025: I Didn’t Have a Bedtime with Bob Halloran

Bedtime was reading time for author and Boston sports anchor and reporter Bob Halloran.  That reading inspired him to become a sportscaster and writer.  Along the way, he survived a health scare, lived to tell about it, and just appreciates the gift of another day to live and a book to read.

Full Podcast Transcript

[00:00:10] 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 another edition of Why I read non-fiction. Big thanks to Nirvana, on beautiful Cape Cod. If you’re looking for a great spring, summer or fall getaway, Nirvana is the place for you.  A newly restored coastal theme home on a beautiful freshwater kettle pond. Perfect for swimming and fishing. Couple of things. Subscribe to the podcast. It’s easy and it’s free and leave a rating. I’m told that is how we grow. Our guest today is Bob Halloran, sports reporter and sports anchor for WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston. Bob, good to have you on the program. I’ve been meaning to have you on for a while. And finally, here we are.

[00:01:07] (Bob) It’s a great opportunity to be here because I think it’s an interesting topic that you’ve chosen to talk about with people.

[00:01:13] (Kevin) I think when you ask somebody, what are you reading?  In your case, I can ask you a couple of things. What have you written? But we always begin with where does your reading story begin?  Have you always loved to read?

[00:01:25] (Bob) Yes, absolutely. And I was encouraged at home by my mom and dad, who told me at the earliest of age 6, 7, 8, 9, that I didn’t have a bedtime. I could stay up as late as I wanted to as long as I was reading. So maybe the television went off at 7 o’clock, but I would stay up until 11 and continue reading. And when I was especially young by first, second, third grade, I already knew that I wanted to be a sportscaster. It was sort of like, you know, I like sports and I like to write. So most of what I read as a child worthy of the youth books about athletes. So I know about Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby and whatever else was available in my public library. There was a section of biographies about teams, about players, coaches, Gil Hodges, I remember. And there were so many that, you know, I’d just go back to the library every week and grab two or three more books. There weren’t that big, you know, there. Maybe they were one hundred and some odd pages, hundred and twenty pages. But yeah, I read every night for many years right through at least eighth grade. And then when I got into high school and now you’re being assigned more classical literature and you’re reading Steinbeck or Hemingway or something like that. I started to read mostly what was assigned to me and it wasn’t until I got out of school, out of college, that I would start to pick and choose what I wanted to.

[00:02:51] (Kevin) Did you like the stuff, though, that you had to read in in high school? Did you have an appreciation for Shakespeare and Machiavelli and stuff of that ilk? ‘Cause because I certainly didn’t. Because I didn’t get it. Without the CliffsNotes, I wouldn’t have really understood it.

[00:03:07] (Bob) Right. The one I remember like really not getting was William Faulkner. I was like, I have no idea what this man is saying. But when you’re reading Mark Twain and for me, John Steinbeck, they made a mistake, but that was OK because it still led me somewhere. We had to read The Pearl and I read everything else that John Steinbeck had written because I really liked his style of writing.

[00:03:28] (Kevin) Well what was his style and it’s just for those that don’t remember or didn’t read it?

[00:03:33] (Bob) I might misuse the word, but it’s a little more homespun. It’s easier to follow. It is plot driven with some of the other, you know, literary elements that you’re learning about, whether it’s, you know, allegory or something like that. But, you know, he just Of Mice and Men is a great little story. It’s a small book about friendship and betrayal. And, you know, then East of Eden was another one I remember.  He went on a trip with his dog. I remember reading that story. And there he encountered racism in the South. There was like so many things that were happening in his books that I ended up reading all of them to the best of my knowledge or at all of them.

[00:04:16] (Kevin) Did you turn that stuff on yourself and start thinking about your own life? When, you’re talking about being a good friend or betrayal, because doesn’t that sort of happen to everybody at some point?

[00:04:26] (Bob) Yes. And, you know, I don’t know when and where I’m influenced.

[00:04:30] You know, it’s sort of like I had two very good parents who led me to lead a good life and be a good person and be charitable. And you see movies where characters are saying similar things and teaching those things. You read books where one person is bad and another one is good.

[00:04:49] And I want to be the good kept person. It’s so I don’t know which book I might have read or which message my mom might have given me that told me to stay on the straight and narrow and things.

[00:05:02] But I definitely feel like reading enlivened my imagination and creativity.

[00:05:12] And it made me want to be a better writer because I am really jealous of the really good writers. I see a chair and I say, well, there’s a chair and it’s blue and it has four legs. I’m kind of done talking about the chair. But some of the best writers that I’ve ever read can do, you know, six and a half pages on the chair.

[00:05:31] (Kevin) I’m totally with you because I was telling my dad when I wrote my second book, Follow the Dog Home.

[00:05:38] I looked at his writing, so I married his voice along with my voice and that of my daughter. And just to give an example, I told my dad, when you go to the mailbox, I don’t want you to just say, “I went to the mailbox and then I came back. I want to hear the sound of the door when you open it. I want to hear your voice telling me about the smells, the leaves rustling across the walkway and everything. I want to hear and feel, I want you to describe the texture under your feet, that a squirrel ran across the driveway. And then when you got there, there was so much mail stuffing it. And he’s like, “No, no, no. I just go to the mailbox and I come back.” I’m like, but that’s not good writing.  To me some people say too much is too much.

[00:06:19] But I say… (Bob) I was interested in every word you said about that. (Kevin) So you’re a details guy?  (Bob) You were painting a picture and, yes, it just makes the reading experience more fun. We’re gonna get to the part where they’re, you know, that the robbery took place or the affair happened or something. But as we’re getting to those real plot details and the things that move the story along, I want to enjoy the writing. I want. I want to see what the author is painting, the pictures that are there. My biggest mistake when I make this mistake, I try to avoid it, is reading too fast. You know, just trying to get through the book. And, you know, I’ve got I’ve got an hour and I want to get to Chapter 11 or something like that. Chapter 11, interesting choice, but  I want to just get through it. And so then I’m not taking the time to really enjoy that aspect of it. And that’s why I do return to classical literature.

[00:07:13] There’s a reason why these books are so well regarded because they are outstanding. And so when I read them, I’m more inclined to take my time.  (Kevin) Because you have to.

[00:07:25] (Bob) Yeah. (Kevin) That’s a nice reset and get it back. (Bob) Yeah. (Kevin) And then maybe a book that you’ve struggled with before or you’ve ripped through it and then you can’t remember the detail. (Bob) Right. (Kevin) It might be better to take a second crack at that.

[00:07:36] (Bob) I read Fire and Fury not too long ago because I’m starting to get political in my old age. (Kevin) Who wrote it?  What’s it about? (Kevin) It’s Bob Woodward about the Trump Administration.  And I read it really fast. You could sort of like skim through some of the details about this person’s backstory or their title and stuff. And it’s like so if their title has like five and a half words to get to their name, I would not be able to tell you what their title was because I just went too quickly and stuff.  (Kevin) It’s too much.  (Bob) So that kind of thing. So there are some books that I do that with. I’ll do the same thing with a sports book or something because some of it I’m already pretty familiar with so my assumption is as I’m skipping over some words that they’re just telling the bit that I already know about and things and then if you’re reading about Mickey Mantle, for instance, or something. And but then you get to a part where you go, I don’t know any of this stuff! This is really well done.

[00:08:33] (Kevin) That’s when it’s really good.  That’s the value of reading with the words looking back at you. It’s like “Hey, I knew some of this, but there was a little bit more as I’d peel back some of the layers. (Bob) Right. (Kevin) Our guest today is Bob Halloran sports anchor and reporter with WCVB TV in Boston. He is also an author of a couple of books which will get into White Devil and also Count the Rings.

[00:08:56] We both read the book Tuesdays with Morrie. I read that soon after my mother died on the recommendation of somebody else. And it was one of the most profound books in my life. And I’ll tell you a story. I was in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, about to board an Amtrak, and I was reading it as I was waiting in line, kind of doing the walk along and read at the same time thing.  Sort of how people do with their iPhones now. And a woman stopped me and said, “Wow is that book?” And I said, it’s fabulous. And she said, “Do you think I should read it?” And I said, absolutely. What was what was the genesis behind you reading it?

[00:09:33] (Bob) I think I saw Mitch Albom on television. And then I said, well, let me go read that.

[00:09:40] (Kevin) Wait a minute. Was it Nightline with Ted Koppel that you saw it? I’m going to say yes.  (Kevin) I think it was for me too!

[00:09:46] (Bob) And so I saw him and they were talking and I thought, OK, I want to see what a sportswriter writes when he’s not writing sports. And so I think that might be the reason why I picked it up, because it’s not one that you see in the stores anymore or anything like that. And even in airports, you had to go look for it. And when you were saying earlier that it was one of the most profound books, I stopped and thought for just a couple of minutes and remembered that, yeah, that book is about compassion and empathy and caring. And it made me look in word as to whether or not I have those qualities or not. And it’s also about dying. And I think about that probably more than the average person.

[00:10:31] (Kevin) I think I know where you’re going. You had a health scare. (Bob) Yeah.

[00:10:35] I mean, you know, when I read the book, I wasn’t at that point, but I had already been thinking about dying. My kids know that I’ve told them for years I said, you’re gonna have to take care of me a little bit because I’m going to make it to 93. And then I wonder about whether or not there’s a heaven. And I was raised Catholic and so the brainwashing happened, and like, “Oh, there is a God, there’s a Jesus and there’s a heaven.” Then you get older and you go with some of the things you were telling me when I was in parochial school didn’t really pan out to be true. What else isn’t? And how do you know for sure that there is? And those kinds of things enter my brain all the time. I tell people I’m on the road to atheism and I talk to God about it every day. (Kevin) Are a recovering Catholic?  (Bob) It’s something like that. I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore.

[00:11:26] (Kevin) Did the church scandal have anything to do with that?

[00:11:29] (Bob) Yeah, it certainly did. And and so. And also just science does as well. And the idea that you’re so certain like I am, like I talk about jealousy, I guess about other writers. I’m also jealous of my parents who were absolutely certain in their faith. There is not a doubt in their mind. Even Mother Teresa, they say, had some doubts and things. My parents had no doubts. And so, congratulations to them. I think that’s wonderful. And so they were at peace when they’ve lost family members and they were at peace when my mom passed before my father. They know that there’s this heaven in this wonderful place. It’s great for them. But I’ve got doubts about that.

[00:12:10] (Kevin) That doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you a bad Catholic, because I think that’s the human condition is to doubt what we can’t see. And the definition of faith is to believe what we can’t see. (Bob) Right. (Kevin) And that’s a tough sell for a lot of people. I do it because I was raised that way. I was a cradle Catholic. But I tell people I haven’t had a stitch of Catholic education in my life beyond the CCD programs.

[00:12:34] I didn’t go to Catholic school. My parents went to Catholic schools. They wanted us raised Catholic, but they wanted us going to public schools because of how the church maybe perhaps handled parochial schools, a lot of guilt and threats and this and that. My brothers ended up going to Catholic colleges. In the end, I would argue that I’m the strongest Catholic in the family. Although my dad, who’s a regular listener of the podcast, would say I would say, “How can you be so certain of that?” And I also do it because I don’t want to be wrong. You know, what if it’s all real?

[00:13:08] (Bob) Oh definitely.  I chicken out. I want to say there’s no God, there’s no heaven. But what if? And so I always have to come back to it and kind of hedge my bets and hope that even if God is aware of my doubts, that I’m living the life that they want. I told my kid I’m very honest with them. They were raised Catholic. And I said, so I don’t want it to look inconsistent or hypocritical that I raised you this way. And now I have these doubts and everything because I don’t know if there’s a God and a heaven. But there was a Jesus and he had it right. His message is still the one that you should follow. You should do unto others and you should be charitable and you should be kind, and patient and all that stuff that he taught to, whether or not Jesus is the son of God is something that I’ll find out some day.

[00:13:58] (Kevin) It’s a good roadmap for a way to live.  (Bob) I like him as a role model.  (Kevin) Yeah. OK. I’m with you on that. Bob Halloran is our guest today. Big thanks to Nirvana. Beautiful Cape Cod for sponsoring the program. If you’re looking for a great summer, spring, fall, get away it’s the perfect place for you. Right on the elbow of Cape Cod, situated on a freshwater kettle pond. Incredible fishing hole, crystal clear water, great for fishing. You don’t have to worry about surfing, the sand, and the other things that are swimming in the ocean. There’s nothing in the pond that’s gonna hurt you. You’re going to love doing that as well. The health scare. Can we talk about that?  (Bob) Sure yeah.  (Kevin) What happened to you a couple of years ago?

[00:14:34] (Bob) Three years ago, July 28th, I went to the emergency room, but it actually started on the 22nd. My birthday is the 23rd. So anybody out there wants to get me something. July 22nd, I tried to do as many pushups as my age. So at that time, I was 53. So I’m doing 53 push ups. While I’m doing it I felt a little pop behind my eye, and didn’t think anything of it. I continued doing it and I got to 53 and then I jumped up and looked in the mirror there at the gym to see if I had popped a blood vessel or something. I was fine, didn’t have a headache, no issues. I went to work, got up the next morning and had a pretty bad headache.  So I popped a couple of Advil. Headache doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away for six days. And I continued going to work, going to the gym, doing things. And so on the sixth day, July 28th, Patriots training camp opens. And I’m being made fun of by my colleagues because I’m out there with an umbrella. But the sun was killing me.  So I called my boss and I said, you know, I can do the early hits. I can put a package together. But I have a doctor’s appointment at three o’clock. I really need it because I’ve had a migraine for six days. I don’t know what the problem is. So he’s understanding and that’s what happens. I drive away. And before I can get to my doctor’s office, which is at Milton Hospital, I semi crashed my car because I passed out. I’m on Canton Avenue by Blue Hills and I knew something was happening. And so I kind of pulled over and kind of softly crashed into a bush. So no, no problems with the accident.

[00:16:16] But I’m very fortunate that when they took me to the emergency room, doctor there started to immediately consider it as a brain aneurysm rupture.

[00:16:26] And that’s what it turned out to be, because I sat there and I go, he could have thought that I had sunstroke, that I was dehydrated, that I was hung over, that I had the flu. There are a number of reasons why you might have a headache that I’m under too much stress, because I do know people who are upset with their doctors who didn’t take their headache complaint seriously enough and thought it was stress or something like that. So they do a test and they find out that that’s what I have and they send me to Beth Israel in Boston.  (Kevin) Surgery?  The whole thing?  (Bob) Surgery that day. (Kevin) How close were you?  (Bob) Well, it’s almost 50 percent of the people who have a ruptured brain aneurysm die. Most of them die immediately and many die within the first week. So I didn’t know this when it was happening. Even for some time after, because I thought once I made it to the hospital and through the first surgery that I was in the clear, but they were still pretty worried about me. And then after I left the hospital and after about three weeks and I’m telling my bosses, you know, I’m home, I just need a little bit more time. They want to do another test on me next week, but I should be back soon. And then I drove to Quincy, MA and couldn’t find my way home. And I came home. I told my wife and she said, “OK, we’ll, mentioned it to the doctor. You have an appointment on Monday.” And I said. And so I walked out of her office and passed our bedroom. And I said, I saw shoes on the floor and I go ” Have I always slept on that side of the bed?”  And she said. “Yeah, 14 years.”

[00:17:57] And I’m like, “I don’t see it that way.” And we call the doctor then. (Kevin) So bottom line for me, what happened? Where were you heading?  (Bob) I was clouding up.  Your brain fluid drains every day, naturally.  Because I had the ruptured brain aneurysm and there was bleeding on my brain for six days I got clots where the brain fluid is supposed to filter through. So then they had to do another surgery and that was a pretty significant one. I have video I can share.

[00:18:24] (Kevin) And you’re good now.  (Bob) I’m good now. Don’t I sound good? (Kevin) You do sound good. I didn’t know about the second one. (Bob) Yeah.  I went a little long there.  (Kevin) God bless you. (Bob) So that’s my aneurysm story.

[00:18:37] Now I’m fine. I got back to work in three months and I’ve been very fine ever since. You know, physically.  And if I sneeze, I’m like a dog with a bark collar because that hurts. I have a shunt in my head that vibrates when I sneeze. (Kevin) Oh, my God. (Bob) I have a catheter attached to the shunt that goes into my stomach that allows my brain fluid to drain properly. (Kevin) So you got some new plumbing in the dome and in the body?  (Bob) So the funny part was, too, that while they they they shoot the catheter up through the stomach, or the groin, and instead of coming down from the head. So as they were coming up, they realized I had a hernia and they fixed that while they were doing it, too.  (Kevin) Oh Jeez!  (Bob) So I don’t know if I’m allowed to tell this joke. You’ll let me know. But I thought jeepers, you know, if if I had my head up my ass, they could have also taken care of other issues and stuff.

[00:19:27] (Kevin) You could have a third surgery. We can I can arrange it somehow. Someway. All right. Our guest today is Bob Halloran from WCVB TV, sports reporter and anchor. You’ve written a couple of books.

[00:19:42] One, Count the Rings, which was about?  (Bob) The 10 championships and the unprecedented success of New England sports teams over,  What was it? A 15 year period at that time? And it was a fun book to write. It was not my idea. So I can tell people I thought it was a great idea when it was presented to me. One of my first editors was working for a new publisher and brought it to me and they just wanted to highlight the seasons with a little bit of braggadocio as well. You know, they wanted it written not so much from a reporter’s perspective, but a fan’s perspective. (Kevin) So can you relate to that? Born raised in the Boston area?  (Bob) No. I grew up in New Jersey as a Boston sports fan. My parents were from Malden and Wakefield. But by the time I was born, 6th of seven, we were in New Jersey. So I did grow up as a Red Sox and Bruins fan in particular, not so much the Celtics, because I didn’t care that much about basketball at the time, but those were my teams. (Kevin) And how long you been in Boston?

[00:20:40] (Bob) Moved up here in 1982. To Cape Cod at that time. (Kevin) Where exactly? (Bob) South Yarmouth. By Blue Rock Golf Course. (Kevin) Yeah. You love the Cape?

[00:20:51] (Bob) Yes. When I lived there, I don’t think I appreciated enough. I was like, “How come everybody comes down here? All we have are like t shirt places and miniature golf courses. And you can’t do anything on the beach. You can’t throw a Frisbee, you can’t drink a beer. It’s like aaah what’s this?  But now when I return to the Cape, as soon as I’m going over the bridge, I’m like, I’m so relaxed. I feel so peaceful.

[00:21:09] (Kevin) I know!  That’s the thing.  And that’s what I tell people about Nirvana. It’s just like when you get on Cape Cod, just the land is beautiful and everything about it is. And do you drink beer on the beach?  (Bob) Aaah yeah sometimes.  (Kevin) Yeah, I do, too. Solo cup?  (Bob) Yeah sure.  (Kevin) We’re not fooling anybody are we?  (Bob) What do they think is in that cup?  Lemonade. (Kevin) So when you’re writing Count the Rings and you’ve got 10 championships to write about, are you kind of a little worried that you might be dating yourself based on there might be more championships?  (Bob) Yes. (Kevin) Which happened.  (Bob) Yep, it did.

[00:21:40] And so but my biggest worry writing that book was that people are bigger freaks than I could ever imagine them in terms of their memories and what they know.

[00:21:50] And so while I’m trying to do all the big moments and highlights of a Red Sox season.

[00:21:56] You know.

[00:21:58] What am I leaving out?  What am I gonna get wrong? Am I going to say it was a two-one pitch when it was two-two and someone says aaah gotcha!

[00:22:05] (Kevin) But there’s always somebody like that. (Bob) Oh, yeah. (Kevin) There’s somebody that knows more than you. I know that all the time. (Bob) Right.

[00:22:11] (Kevin) People break news to me some time here and I’m like, “hold on a minute. I’ve been away for about 12 hours.”  (Bob) Right. You show up at the golf course and somebody says, what do you think of that? I’ll tell you when I find out about it. (Kevin) It’s just part of the business. Oh, my gosh.

[00:22:26] (Bob) But I am happy to say about Count the Rings that I sent it to a lot of the real fans. What I did, I went on Twitter and you see the Cup of Chowder fans and the Boston Patriots fans, like diehard Boston diehards and the Patriots.

[00:22:40] So the fan sites of the people who are really avid and rabid fans. I sent them copies so that they might promote it or whatever. I was trying to sell books and everything. But I also wanted to get their reviews and they all came back pretty positive as far as like I didn’t have any gaping holes. Although I’ll tell you that I had sent it in to the publisher and then they edit it and they work and then they send it back to me. And then I do some more edits and the whole bit. And in that process, I had skipped a Patriots game. There was, one of the seasons I had said, you know after they played the Jets, they went to Buffalo, blah, blah. But there was a game in between those two, and so I was always happy to learn that so I could fix it before it went to print.

[00:23:21] (Kevin) So I had a couple of near misses. I actually had a couple of misses in my books. You can’t get it all. (Bob) I know. (Kevin) I think an acceptable thing is, well, punctuation and grammatical errors. Half an error page and you’re good, because most people will never see it. But we know where the bones are buried and it’s it’s painful when it’s brought up to us. (Bob) I wrote another book, White Devil, that didn’t come out too long ago and it’s relatively local. The main character, John Willis, is from Dorchester. And a lot of things happen in Chinatown. (Kevin) Dorchester for the non Boston people is a section of Boston.  (Bob) Yes. Yes. And so and he met up with people in Quincy. And so there’s a lot of like local stuff and landmarks and things. And a friend of mine read the book and thought it was good enough. But he said you know with that scene where they they’re doing.

[00:24:12] (Kevin) Well what’s the premise of it before we get into that?

[00:24:14] Like what was the main character?  (Bob) The logline basically would be a white guy joins a Chinese gang. And so the Chinese gangs are very insular. They don’t like outsiders. They don’t bring anybody into their world. But John, at the age of 16 was invited into the world and he ultimately learned how to speak Chinese and was taught how to extort and steal and threaten and those type. That was, he was bigger than everybody else.

[00:24:44] And so he got the seat at the right hand of the gang leader.

[00:24:52] (Kevin) So he became an interesting part of the gang? (Bob) Yes. (Kevin) And their rackets were burglary, extortion, drugs?

[00:24:59] (Bob) And extortion is a big one, because in the time that I was writing through the early mid to late ’90s, into the early aughts, there was still a lot of that. If you want to open up the business in Chinatown or something, you don’t. And you’re coming from China. You don’t go to a bank for a loan, you go to the people in Chinatown who are gonna loan it to you. And then you have to pay them back exorbitant amount of money and you’re indebted to them forever. (Kevin) So it’s loansharking right?  (Bob) Yes. So John was involved in that for a bit. And he then he branched off on his own and started selling drugs, mostly OxyContin, from Cape Cod to Florida. And that’s what they got him for ultimately. But I’ll wrap up that one other thought I had was that when my friend read it, he said, you know, that drug deal they did at the carwash by Neponset Bridge? He said you had that on the wrong side of the road. All right, fine.

[00:25:58] (Kevin) One little thing will forgive it. Hey, Bob, great talking to you. (Bob) I enjoyed it. Hey, look, anytime you want to come back, just just be a friend. You know, as long as you’re interesting, just keep reading and anything will work.

[00:26:09] Hey, by the way, for a full transcript of my conversation with Bob Halloran and all the books that we talked about, links to the books, all of the information you want, just log on to my Web site at why I read nonfiction.com. It’s all there. Remember, subscribe to the podcast it’s easy and it’s free. And also tell a friend. And I believe that’s about it for Bob Halloran. I’m Kevin Walsh. We’ll see you again next time on why I read non-fiction.

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