Bobby in Boston: The business of 'Cheers', beers, and the Red Sox

We are Stateside, and learning a lot at the EY CEO Retreat

I rose early on Sunday morning as I was unable to sleep and went for a walk down Newbury Street at 6.30 in the morning. Newbury is a pretty street where all the high profile retail brands are located in Boston.

The shops are mostly 4 story buildings where the basement and first floor levels are split so there is no real ground floor which is not really something you see on most high streets in European cities. It really is a fabulous shopping street which is peppered with restaurants and people living over the retail shops which gives it a great buzz.

One thing that slightly alarmed me was the number of homeless people living on the streets which was far higher than I would have imagined. So the homeless problem is not unique to Ireland but it didn’t make me feel any better about what I saw.

Back to the hotel and a quick bite of breakfast and it was into a lecture by Jonathan Ruane an academic from MIT University who talked about technology and its impact on business. He talked about how society didn’t change much for thousands of years and has changed monumentally in the last 150 years.

He was quite reassuring when it came to working with robots and felt that we would work more alongside robots rather than working for them as “artificial Intelligence” becomes more integrated into technology in the workplace.

Then it was off to Fenway park to catch a Red Sox game something I had last done 35 years ago (1981) when I was on a J1 visa in Boston and Cape Cod.

It was Sunday afternoon at the game and the pre-match atmosphere was electric. Gangs of family’s and groups of people were basking in the sunshine were all evident as people made their way to the ground.

The Red Sox game experience seems to be about arriving at the ground a few hours before the game to soak up the atmosphere and get involved in the pregame party. The food and beverage concessions at the ground were of a very high standard and very busy.

Americans are not shy about spending money at games, and the prices of both food and beverage at Fenway were not cheap. Once the game started the atmosphere seemed a little more subdued. Baseball is a long game with 9 innings taking place and I found it much more sedate than say a good hurling match but it’s good to experience a different sporting occasion in a different country.

We walked from Fenway park back to the hotel (its right in the city centre) having interviewed fans and concession operators at the game.

Back at the hotel it was time to interview our next guest who was Irish man and former UCD philosophy lecturer Richard Kearney who has been living in Boston for the last 15 years. Richard talked about storytelling and that the Irish are a great nation of storytellers who use it as a way to understand ourselves. He talked about Trump and his influence on the American people and the impact of the recent 1916 centenary celebrations on the city.

It was now 5pm and we felt like a beer so where better to go than the original bar “Cheers” which is now a huge tourist attraction within the city. We interviewed the manager Martin who told us what a big influence the comedy series (which ran for 11 years) has had on the city.

After interviewing the manager we had a beer and I bought a “Norm” tee-shirt which had 10 of his best one liners written on the back of it. Cheers is like Faulty Towers or Fr Ted, no matter how many times you see each episode it is still funny.

Our evening was complete with a boat trip on the Charles river which is a beautiful way to see the high rise sky line of Boston as well as the maritime part of the city which has a great history right back to the scenes from the Boston tea party which is often talked about by Bostonians. Having been up for 18 hours it was an early night to try and catch some much need sleep.

Monday 23rd May

Another early awakening, this time at 3.30am as the fire alarm went off in the hotel. It was a false alarm but seeing the two fire engines with their sirens flashing meant I couldn’t go back to sleep so I got up.

Went for my first run in 6 months today and I hadn’t the strength to run when I was sick. I actually managed 7k in the park on Boston common and along the wonderful Charles River. Thanks to John Fardy, Jim Breen & Dr Johnny Walker my running mates for slowing their pace down to allow me keep up. Another milestone on a beautiful Boston morning.

Back to the hotel a quick shower and then a nice walk to the EY offices which are not that far from the hotel.Up on the 23rd floor we had a wonderful view of the city as we listened to the amazing David Thompson of Wicklander-Zulawski & associates who gave a fascinating delivery “from the interrogation room to the board room”. Using techniques used by the FBI and CIA he told us how to interrogate potentially dishonest employees and how to find out if someone was lying to you.

He had videos of everyone from Bill Clinton to OJ Simpson and he really held the room with a great presentation. After the lecture, I got to interview David and you will be able to hear all the interrogation techniques discussed this Saturday on Down To business.

I then interviewed Dr Padraig Maloney a Nano scientist about his work and his life in Boston. He is the son of Chieftains legend Paddy Maloney and was the first undergraduate Irish student to graduate from MIT University. After a career with NASA he now works for Lockheed Martin.

Then it was time to head off to Sam Adams brewery to interview master brewer Jennifer Glanville and take a tour.

This is the brewery founded by Jim Koch back in 1984 (32 years ago) that started the microbrewery revolution. Microbreweries have now 12% of the overall US beer market and Sam Adams have 1% of that 12 which is pretty impressive given the size of the market.

It was nice to drink a beer as I was interviewing Jennifer which makes a change from drinking a coffee during an interview.

Feeling no pain leaving the brewery we got an Uber car back to the hotel and then it was off to 60 state street for dinner. The views from the top floor of this building were again spectacular and we had a lovely dinner as we were welcomed by a host of Boston's political figures.

Back on the bus to the hotel, a swift night cap, and off to the nest for a well-earned kip.