020: When You’re an Identical Twin with Tom Caraccioli – Part 2

Author Tom Caraccioli is back, shedding tears with grown men over good books, including his own.  If you’ve ever wondered whether twins think alike, you can only imagine how it impacts their writing styles.  Tom doesn’t have to imagine.  He’s lived it with his identical twin brother and coauthor, Jerry.  We revisit Striking Silver and remember a difficult time in American history with Boycott:  Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.

Full Podcast Transcript

[00:00:11] Recorded live from the Sweet Tea Studios in Wellesley Massachusetts. You’re listening to the podcast, Why I Read Nonfiction. Hosted by broadcaster and author of The Perfect Catch and Follow the Dog Home. Here’s Kevin Walsh.

[00:00:29] (Kevin) Hello and welcome to the program. We have a return guest in Tom Caraccioli.  We had so much fun the time before that, we didn’t finish everything that we started talking about so back by popular demand is Tom Caraccioli.  I want to thank Nirvana on beautiful Cape Cod for sponsoring. It’s a beautiful spring, summer and fall getaway. Nice fresh kettle pond, freshwater kettle pond. Great for swimming, great for fishing and a great place to visit. So check that out as well. Why I Read Nonfiction? How are we different than the others? This is more about the reader than it is about the books: what makes them tick as readers. So welcome back to the program, Tom Caraccioli, author of Striking Silver, a guy that works in the sports industry and one of my favorite guys to talk to.   Tom how you doing?

[00:01:16] (Tom) Good. Thanks for having me back Kev.

[00:01:18] (Kevin) All right. Did you have fun on the first time?

[00:01:21] (Tom) Ah, it was great.  Always great talking to you, as you said the first time that we spoke. You know, we can talk for hours about our experiences. And, you know, it’s a great experience for us. So good to catch up.  (Kevin) Tom I always feel like if you ask somebody, it’s you could go up to a total stranger, even on the train in Manhattan where you live and ask them what they’re reading, it’s always a welcome question. Do you find that?

[00:01:48] (Tom) Yeah, I think so. I you know, I mean, I think you might get different answers from different people. I could think of in history that they might not feel that way, but yeah, I think for the most part.  If and it’s not something that I would walk up to, just a total stranger but people like us, and people that you know, and acquaintances, like if you were to go up to Bill Belichick and say, Bill, what are you reading? Sure he’d have an answer for you and it would start an interesting conversation.  No doubt.

[00:02:18] (Kevin) Do you find that when you talk with your friends, do you find your friends as good sources of things to read? I do, because I think what your friends read, well, people that are your friends, they have similar interests. Right? That’s why they’re our friends. Do you like to read what your friends do?

[00:02:36] (Tom) Aaah, some of it. Some of it. I don’t, you know, a lot of times I’m… there are a couple, a couple of my friends. A couple of my friends. Not all of them, but there are some friends that I just, you know, I’ll just be chatting with and say what you what are you reading these days? And, you know, maybe something will tickle my fancy, but, I’m more of the person who will say to them.

[00:03:00] “Hey, I’m reading this. You got to read this.” I’m more of that person who will start that  conversation with some of my friends. So just because, you know, we’re getting into that season now where summer, it’s nicer outside and I usually get a couple, two or three or four or five books going in the summertime.

[00:03:20] And I like to try to read that amount of books in the summertime if I can. And so, you know, I’m always looking for possible stories and things that I haven’t read. So, you know, I do a lot of walking around bookstores.

[00:03:41] I’m still one of those people who love to go into bookstores and in the Berkshires and Boston and New York and just kind of look. I spend an hour or two looking at books in the bookstore and say, ah, looks pretty good. Let’s see about that.

[00:03:55] (Kevin) Are you like that because you are an author? And we’ll get into a Boycott on the back half of the show, but as an author, do you feel an obligation to other authors to purchase a book instead of maybe patronizing the library?

[00:04:10] (Tom) I do.

[00:04:11] I, you know, I do. And I guess it just you know, I kind of like the whole idea of ownership of those books. And, you know, I have I just you know, I recently got a book about Jimmy Carter out of the library and did some research about Jimmy Carter. But I’m more interested, like, I like to be able to go back and look at that and I don’t keep all my books because, you know, you’d go crazy. I mean, we’d have boxes and boxes and boxes full of books that we’re transporting in our portable society these days.

[00:04:47] (Kevin) I give mine away when I’m done with a book. If I know somebody wants it, I just give it to them.

[00:04:53] (Tom) That’s me, too. Yeah. I generally I try to do that, too.

[00:04:56] But, but I do like to support and buy the book.  You know, I have a lot of friends that have written books. And I like to be able to say, hey, you know, Lesley Visser, I got that Sometimes You Have to Cross When It Says Don’t Walk: A Memoir of Breaking Barriers. I saw it in a bookstore in the Berkshires and she lived there. And I texted her and said Lesley, I just saw your book and I bought it.   You know, that’s a great thing.

[00:05:26] (Kevin) Well, Lesley Visser was one of the pioneers for women broadcasters. And you mentioned sending her a text.

[00:05:34] I don’t think readers sometimes know how accessible authors can be.  In today’s day and age it’s much easier to track down authors than it used to be. And there’s nothing better than getting a nice email from a reader. Would you agree with that?

[00:05:46] (Tom) Yeah, definitely. Definitely.

[00:05:48] And I mean, I you know, I have a professional relationship with Lesley, too. I mean, she’s worked with my brother Jerry at CBS for many, many years. And as a result, I’ve gotten to know her. And in one of our previous conversations, you and I were talking about Mary Carillo, same same type of thing.

[00:06:06] And, you know, you have access to some interesting people. And so I like to support people that I that I know. I’ve bought your books. You know, I know your books. I’ve read your books.

[00:06:22] (Kevin) What did you think of my books? And don’t just tell me something nice because you know me.

[00:06:27] (Tom) No.  I liked them. I liked them. I especially like The Perfect Catch because, and quite frankly, I mean, that was a story that resonated with me. I read it as my father was dying from Alzheimer’s and dementia. And I just, I had read that book maybe, I don’t know, a couple months before when it when it was when my dad was really taking a turn, and it was just, you know, you know, it touches you. And, you know, I think one of the great compliments that that my brother and I received for our first book, Striking Silver, was from the team, the guys on the team. And they were just so happy that they were recognized.  And none of them were looking for recognition. This was 34 years after. So, you know, they were well past the feelings of, you know, we were not ever recognized for our great accomplishments.

[00:07:34] (Kevin) But you validated them, right?   Don’t you feel like you did that when you put that thing in print?  (Tom) Yes.

[00:07:39] (Kevin) You tell the personal stories, the individuals as well as the team itself. It just validates what they thought about themselves as individuals and as teammates. It seems bigger than it is.

[00:07:51] (Tom) Well, to a man and their wives, they took my brother and I aside.  We had some gatherings and we had some book signings where the team was all together. I mean, we brought back the team for the first time there was only one guy missing. But we brought back, and this was a team that had Mark Howe and Robby Ftorek. These guys hadn’t seen each other since 1972. So we brought them all back and we had this event in Lake Placid. And anyway, to a man, they all brought us out at one point out on the porch. We were at this house, house party and barbecue. And they all brought us out to the side and they said they thanked us. And truly to a man they were crying, saying how much they appreciated the fact that we recognized their accomplishment and what a treasure this was.  And how that book is going to be in the box with me when I go type of thing.

[00:08:52] (Kevin) Well, you were the vehicle that brought them back together. (Tom) Aaaah.  (Kevin) They might not have all gotten together again if not for your book.

[00:09:00] (Tom) Yeah, potentially. Yeah. And you know, even our even our coach and we talked about that in the first segment. First time we spoke of Pete Sears said, you know, “You guys did this. You guys did this. Nobody else. You guys did this.  It’s amazing.”  And it really was, yeah we talked about the emotion of books, that really was an emotional time period. And like I said, the wives and all that, you know, these people have been together, they’ve known each other for 30 some odd years. But this, they were able to just kind of reconnect. And the wives were meeting each other sometimes for the first time. And it was really an amazing type of thing. And they were they were very emotional:  hugs and tears, and it was amazing.

[00:09:51] (Kevin) Tom, do you get emotional when you read?

[00:09:53] (Tom) Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

[00:09:55] (Kevin) You cry when you read? Have you cried?

[00:09:57] (Tom) Oh, yeah. No doubt about it. I mean, we talked about Lone Survivor and Unbroken and those types of stories. Definitely. Definitely. There’s touching moments that that just are… personally I don’t know that you’d be human if you didn’t, if you weren’t touched to the point of tears, quite frankly.

[00:10:22] (Kevin) Our guest today is Tom Caraccioli.  He is the author of Striking Silver and also Boycott, which is about the 1980 Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the Moscow Olympic Games, which goes back to 1980, and the boycott of the Games by Jimmy Carter, where the American athletes didn’t go over.  Tom you brought up my book and you brought up your dad.

[00:10:41] And I don’t want to obnoxiously promote my book because I never wanted to do this on the program. But you talked about emotion and you talked about your father. And one of the things in my book, The Perfect Catch, it really was a story where there was some fly fishing involved, but it was just men connecting as men; trying to make your father proud, being a good brother, being a good man, being a good son, whatever it was. Were you thinking about your brothers and your relationship with your father when you read The Perfect Catch? Is that why you resonated with you?

[00:11:13] (Tom) No I was really more thinking about just my dad and what he was going through.  And yeah, I mean that there’s an element to it because my brothers and I, especially my brother Jerry, my brother Kevin were closest of age. And we still play hockey together. You know, we’re old timers traveling around all over the place, playing in the adult USA hockey tournaments around the country. And we still love it. And so that’s kind of like our fly fishing, you know, and we play with guys that we grew up with that we’ve known since five years old and guys that we played against in other parts of New York State who, you know, you kind of always know each other, but you’re not friends, but now we are friends. So I definitely, when I read that, I was thinking more about my dad just more then than my brothers. But I mean, you know, as you just mentioned it. Yeah. I mean, there’s that element to it now that that we really find that, you know, let’s just keep playing hockey as long as we can.

[00:12:23] You know?  No matter what.  (Kevin) What I like about what you’re saying is, even though it doesn’t square exactly with my original question, is when a reader turns a book on themselves and they start thinking about themselves and what  was going on in their life, that’s when a book is resonating with you. Right? Because that’s the human condition, isn’t it?  We’re all selfish. Like I read your books, or I read any book, and I like the stories that are being told, but I just always turn on myself and I start thinking about my life.  (Tom) Yep. (Kevin) And that’s the way it ought to be. And with good books, it just happens that way. Don’t you think?

[00:12:59] (tom) Yeah, I do. And you’re absolutely right. I think it probably happens more with men than women because we’re probably seen as a little more selfish in that, you know, the world revolves around us.

[00:13:12] But at least I do at times in self reflection. But yeah, I think that’s a natural thing to connect. I mean, your book, The Marrow in Me. Right?  And for listeners who don’t know it is a story about Kevin’s adventure being a bone marrow donor.

[00:13:33] But running a marathon and why it was important to you and all those things. And it’s a really interesting thing.  To me, that aspect of it, the marathon stuff was very interesting to me that you that you found it in your heart to do that after… I don’t want to spoil the book… (Kevin) No, no, no.  Give it up.

[00:14:08] I’m not bothered by spoiling stuff. You could even tell me about your books.  Just tell me the ending.  I’ll discover it on my own. I’ve always felt that way. (Tom)

[00:14:19] I mean, listen, that the whole idea of you running for your recipient who unfortunately didn’t make it, right?

[00:14:29] He eventually passed away. But you ran in his honor. And to me, it resonates in some of the things that I’m doing these days now and just thinking about it because I hadn’t thought about your book in a while.

[00:14:47] (Kevin) Well you just finished the Boston Marathon. You ran for reasons bigger than like, hey I just really want to do that.

[00:14:55] What was your motivation?  (Tom) Yeah.

[00:14:57] Well, I ran for a charity called Good Sports. And, you know, we raised a good amount of money for children who were underserved, who might not have the opportunity to play sports because they can’t afford it. They can’t afford the equipment. They can’t afford the ice time. They can’t afford the ability to go and do it.

[00:15:21] And so so, yeah, I was able to run the Boston Marathon and raise a lot of money for that charity. And so, again, you know, that that type of thing resonates with me. And your book just reminded me, you know, as I looked at the title of your book.  I’m like, yeah that’s right, I remember that.  (Kevin) That’s the thing about books, they remind us of life, what’s going on around us. Our guest is Tom Caraccioli.  He is the author of Boycott and also the author of Striking Silver.   Boycott, I keep saying it short. Sometimes I shorten things Tom, sorry.  (Tom) Yeah that’s okay.  (Kevin) Boycott: Stolen Dream of the Moscow Olympic Games. And all the books that we talk about here, they’re listed on my website Why I Read Nonfiction.com. So if you’re interested in reading up on those books, you can find it there. Hey, let’s just do a little rapid fire thing.

[00:16:15] Are you a hard copy guy or electronic reader? (Tom) Hard copy. (Kevin) Why?

[00:16:20] (Tom) I just I like to feel, you know, I listen to one of your one of your other interviews with Mike Petraglia.  Same idea. I just like to have that book in my hands and and be able to turn those pages. I like that feel of making progress and seeing that I’m cutting through a book. I’m a hard copy guy.  (Kevin) Ever read a book you’re embarrassed to admit?

[00:16:43] I’ll give you a couple of examples. Howard Stern’s Private Parts.

[00:16:49] (Tom) No, I read that. Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m embarrassed to read that. No, I definitely read it.

[00:16:54] (Kevin) I hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max. Did you read that?

[00:16:58] (Tom) No. I don’t think I don’t think I’d be embarrassed.

[00:17:02] I can’t think of being embarrassed to read a book. Not that I can think of.

[00:17:11] I mean, I don’t think so.

[00:17:14] (Kevin) Do you ever bail on books?

[00:17:19] (Tom) I do. Yeah, I have.

[00:17:20] (Kevin) Do you have a policy for how long you’re going to stick with it?

[00:17:24] (Tom) No. No, just. It’s rare. It’s rare that I do. But I have I have bailed on books before, But not too often.

[00:17:33] Not too often. (Kevin) Let’s talk about your book, Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the Moscow Olympic Games. And we can marry some Striking Silver with that. But you co-authored those with your identical twin brother, Jerry. I wrote a book with my family members and sometimes you have to have a captain to keep everybody together.  With the twins thing I’m wondering if that’s a little bit tricky. How does that go down?

[00:17:56] (Tom) Aaaah Easy. Really.  Because, you know, when you’re an identical twin and Jerry and I are very close, we. We have a similar voice. So, you know, I would write something and I would fire off to him and he’d read it and be like, “Well, yes, this looks pretty good. Why don’t we change or what about saying it this way? Or using this word to describe this? I mean, that happened a lot in Boycott. Our book Boycott really delves into, and we’re approaching 40 years now almost,  Believe it or not, next year will be 40 years since the boycott. But there’s some really meaty chapters in that book and it was difficult to write. Jerry was writing them and he sent them to me to read. And I said, “Man, we got to we got to rewrite. We got to rewrite this so that, you know, laymen, general, laymen can understand this, because it was it was really difficult.

[00:19:05] There’s a chapter about why did the Russians invade Afghanistan? And why was it so important for U.S. policy to go against that.

[00:19:23] (Kevin) So you have to say a lot and a little.  You had to kind of bottom line some of the history and some of the politics of it all?  (Tom) Yeah. (Kevin) And feel like you weren’t giving short shrift to what really led up to the boycott of the games itself, right?

[00:19:36] (Tom) Right. Because a political scientist would understand it, but you know, we’re writing for maybe somebody who wasn’t even born at that time. So why is it important?

[00:19:47] (Kevin) Here’s my take away.  You were writing about the different athletes who, their whole lives they trained for these games and then it’s basically stolen from them. And I felt for them. I remember I was just old enough to understand the news at the time. And you told the individual stories of each person. And I was, I guess I wasn’t surprised, but what I noticed was a consistency. They were disappointed.

[00:20:12] They were heartbroken. I don’t think they were overly bitter, or at least they didn’t express that.  (Tom)

[00:20:21] Some of them were, some of them weren’t. You have to remember the time too.  This was 1980. So we’re five years, just five years out of Vietnam. Right? So some of these athletes probably had older brothers and sisters who had served in an unpopular war, but they served, OK. They got the call and they served. Maybe they didn’t want to go, but they did. And so, you know, maybe this they saw their brothers and sisters do this. And so this was something that the president of the United States said, we can’t do this. This is a threat to national security and against our enemies, the Russians. And we’ve got to remember, 1980 was still Cold War. You know. And so maybe some of us saw that as this. But there was one athlete in particular, Gene Mills, who was, to this day, is still very bitter.  Because if there was anybody who was maybe as close to gold, a lock on gold for these Olympics, it was probably Gene Mills, who was a wrestler, 114 pound four time all-American at Syracuse, just tore through his competition in a pre-Olympic tournament the year before. He beat everybody, he pinned everybody.  And including all three medalists that went on in 1980 to win the medals.

[00:21:53] (Kevin) He was about a sure thing to win gold.

[00:21:55] (Tom) He was about as sure as there was, you know, barring injury and what not. But, you know, if he competed, he was I mean, his goal was not to just win the gold medal, but it was to pin his way to winning the gold.

[00:22:08] (Kevin) Just total domination?  (Tom) He didn’t want to just win on points? Yes. Total domination. (Kevin) And just… go ahead, finish Tom.

[00:22:14] (Tom) I was just going to say, just for him, it’s like I wasn’t beaten by a wrestler. I was beaten by a peanut farmer who is our president. That’s the only way I could be stopped. And to this day, still feels that way. You know, he’s definitely one of those people that that feel really cheated still.

[00:22:38] (Kevin) And can you imagine in today’s day and age with social media and just 24-7 news coverage. If we had a similar thing, just that the volume and the noise that would be associated, it would be unbelievable. Hey, Tom, thanks for batting twice with me on the program. It’s always good to talk to you. And we’ll all get up again at a later time. All right? You want to come back for round three? You good with that?

[00:23:04] Tom) Absolutely. You got it. You can’t finish a game without getting the hat trick (Kevin) Yep, you got it.

[00:23:07] So for more on Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the Moscow Olympic Games and all the books that we talked about, log onto our Web site at Why I Read Nonfiction.com.  There’s information there about upcoming episodes. Visit our bookstore and join the nonfiction network, an exclusive private online community for our listeners to keep the conversation going.

[00:23:27] And thank you to Nirvana on Cape Cod, the perfect spring, summer and fall getaway with world class trout and bass fishing. Please subscribe to the podcast.  It’s easy and it’s free, and do us a favor share the podcast with a friend.  For Tom Caraccioli, I’m Kevin Walsh. Thank you for listening to Why I Read Nonfiction.

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