In his blood 

By Tom Waring

As Brendan Sean Sullivan gets ready to release his second novel, he’s hoping to get some of the same positive feedback he received from his first.

Sullivan, 48, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, then came to the United States as a toddler in 1970. His parents settled in Frankford for a bit before raising their children in Summerdale on the 1000 block of Rosalie St., where they still live.
MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

For his first novel, Sullivan wrote Irish Blood, self published in January 2014. The historical fiction thriller centers around American Mick McKenna, whose wife, a photojournalist, is killed on their honeymoon in Belfast in a car bombing in the spring of 1998. Then, some time passes.

“He inexplicably has the need to go back,” Sullivan said.

Mick is taken in by a salt-of-the-earth Irish family, but is soon in the middle of the 800-year-old Irish struggle for peace and freedom. He has to make a big decision, which could derail the signing of the Good Friday Peace Agreement and end any hope for freedom in Northern Ireland.

Irish Blood is available for purchase on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and SulliB1.wordpress.com and for check-out at the Elkins Park Public Library.

Sullivan has written a full first draft screenplay for Irish Blood. A Hollywood producer secured the option rights for a movie, but eventually did not pick up the option.

The book has received more than 50,000 downloads and 227 reviews on amazon.com

The reviewers have given him an average of 4.2 out of 5 stars, numbers similar to famed authors such as James Patterson and Michael Crichton.

“That’s validation for me that it was a really good story. People like it. People with an Irish affiliation really like it,” Sullivan said.

For a couple of hours, the book was the №1 free thriller in the United States on amazon.com

“That was really neat,” Sullivan said.

Kirkus, a book review site, has also given it a thumbs up.

“That’s like gold,” Sullivan said.


Sullivan, who was a fan of George Orwell books when he was younger, attended Laura H. Carnell Elementary School through sixth grade before enrolling at St. Martin of Tours. He graduated from Cardinal Dougherty High School in 1986 and Penn State in 1990.

With a degree in journalism, he figured he’d become the next Jimmy Breslin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper writer.

But he decided to enroll in law school at a time when he and wife Ann had five children under the age of 5. He earned a law degree from Temple and went to work at a big Center City law firm. The pay was good, but the hours were long.

“I was having dinner with my children three times a month,” he said.

Today, he is a lawyer for AIG insurance company, and works from his Elkins Park home. His five kids, including two sets of twins, are now teenagers.

Sullivan began writing Irish Blood a decade before it was published, but had to put it aside because of work and family obligations.

Tuesday nights became his time to write, because that’s when Ann taught CCD classes, and their kids were among the students.

Sullivan picked up right where he left off.

“I’ve never had writer’s block,” he said.

Sullivan likes the character development and action of Irish Blood, and he promises more of the same for Sleeper Cell, which will come out in the spring. He might self publish again, since Amazon makes it so easy.

“My genre is thriller,” he said. “I seem drawn to terrorism and political topics.”

Something else he has going on is a script for a time-travel book that he’s co-written and sent off to Disney.

Sullivan expects to keep on writing.

“I wouldn’t call it a hobby. It’s a career I’m pursuing that I happen to do part time,” he said. “I wish I could do this full time. That would be a dream of mine.” ••

A solemn tale: Brendan Sean Sullivan’s novel, Irish Blood, has received more than 50,000 downloads and 227 reviews on amazon.com. The historical fiction thriller centers around American Mick McKenna, whose wife, a photojournalist, is killed on their honeymoon in Belfast in a car bombing in the spring of 1998. MARIA YOUNG / TIMES PHOTO

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WHY I HAD TO BREAK UP WITH THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (KIND OF)

By Brendan Sean Sullivan.

I’m a huge NFL football fan. But, I have a problem. It’s actually a pretty serious problem which might sound a bit silly to some people. But it’s real. It’s more of a sickness than a problem, really. And I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone. Surely, there are other men out there across the country in other NFL cities just like me, suffering just as I am – even if they don’t see it yet. And I’m willing to bet that there are quite a few women out there who already know that their husbands also have the same NFL football-related sickness that I have.

  

Stresses and Strains


My problem: Watching any Philadelphia Eagles game is so stressful that it is actually pushing me to the brink of insanity!

Sounds like a simple problem, right? It sounds almost like the Monday morning rantings of a fan whose team has lost. But, no. This is different. I’m not saying this because my team lost this week – this loss was no different than hundreds of others I have watched over the years. I’m saying this because I have a sickness and I’ve finally realized it.

I’ve actually been this way for years but I’m only seeing it clearly for the first time now. Somewhere in the back of my head I’ve known for a long time that I had “football issues” but I kept shoving the idea down somewhere into the deep recesses of my mind so I didn’t have to deal with it. I disregarded the idea because I did not want to admit that I am so obsessed with the Eagles winning a Super Bowl that it is almost impossible for me to enjoy a game of football that involves my favorite team. It’s a strain…a chore. Football – the greatest game on earth – has stopped being fun for me and there is something seriously wrong with that. 

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but some time over the last 37 years I became so focused on the my team’s yearly quest to win a Super Bowl that I am now a total mess during any game that isn’t a compete blowout by the Eagles. I yell at the TV like a maniac when they miss a tackle, I scare my family members with my screams of happiness when they score, and I sit there like a powder keg ready to explode again and again with vitriol or joy, play after play after play. Nothing violent mind you – just me hurling loud noises in the direction of a 65-inch electronic device that depicts grown men playing a “game” that is designed to entertain me. The good news is that once it’s over – it’s over and then I just go back to my life and don’t really care much. Until the next time. Because, just like an addict, I come back again and again and again…

During those 60 minutes of playing time (stretched out to an agonizing four hours of viewing time), I am actually clinically INSANE. One popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. In a way, I fit this definition because I have been doing this week in and week out for years. I watch a team that has never won a Super Bowl (while everyone in their division holds multiple titles) and expect good performance and victory every single week.

I’m not sure what was different about this week, but for some reason I finally awoken to the fact that something was wrong with my bizarre, overactive behavior and my unreasonable, unrealistic expectations with regard to this game and this team – “MY” team. Of course, the game and its outcome do not affect my real life at all…I don’t own the team, I don’t work for the team, I don’t gamble on the game, and I still have to go to work the next day whether they win or lose. Hell, I don’t even play fantasy football. But for some reason, I almost inexplicably go crazy for MY team on any given Sunday.

  


A Crazy Relationship

Obviously, being a fan is supposed to be fun. And it is fun for me leading up to the game. I look forward to it all week, I love listening to sports radio especially on the days leading up to big games, and we have our ritual family Eagles Sunday dinner for good luck every week – all in good fun with no stress at all, just like a normal fan. That is, up until game time

My sickness starts to creep in just about an hour or so before the teams take the field. Oddly, I start to get nervous. Why do I get jittery and feel like I have butterflies in my stomach? If I was going to play in the game or had mortgaged the house to cover a bet on the outcome, my jitters might be understandable, but I’m about to just sit in my living room and be entertained. (This should have been my first clue that something was wrong). Immediately after kickoff, it gets worse. I become completely unglued. My blood pressure skyrockets, my weekly pounding “Eagles game headache” grows more painful quarter by quarter, and even if they’re playing well and it’s a great game, I am not really enjoying myself (if I’m being completely honest). I am just 100% stressed out the entire time and I am watching just to see if they make it through with the all important “W” – and, in a way, I’m just trying to make it through myself too, because I really just can’t wait until the clock runs out, all the stress is over, and I can stop watching!

The funny thing is I actually really enjoy watching other teams in the playoffs. When the Eagles don’t make it to the playoffs, of course, it is bittersweet for me but it is somewhat of a relief because all of the pressure releases from my body and I can enjoy football again for what it is meant to be – pure, unadulterated enjoyment. It’s awesome, and fun, and exciting, and normal. I love a great game, and the tighter and more competitive the game is the more I enjoy it. But put MY team in even one close regular season game and I go from zero to sixty in 10 seconds and go out of my friggin’ mind for the next 3 or 4 hours.
 
My Emotional Investment.
 
I’m sick because I don’t enjoy the game, yet I HAVE to watch it. I feel like I don’t even have a choice in the matter. Like it’s my obligation to watch MY team. Their plight has become a quest in MY life. Why? How did I get so invested in the outcome of these games – something that has no real effect on me? 

  

I thought about it for several hours after this week’s game. I struggled with it, trying to come up with an answer. I tossed it around for hours and hours on end and, after a while, I finally realized the reason: In my mind, I want that Super Bowl more than the Eagles owner, Jeffrey Laurie. More than the coach, Chip Kelly. And, even more than some of the most hard nosed players on the team, like Connor Barwin. More importantly, I finally realized that to hold a belief like that is utterly warped!

Psychologically, I know it makes no sense, but for me it’s real. And it’s slowly killing me inside. No one should ever voluntarily put themselves in any position where their stress level gets so high they literally could have a heart attack. One study I read after coming to this realization, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, unsurprisingly, found that cardiac emergencies in “die hard” male sports fans increased to almost triple the normal rate on days when their favorite sports team played. Yet, that is exactly what I risk a minimum of 16 times every year. So, for my own health and wellbeing, something’s got to give…
 
Can We Still Be Friends?

     
    This realization has forced me to make a decision. I am going to take a new approach. I NEED to take a new approach in order to make football fun for me again. I’m going to “pretend” that I don’t care. That they are not MY team. I’m not even going to watch every game – ON PURPOSE. (I can’t even believe I am writing these words since I have probably only missed 3 of the last 600 Eagles games – and even those weren’t voluntary – due to the fact that my obsession started when I was 10 years old). I am still going to root for them, watch some of the games, and even check in on the scores when I’m not watching. But I am no longer going to make an Eagles Super Bowl victory a priority in my life. Because that’s where I realize went off track: A game (that I don’t even play) has become too important to me. And it has, in the true sense of the word, made me “crazy.”

    So, just like that guy who is obsessed with a girl who he knows is bad for him, I have to step back and give our relationship a little space. It’ll be good for us (well, actually, just for me because I’m pretty sure this girl doesn’t even know I exist).

      Brendan Sullivan is an author, lawyer, and former journalist. He recently published his first novel “Irish Blood” which is an historical fiction thriller set in Belfast in the late 1990’s. Brendan lives just outside of Philadelphia with his wife and five children. 

    Why I Cried When Chuck Bednarik Died

    There are two types of criers in the world: people who cry at sad things and people who cry at happy things. I only cry at happy things. So, when Philadelphia Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik died last week and I started to tear up, I was confused. It was not a happy event, I didn’t know the man, I wasn’t alive when he played in the 1960’s, and as my kids always point out: “Dad never cries.” 

    They are right of course – for some reason, it is very rare that I cry, but when I do it’s almost always because of something happy and beautiful. Yet, there I was, eyes filled with tears, about to bawl over the death of an 89 year-old man I’d never even met – utterly confused by my own reaction to the news. 

    I carried around this confusion for a week, thinking about it here and there until yesterday morning when I woke up at 3 am, strangely focused once again on the man they called “Concrete Charlie.” As I twisted and twirled around in the bed like an insomniac, I kept seeing his face and thinking about why his death affected me the way it did. I couldn’t come up with an answer but then I remembered how I cried when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 (I cried just a little bit that day too, but more than enough for my teenaged kids to continue to tease me about it to this very day). 

    Of course, for me, and for hundreds of thousands of championship-starved Philadelphians, it was a happy day – worthy of a tear or two since the city hadn’t won a championship in over 25 years. That night, as the Phillies finally put away the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 5, I jumped so high that my fists hit the ceiling in my living room and my kids grinned in amazement moments afterwards when they caught me wipe away some of the water that had leaked from my eyes as I quietly mumbled to myself, “Oh my God…they did it.”

    I cried that day out of happiness for sure. But not just because my team won. It was because of what it meant to the people in the hard working blue collar city that is Philadelphia. That World Series win meant so much to so many in this town: hard working people, people going through tough times, people living stressful lives, people struggling to make ends meet, people dealing with tough family situations, depression, chronic pain, and a million other things that simply make life just a bit unbearable at times. That win uplifted the entire city. It was palpable; you could feel it in the air and see it on every face in town for months afterwards.

     

    That seasonsal quest for triumph, that elusive brief dance with victory, and the public’s captivation with competitive sports in general, is the ultimate escape for many of us, not just Philadelphians, but for people all over the world as we work our way through the drudgery that daily life can sometimes bring. It is our welcome distraction from reality. We crave it, we love it, and we relish every second of it (win or lose). 

    Thinking about all of that brought me back to Chuck Bednarik. The man epitomized the struggle of the hard-nosed blue collar worker.  He was one of the last “two way” players, those who would stand alone in the middle of the field as the other players on offense and defense rushed on and off the gridiron at change of possession. He was one of the few who battled through all 60 minutes of every brutal game. The Bednarik-led Eagles were the only team to ever defeat the great Vince Lombardi in an NFL Playoff game when they beat the Packers at Franklin Field to win the 1960 NFL Championship. 

    Bednarik got his nickname in part because, in a time when NFL players didn’t even make enough money to quit their day jobs, he worked in the concrete business. But more-so, everyone called him Concrete Charlie because of his grit, his toughness, and his unstoppable desire to do whatever needed to be done to reach his goal. Plainly stated he was tough. He was the real life Rocky Balboa of an older generation.  And I was understandably drawn to him and his life. 

    As I ruminated on this for a while, it finally hit me – just like “The Hit” Bednarik once laid on Frank Gifford that put the NY Giants’ superstar out of football for two years. What hit me was the realization that I didn’t cry that day because I was sad Chuck Bednarik died. I cried because I was happy. I was happy because of my fond recognition that such a man as he had lived, that he was a simple man who stood for something, that he had lived a good long life, and that I had the privilege to get to know him if only by watching old grainy NFL footage and by hearing countless tales of football lore while sitting on barstools and listening to radios. 

    For many like myself, Chuck Bednarik symbolizes the undeterred toughness of the common man and will forever be a part of the wonderful distraction of sports, which in some ethereal way, helps us to get through the tougher parts of our day. And for that I will always remember him and smile. I might even shed another happy tear. 

    Rest in Peace Concrete Charlie. You will be missed but never forgotten. 



    Brendan Sullivan is an author, lawyer, and former journalist. He recently published his first novel “Irish Blood” which is an historical fiction thriller set in Belfast in the late 1990’s. Brendan lives just outside of Philadelphia with his wife and five children. 




    About the Author

    Brendan Sean Sullivan

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    Bio: Brendan Sean Sullivan is an author, lawyer, and former journalist. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and emigrated to the United States in 1970. Brendan attended The Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a BA degree in Journalism. He also received his Juris Doctorate degree from Temple University School of Law. He recently published his first novel “Irish Blood” which is an historical fiction thriller set in Belfast in the late 1990′s. Brendan lives just outside of Philadelphia with his wife and five children.