly magazine.
Gambini also contributed to a series of books on the great teams in professional football history, including the ’51 Rams, the first West Coast Champions, and the 1958 Baltimore Colts. He is currently working on chapters for the next book on the 1964 Bills, due out in 2024.
“Bert is a meticulous researcher,” says George Bozeka, president of the Professional Football Researchers Association. “His contributions to our book projects and our magazine are always extremely well written, informative and entertaining. Bert has an exceptional knowledge of professional football history and is an excellent conversationalist on the subject.
Gambini joined University Communications in 2012, after working more than two decades on the airwaves in Buffalo, including 18 years at National Public Radio member station WBFO. When he’s not talking about professional football history, Gambini enjoys cooking or listening to jazz. For 10 years, he hosted Nickel City Chef, a local culinary competition, and presents a musical program heard several times a week on the internet station Pure Jazz Radio.
As a researcher, Gambini has found a niche writing about draft history and enjoys the creative exercise of finding a story from what is nothing more than a list of players.
“The repechage was not like the event it is today,” Gambini said. “It was an administrative recruitment task for these teams. It wasn’t televised, the radio wasn’t doing piece by piece. In fact, some teams, in many cases, based their selections not on their own scouts, but on what reporters said.
Gambini is also passionate about making sure former players get their due. He beats the drum for Hall of Fame entry for Los Angeles Rams alumni Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, two of four players, as well as current Hall of Famers Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Cleveland Browns, who have crossed the color barrier as a professional. football in 1946 – a year before Jackie Robinson did it in baseball.
“I’m not going to sit here and say that professional football is a metaphor for life, but I think it’s the greatest game in the world and has an incredibly entertaining narrative populated by very interesting characters.” , said Gambini. “There’s still so much to tell, and it’s fun to be part of an organization like ARAP that does just that.