The great debate was over and it was time for an answer to the question all America has been asking: Is Mike Barnicle an O’Toole? We ask this because the great-great-grandmother’s name was Nora O’Toole, born around 1825 in County Mayo in that little island off the coast of England. You know, the place where Notre Dame plays Navy once in awhile. Nora O’Toole was the mother of Mary Ann Ryan, mother of Kate McNealis, mother of Sara Sweeney, whose son writes this blog.
The Barnicle rumor began about 10 years ago when we discovered, after about 150 years of separation, some O’Toole ladies of vintage, who happened to be originally from Clinton, Mass., which is where Nora O’Toole’s relatives wound up after the famine. Now Clinton is close to Worcester, home to Holy Cross and, at one time, Mike Barnicle. It made some sense then when one of the vintage O’Toole ladies said there was some kind of family relationship to Barnicle.
We figured sooner or later we’d bump into Barnicle and confirm that fact. Our family likes famous relatives, second only to wealthy ones, so along comes Barnicle as part of the “Morning Joe” show on MSNBC. It was at Racks Downtown Eatery + Tavern in Boca Raton’s Mizner Park. And did you know that the restaurant is not even owner Gary Rack’s primary business? The Cardinal Gibbons graduate is in the steel business with a fabricating plant in Boone, N.C., also home to Appalachian State.
Back on topic, the show was in Boca to cover the great debate last night, which if you can believe the people on the show, was a runaway romp for President Obama. And you usually can believe the show – at least people in Washington seem to feel that way. Although MSNBC is roughly the flip side of Fox News, “Morning Joe” makes an effort to listen, and comment intelligently, on both sides of an issue. Joe Scarborough is a former congressman from the Pensacola area and often proclaims himself a conservative Republican, Michael Steele, a frequent member of his posse, is former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Guests come from both sides of the aisle, such as Sen. John McCain, who along with Tom Brokaw and Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a star of today’s event. Brzezinski is no relation to the other co-host, Mika Brzezinski, except her father. They may be the only two people in the free world who can get the spelling of both his names right.
Although the show is heavily political, it lightens up with talk of sports, especially when guests come on with strong regional loyalties. Co-host Willie Geist started in sports broadcasting. It allows important and often partisan guests to come off as regular folks who appear to enjoy themselves as much as the host panel. If today was any example, they aren’t faking a bit, mingling and joking with the audience during commercial timeouts and weather sessions. It was just a lot of fun.
And we finally got to ask Mike Barnicle the question all America wants to know.
“Do you have the name O’Toole in your family history?” we asked.
“No,” he said.
Damn, maybe it was the Ryan side. After all, Pat Ryan once owned a bar in Worcester. We lost track of him in 1884.