After learning of the passing of my friend I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the meaningful impact one person can make in the life of another. Radio is how I met Doc Halliday and so it seems most appropriate to remember him with the voice he taught me how to use. You are welcome to listen in or simply read.
Mentor. Dear friend.
In the last couple of weeks, these are the two terms I’ve used to describe Brian Halliday. While they certainly apply, they also seem woefully inadequate. How can you describe a person who was so incredibly important to your life in just a couple of words that capture the nuance of the thing?
I was 17 when I met Brian. Up to that point, my entire life’s ambition had been to become an Olympic soccer player. But I was just coming back from reconstructive knee surgery and that dream was painfully receding. I’d settled on pursuing a degree in library science because I loved reading and well, what else was going to do with my life?
Until an ordinary Saturday afternoon when I called in to answer a trivia question on Inside Soccer, a local talk show hosted by Brian “The Doc” Halliday and Brian “The Mighty” Quinn. I won.
We listened to a lot of radio growing up and I loved it, but it never occurred to me that I could be on the radio. Or even that radio was something people did to make a living.
That small victory lead to a terrifying invitation: to be a student “guest host” while The Mighty Quinn was on vacation. I was a quiet kid – I barely spoke to people I knew and liked. Speak on the radio to an unknown number of people?! No way! But Brian was persuasive. And he suggested we could talk about the fan website for local women’s pro team that I wanted to promote and my ambition overruled the fear.
I remember walking into the studio at the Clear Channel offices with my brother as a buddy. All the racks of radio gear, blinking lights, knobs and dials. Meeting Wayne, the show’s board op and producer.
That’s it. I was hooked.
I was also pretty terrible on-air. But that didn’t deter Brian from continuing to offer opportunities. First, as a contributing reporter covering the San Diego Spirit. When Inside Soccer moved to a new, an internet-only radio platform, Brian invited me to become the show producer. I spent 5-6 hours of just about every Saturday preparing, engineering Inside Soccer. He suggested I host a regular 20-minute segment on women’s soccer. He even invited me and Carl Hammond to fill in for the entire 4-hour show when both Brian’s were out of town.
He was well regarded for his ability to spot potential in soccer players and I guess that’s what he saw in me: potential. A potential that I could not see for myself. I often wondered how I got so lucky when the next opportunity from Brian arrived.
After I transferred away to finish my bachelors degree, Brian remained a fixture. He called regularly to check in. Asking about my studies, my family, ambitions and just life. “You don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t send food parcels!” was a message I heard often on my voicemail.
He had advice, encouragement, a listening ear, and even words of admonishment when the occasion warranted. Oh, and the teasing. There was no end to his teasing me about basically everything. That was so was needed because I’ve always taken myself and life more seriously than is sometimes healthy. I learned to laugh at myself, how could I not when I had his boisterous, joyful laugh alongside me?
I want to circle back to the admonishment part for a minute. At the time, Brian was one of the few people I could talk to about my relationship with my dad. Dad and I had a really difficult relationship for a couple of decades. I didn’t realize it then, but I had turned my dad into a one-note villain in the story of my life. Brian was the first and only person who pushed back against the way I was characterizing my father. “He’s just a man,” Brian was so kind and gentle when he said those words but I was still angry. How could he not take my side when I had been so hurt? Treated with such injustice? Eventually I came to understand that Brian was right. My father was just a man after all, complicated and messy like everyone else.
In the years since, we’ve gone from cordial to the foundations of a real, meaningful father-daughter relationship. I’m not sure this level of reconciliation would have been possible without fine line Brian was able to navigate in delivering truth with compassion and kindness.
It was Brian who came up with the name Spirit of Tivaevae for my documentary project.
Brian who taught me that I could do great things, if only because he told me that I could and would.
Brian who showed me that I had a voice – a physical voice that could talk to people around the world on the radio. And in the sense that I had something of value to share with that same world.
It seems right to remember my mentor and very dear friend in this way. Sitting behind a microphone in a radio station studio.
“Have fun, be safe, and we’ll see you on the radio,” is how Brian used to close the Inside Soccer newsletter.
So long, Doc Halliday. I’ll see you on the radio.