Documenting an NFL Dynasty with Bob Halloran

During his 19 years working WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston, the New England Patriots have been a central part of Bob Halloran’s career, as he had a front-row seat to watch the combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady win five of their six Super Bowl titles. However, an unexpected health scare stole the spotlight in the summer of 2016, seven months before Super Bowl 51.

On July 22, 2016, one day after celebrating his 53rd birthday, Halloran decided to attempt 63 pushups at his local gym. Unfortunately, he was only able to complete 10 or 11 before he felt a “pop” behind his right eye.

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 50% of cases with ruptured aneurysms are fatal. Photo provided by Bob Halloran.

Unbeknownst to him, Halloran had suffered a brain aneurysm. He assumed that it was just a migraine and decided to continue working. Six days later, as the pain began to increasingly worsen, Holloran was scheduled to have a doctor’s appointment to address the pain, but never made it to the appointment.

After leaving Gillette Stadium after shooting a sports segment for the first day of training camp, he pulled off Route 138 in Canton, Massachusetts to purchase an egg sandwich and coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Shortly after leaving the parking lot, he began to lose consciousness and eventually crashed into a large bush on the side of the road.

Halloran was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton in Milton, Massachusetts where a CAT scan confirmed his diagnosis before being transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital for further treatment.

“He doesn’t remember a lot of his time in ICU, which actually is a blessing, because I wouldn’t want him to remember that horrible pain,” said Eileen Curran, Bob Halloran’s wife.

After just 13 weeks recovering, Halloran returned to work at WCVB-TV Channel 5 on November 1. He proceeded to cover the final six home games for the Patriots and join his colleague Mike Lynch for postgame coverage of the Patriots’ 28-3 comeback victory in Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Halloran called it the “greatest game I’ve ever seen,” in postgame coverage for Channel 5 Boston. New England erased a 25 point second-half deficit, which is the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.

“I remember Lynchie saying in postgame coverage that it was nice to have me come full circle: aneurysm when camp opened and now at the Super Bowl,” said Halloran. “I remember worrying about whether I could handle the workload and lack of sleep of a super bowl week, and I was happy when it was over that it went well.”

The Patriots finished with 17 playoffs appearances, reaching nine Super Bowls and 13 AFC Championship games in 20 seasons under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. When looking back at his time covering the team, his most memorable postseason contest to cover came at the end of the 2007 season, where the Patriots finished with a perfect 16-0 regular-season record.

To wrap up their perfect season, the Patriots defeated the New York Giants 38-35 in a Week 17 victory. Tom Brady faced a 28-16 third-quarter deficit before New England’s offense came storming back, outscoring New York 15-7 in the fourth quarter to finish off a perfect season.

In their Super Bowl rematch six weeks later, the Giants held New England to just 14 points. Keep in mind, this was the same record-setting offense that outscored teams by 316 points in the regular season.

“Covering a team that wins the Super Bowl is easy,” said Mike Lynch, a sports correspondent for WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston. “All you have to do is look to your left and your right and there’s somebody to interview because everyone is so happy. The toughest part is covering a team that loses the Super Bowl and Bob’s coverage of the Patriots that night had no equal.”

This game reminded Halloran of the 2001 season, when the Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams twice, including in Super Bowl 36. The Rams won their week 10 matchup in Foxborough, but Halloran recalls Hall of Fame Cornerback Ty Law’s bold statement:

“We can look at this game and learn from it, but I think we can also look at this game and say we can play with anybody.”

Both the 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants were 14-point underdogs heading into their respective matchups and were facing the league MVP in their rematch. Instead, both teams featured plenty of the drama that Halloran enjoys watching, with their final drives ending game-winning scores with under a minute left in the fourth quarter.

Halloran provides a more in-depth look at 10 sports championships in New England between 2001 and 2016, including the Patriots’ first five Super Bowl wins, in his book called Count the Rings!: Inside Boston’s Wicked Awesome Reign as the City of Champions.

With 9:44 left in the third quarter of Super Bowl 51, the Atlanta Falcons had a 99.6 percent chance to win the game, according to the Washington Post. Photo by Bob Halloran.

“Bob’s best quality is his creativity,” said Curran. “He doesn’t just say – The Red Sox and Yankees play at Fenway tonight – he researches to find something unusual or distinctive about the matchup or a particular player that night, then he crafts a very creative story about it.”

Halloran began his sports journalism career at Washington & Lee University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1985. He was one of only 20 journalism majors in his graduating class that pursued a career in journalism.

“I think it is extremely important that you are driven into this business with a passion because I’ve told other young people, if you only like it, you will hate it because it is terrible hours, terrible pay, terrible pressure to produce every day and (you have) to be on top of your A-game at all times,” said Halloran. “You can never fail.”

While working in Providence, he would cover everything from the Providence Bruins to the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. However, due to an hour-long commute and having a growing family, he decided to work at Boston 25 News and that opened the door for working at ESPN, before finding his way to WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston.

“Working with Bob is a breeze,” said WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Producer Samantha D’Orsi. “As his producer, I can always count on him to turn content efficiently and on time. He comes to work ready to go and has a backup plan for every story idea. He’s always where he needs to be, when he needs to be there – and believe me that’s half the battle in this industry.”

In 2020, sports anchors across the country faced a different challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way all aspects of society were able to function. In the early days of the pandemic, reporters at Channel 5 were simply documenting how teams across the country were responding to the virus and providing updates as they become available.

This included completing all of his player interviews through Zoom instead of in person, which Halloran is still doing to this day. All of the quotes that he would place in the stories he produced would be taken from live feeds of press conferences provided by the New England Patriots on their YouTube channel and team website.

Halloran was particularly disappointed with the missed opportunity to form a personal relationship with players he was interviewing because he could only ask questions over Zoom.

One example of this was his virtual press conferences with QB Cam Newton during his one year with the Patriots:

“It’s very strange that I never met Cam Newton,” said Halloran. “He’s a huge personality. He loved working with the media. And he was here for over a year. Yet, I was never in the same room with him. So, while I was part of several group interview sessions with him, he would have no idea who I am. I don’t get close to any players, but I’m around them so often, that they know who I am and may use my name in response to a question.”

To help protect their reporters in the field and in-studio, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston implemented the following changes:

  • Reporters and photographers must travel in separate cars to cover the stories they are assigned.
  • Photographers must travel in separate cars from their reporters.
  • Masks are required when interviewing players at podiums.
  • A second control room was built to help maintain social distancing policies put in place by the CDC.

“Despite the challenges young and not-so-young journalists face in our industry, the foundation for doing our job remains the same,” said Sherrod Blakely, a lecturer at Boston University’s Department of Journalism. “We are storytellers; it’s that simple. As long as that remains the focus, all the other issues and challenges will work themselves out.”

Despite the hurdles to building a “real connection” between reporters and the players and coaches they interview, Halloran shares one final piece of advice for all journalists:

“Ask a lot of questions. That’s probably the best way to become familiar with the players and coaches. They’ll recognize the familiar voice, notice the familiar face, and they’ll know if the reporter is someone who’s done their homework.”

Tune in weeknights at 6 pm on WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston for Halloran’s latest sports segment. Follow him on Twitter @BobWCVB to find his latest opinions on the latest New England sports news.

Bob Halloran’s Birthday Brain Aneurysm  

On July 22, 2016, Bob Halloran was one day away from celebrating his 53rd birthday. Each year he celebrates his birthday by completing the number of pushups that matched his age.  

Halloran decided to push himself to do 63 pushups that day. He recalls getting to 10 or 11 pushups when he felt a “pop” behind his right eye. He recalls not feeling any pain in the immediate aftermath but noticed a headache developing the next day. He assumed it was just a migraine and continued going to work as a Sports Anchor/Reporter at WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston. 

“I come from a family of nurses and I said to him, ‘You should go to the doctor, that could have been an aneurysm,’” said Eileen Curran, Bob Halloran’s wife. “Bob said he felt fine.” 

The headache became increasingly worse as time went on and eventually caused him to stay up all night. This led him to schedule a doctor’s appointment on July 28.  

Before he could arrive at the appointment, Halloran drove to the first day of New England Patriots’ training camp to film a news package for WCVB-TV Channel 5. After completing the midday live report and package for the evening newscast, he hopped in the car to head to his appointment. 

Unfortunately, Halloran never made it to his appointment. He pulled off Route 138 in Canton, Massachusetts to stop at a Dunkin Donuts for an egg sandwich and coffee. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he started to pass out and eventually drove off the road into a large bush. He is unsure how long he was unconscious, but when he regained consciousness, he was surrounded by EMTs and an unknown bystander who had brought him an ice-cold bottle of water. 

“I’m an idiot who doesn’t know anything about aneurysms and when I had this really bad headache, which I don’t get headaches, I should have listened to my body and not waited five or six days to respond,” said Halloran. “I should have been to the hospital much more quickly and maybe that would have had even better results for me. Or I just got really lucky that, even though I wasn’t smart and proactive, things worked out.” 

Halloran was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton in Milton, Massachusetts. A CAT scan confirmed that Halloran had suffered a brain aneurysm. Dr. John Mahoney, recommended that Halloran should be transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. 

“The thing that kept going through my head while driving to the hospital was – he was conscious — that’s a good sign and I need to get him into Boston, as Milton Hospital is a community hospital,” said Curran. 

Dr. Mahoney recommended Beth Israel because Dr. Chris Ogilvy,  the Director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Brain Aneurysm Institute was one of the “top doctors” in the world. Dr. Ogilvy concluded that the initial “pop” behind Halloran’s right eye, was a small tear instead of a complete rupture of the aneurysm. The complete rupture happened on July 28.  

His wife recalls the first two and half weeks in hospital being “grueling” as Halloran was in the ICU, where doctors inserted a pump into his head to drain liquid that was building up inside of his brain.  

“He doesn’t remember a lot of his time in ICU, which actually is a blessing, because I wouldn’t want him to remember that horrible pain,” said Curran. 
 

On November 1, Halloran returned to WCVB-TV Channel 5 after 13 weeks recovering. In an exclusive interview EMass Sports, Bob Halloran explains his motivation for returning and what he learned from his time in the hospital. 

“This could happen to anyone so I would say to everyone – if you have a horrible, excruciatingly painful headache – go see your doctor,” said Curran. “If your doctor says it’s stress or a migraine, go see someone else. You need to get a CT scan – it could save your life.” 

According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 1 in 50 people have an unruptured brain aneurysm. In addition, Halloran wanted to remind everyone that 50% of cases with ruptured aneurysms are fatal. 

“People who suddenly have a headache like they never had before should recognize this is a serious issue and get to a hospital as quickly as possible,” said Halloran.