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Coffee With: Bob Maxon of NBC Connecticut

By Carl Wiser

Staff Writer

  

Bob Maxon wakes up at 2 a.m.

 

"I used to hit the snooze button twice," he says, "but research shows that's a horrible thing to do to your brain, so now I set it for 2:00 and just jump out of bed. Count to five and get moving."

Bob Maxon at BeanZ in Avon after getting off the air at NBC Connecticut. The orange pocket square is for work zone safety awareness - he paired it with an orange tie for the broadcast. (credit: Carl Wiser)

 

Maxon has been a meteorologist with NBC Connecticut (Channel 30) since 1995, making him one of the longest-tenured broadcasters in the state. That whole time, he's been on mornings, which have gotten earlier over the years. His newscast used to start at 6:00 and run for an hour, but now it begins at 4:30 and runs till 7:00. Here's his schedule:

 

3:45: Meeting to plan the show.

 

4:15: Post the first "Web Weather" on nbcconnecticut.com. "We know that the first thing people are doing when they wake up and the last thing they do before bed is look, so we're going to refresh that video as much as we can, including at 4:15 in the morning."

 

4:30: The newscast begins, with Bob's first look at weather. He shows up with an updated forecast about every 15 minutes until the show ends at 7:00.

 

7:05: Meeting to critique the show. Imagine doing two-and-a-half hours of live TV starting at 4:30 a.m. and right when it ends, someone tells you everything you did wrong. It's standard practice in TV - these are known as "post-mortems." Says Maxon, "I have a tortoise shell on my back, so I have pretty thick skin."

 

7:18: First weather cut-in for the Today show. This is when Al Roker says, "now a look at your local weather." Some stations record these cut-ins, but NBC Connecticut does them live, which lets Bob react to anything Al says and keep the forecasts fresh.

 

7:25: First local news break in the Today show, which includes weather. These repeat every 30 minutes until the show goes off the air at 9:00. The weather cut-ins also run every half hour.

 

9:00: Finally, a break. "That's the first time we get a little breakfast, another cup of coffee."

 

11:00: More local news, with weather rotated among the team of meteorologists.

 

11:30: Bob heads home.

 

Maxon grew up in Oswego, New York, where it snows like crazy. He's the youngest of five kids; his dad was a high school principal and his mom a professor at SUNY Oswego. They instilled in him a love of nature and interest in weather.

 

"They'd take me out to the shore of Lake Ontario where you could see the lake-effect snow coming at us," he says. "We didn't have phones. We looked at nature, and my parents really encouraged me in that way."

 

The dynamic Oswego weather became a form of entertainment. If the wind stopped, it usually meant the snow was falling.

 

"We'd pull back the drapes and you wouldn't be able to see 100 feet out the backyard. You could see the street lights start to disappear, and we knew how heavy the snow was falling. We were all meteorologist wannabes."

 

 Cornell

In high school, Maxon played soccer, basketball and baseball. He considered going to school for physical education, but nature called.

 

"I love math and had great math teachers that made me understand all about calculations," he says. "And I also love science. Nature's always been so important to me. Math and science and nature all came together and I applied to some schools for meteorology and some other colleges for physical education because I love sports and I loved my coaches."

 

Maxon enrolled at Cornell to study meteorology. TV wasn't on his radar.

 

"Cornell is a research-based institution. Carl Sagan spoke at one of my lectures. So when you go to Cornell as a meteorology student, they expect you're going into research and academia. That was the only way in the '80s."

 

Maxon's first broadcasts were sportscasts on the university radio station, WVBR. "I wrote my own copy, got sound bites," he says. "I was like, 'this broadcasting thing is kind of fun.'"

 

Cornell doesn't have a TV station, but nearby Ithaca College does: ICTV, the oldest student-run cable television station in the world. Maxon did weather reports there his junior and senior years during their evening news. It was the scene of a mishap he still remembers.

 

"I walked over to the chroma key where you perform the weather. There was an extension cord there and my feet got tangled up in it, and it became unplugged from the wall. The monitors the weatherman looks at to see where he's standing in respect to the weather maps were off, so I immediately start to perspire uncontrollably. I just look at the camera and go, 'I have nothing.'

 

"In the television business, if you're a director or producer, the three minutes of weather is when you catch up with what you've fallen behind on, so nobody's really paying attention to me except one engineer, who comes flying across the room and realizes what's wrong. But this is after what seems to me like two minutes of me sweating. Years later, I'm at a weather conference and someone who went to Ithaca College said they use that tape to show young broadcasters how not to handle a crisis. I can look back at that and say that was my start. It was one of my first two or three broadcasts ever. It's somewhere in a dusty closet in Ithaca, and it's one of the funnier bloopers. I could win $100,000 on America's Funniest Home Videos. I sweat right through my clothes, kind of like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News."

 

The week before he graduated in 1987, Maxon started at Cable NewsCenter 7, a "shoebox cable station" in Ithaca. The sports director was Karl Ravech, who has been at ESPN since 1993.

 

"I'd take a camera and shoot Ithaca city league softball on a Tuesday night, run back to the station, edit it, give it to the sports guy with a shot sheet, and then go figure out the weather and be ready for the 11:00 news," Maxon says. "Or on a Saturday I'd grab the camera and shoot the Cornell football game. We were a team."

 

Binghamton to Hartford

In early 1988, Maxon moved on to the ABC affiliate in Binghamton, New York. It wasn't exactly glamorous: He worked at Dick's Sporting Goods to make ends meet. After 14 months, he made the leap to WMUR in Manchester, thanks to Ravech.

 

"My dear friend Karl Ravech was also my agent unofficially because he was way more tuned in to job openings and where the next step should be - I was pretty naive," Maxon says. "Karl goes, 'There's a job opening in Manchester, New Hampshire. I know the news director. I called and I set you up an interview.'

 

"That's what friends are for, right? Karl gives me the name, I call him back, and the guy is a really boisterous, screaming-into-the-phone-type news director like you might see in a movie. He goes, 'When can you get up here?'" [See below for Ravech's side of this story and his comments on Maxon.]

 

Bob started at WMUR in April 1989 on their early show, News 9 Daybreak. During his time in Manchester, he met his wife Jacqui, who was a kindergarten teacher.

 

"I went in to speak to the class about puffy clouds and sunshine. I looked across the room and it was the old love at first sight."

 

In 1995, just after turning 30, Maxon got the gig at NBC Connecticut. Many upwardly mobile broadcasters do time in Hartford on their way to bigger cities like Boston or New York, but Bob moved to Simsbury and stayed put.

 

"My wife had a great job, I had a newborn daughter, and that's when you start to grow roots," he says. "These jobs would come and go and I wouldn't even know about them because I had to go change diapers and be a dad."

 

"I'm not a Manhattan guy," he adds. "I'm a golf course, go-for-a-hike-in-the-hills type of guy. I'm totally ecstatic the way the whole thing has worked out."

 

 

Karl Ravech Responds:

Bob and I first met at the small cable station In Ithaca, Cable Newscenter 7. We think the 7 represented the total audience.

 

It was a bunch of young folks, many of us college students chasing a dream and having a blast doing it. We laughed more than we should have been allowed to and bonded over shooting baskets, playing golf and watching soap operas.

 

Bob introduced me to frat parties at Cornell University and the airport restaurant/bar that he worked at. He said he had two jobs in Binghamton, three in Ithaca: student, weatherman, bartender. Fairly certain the airport lost money the nights Max worked, as he was heavy on the pours and light on the bills.

 

For a few years while we were living in Ithaca, we would drive back and forth to Binghamton on dark, winding roads after the 11 p.m. newscasts. We worked at different stations, but those are rides where friends become brothers, and I will never forget them. Not certain how we survived in his tiny metallic-blue Volkswagen Golf.

 

While we lived together in Ithaca, Bob and I were soap opera fans - I think it was The Young And The Restless - and we survived on ramen noodles. Max was the type of person who knew the name of the register workers at the supermarket. Connie became a friend!

 

We golfed frequently in Binghamton, playing En-Joie Golf Club for 12 bucks a round. The same course they played the B.C. Open PGA Tour event on. Nobody has more highs and lows on a golf course than Bob. His game fluctuates between Scott Scheffler and my neighbor Scott Sullivan, who doesn't play golf.

 

We lived through parents' funerals and each other's weddings. Bob was always the life of the party. Constant smile and cold drink in his hand.

 

As for being his de facto agent, I was the "job seeker" and sports jobs were harder to come by than weather jobs. The markets I searched seemed to have openings for meteorologists but never sportscasters. I struck up a relationship with a guy named Myles Resnick, the news director at WMUR in Manchester, New Hampshire. Max was about as interested in job searches as most are in seeking out a root canal, but these gigs kept falling into my lap and I passed them over to him.

 

Forget the job in New Hampshire, his whole life improved when he met his incredible wife, Jacqui. I'll take credit for that, not the other stuff.

 

In the end, he's the absolute best weatherman Connecticut could ask for. Funny, relatable, self-deprecating, accountable and proud of his profession. Plus, who else is willing to go to sleep at 8 p.m. and wake up at 2 a.m. for more than half his life? He practiced that existence during his younger years and came to perfect it.

 

We viewers in Connecticut are so lucky to wake up every day with a friend who has our best interests in mind, delivering the most accurate forecast in a way that is as easy to listen to as a bedtime story. Bob is part of the fabric of Connecticut, and the fact that I have been able to not only watch him the last 30 years but live close to him and see him frequently has made my life so much better.

 

I call him "The Factor" based on the makeup Max Factor. The nickname works because he's such a huge factor not only in my life but everyone who has ever come in contact with him. He's one of one! Love him.

 

 

Weather Models

 At Maxon's first two jobs, he didn't have computer models. Now, there are several to choose from.

 

"The evolution is incredible," he says. "I can look at models and data on my phone. We have so many that it's confusing. When you see Rachel [Frank] at 61 or Mark at Channel 3 or Ryan [Hanrahan] and myself at Channel 30 with different forecasts, it's because we're following different models, and we're pretty transparent about it. With the maps that we use, we can show you the difference between the European and the GFS. That all started with Superstorm Sandy and Al Roker. It was like Inside Baseball, showing the GFS track and the European track. That's transparency like we never used to show. We would pick a model and go with it. Now the spaghetti plot is a whole suite of model data that we show to everybody."

 

This puts a lot of pressure on meteorologists to be right. "The data and forecasts have gotten much more accurate, but so have the expectations," Maxon says. "People expect minute-by-minute perfection."

 

They also expect constant updates that get right to the point. "Prioritizing what you think the viewer needs is a challenge," he says. "In the mornings it's different than the evenings: Get the kids on the bus, get them home safe, will the recess be outside? We're talking to the moms in a lot of cases, even if they're running out the door to the job. They're the ones that are usually taking care of the kids' sweatshirt or winter coat."

 

 

Mornings 

Since April 1989 when he started at WMUR, Maxon has worked mornings. Evenings have a higher profile, but that's not what Bob is after.

 

"In many cases you'd be on the morning and get promoted to the evening, but I've been fortunate enough to work with some people that are great," he says. "And I love mornings. It's great for a family - you're home to help with homework, you're home to get the kids off the bus, which you can't say about the evening shift. So I never wanted to leave mornings.

 

"I wouldn't want it any other way. If I tried to work an evening shift now, I'd be so tired because my rhythms are so different. 9 p.m., my eyes would be sliding shut. And waking people up is a cool responsibility."

 

Bob's weather hero growing up was Bob Sykes, a "wizard of meteorology at SUNY Oswego" who did mornings.

 

"He was on the radio, and when he would come on, the family would go, 'Shhh. Bob Sykes is on.' He would go on for five minutes and would nail it. He would tell you when you have to take your clothes off the line if you wanted to dry your clothes outside. He would tell you when the snow is going to start, when it was going to stop, how much... things we do now he was doing in 1976 before Doppler radar. If people enjoy waking up to me the way I enjoyed waking up to Bob Sykes in the '70s on the radio... funny how life comes full circle."

 

There was also a shift in weather on TV.

 

"It was a time in the '70s when local news was getting more and more traction and meteorologists on TV were looked to to be accurate - it wasn't a comedian doing the weather. These guys were legendary, and I started watching them. It definitely spurred on a love of meteorology in me as a young boy."

 

 

Climate Change in Connecticut

When asked how climate change will affect Connecticut residents, Maxon has two primary concerns:

 

1) Long Island Sound rising and creating more devastating coastal flooding.

 

2) The potential for more active hurricane seasons.

 

"Because of our population density, our infrastructure, the amount of trees we have here, if we had a '38 Special, Long Island Express, if that happened now, it would be absolutely catastrophic," he says, referring to a devastating hurricane from 1938.

 

Regarding the unusually wet weather from the last 16 months, Maxon blames El Nino.

 

"We've been in an El Nino weather pattern, which can be a an epic producer of rainfall around here. The strength of the El Nino has created endless storms. A lot of people are saying that because of climate change we didn't get snow, but that's more about the storm track. There's a misconception that all this rain is pointing at climate change, when it's a bit of everything."

 

 

Getting Caught In The Rain

Even meteorologists sometimes forget to check the weather. Bob tells this story:

 

"A wonderful friend of mine has a really big boat. He called one day and said, 'Hey, let's go to Long Island for lunch.' When someone with a big boat says, 'You want to go to Long Island for lunch?' you never say no.

 

"It was perfectly sunny out. There wasn't a cloud in the sky in Connecticut. I'm looking out in the distance out in central Long Island Sound, and there's this one cloud. So I look at the radar on my phone. There was one rain shower in the entire Northeast from Buffalo to Bangor to Baltimore, and it was over the central Long Island Sound buoy.

 

"So he veers left and we miss it by a couple hundred yards. We got grazed, and his daughter, who was 15 and a typical teenager, said, 'Mr. Maxon, you didn't say it was going to rain!' I deserved every bit of it.

 

"Mother Nature is always in control. That's the first lesson of all meteorology. We're real good, but we're only so good."

 

 

Another Memorable Mishap

"I was in New Hampshire working at the local speedway doing the noontime weather, and the sports guy and I were sitting in these high-top chairs. We were at the top of a little incline, and standing next to me is Rusty Wallace, the famous NASCAR driver, and he's waiting to be interviewed for sports. So I do the weather, we come out to a two-shot, and my chair starts to tip over and I fall straight back. I fall back into this dirty hill and I go tumbling. I'm covered in wires - earpieces and microphones are flying, and I've got Rusty Wallace standing over me laughing his head off."

 

 Bob and his wife Jacqui still live in Simsbury. Their oldest daughter, Katy, graduated from Cornell in 2022 and now lives in New York City. Their other daughter, Marleigh, will be a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder.

 

"Life's changed a lot being an empty nester," says Bob. "I used to come home and have a huge list of to-do things: pick-up from school, dentist appointment, orthodontist, soccer practice... it was endless, but it was awesome. Raising two daughters is the greatest accomplishment of my life, but it was really busy.

 

"I coached soccer in Simsbury for a bunch of years. I was out on the field at 7:00 at night barely making sense. But I'm usually tucked into bed now between 6:30 and 7:30. If I hear Final Jeopardy, I'm in a little bit of trouble."

 


Let's talk over coffee

We met with Bob at BeanZ in Avon, where the staff has memorized his order: mocha latte with skim. We got to know him a little better with these "Coffee With" questions.

  

Maxon with the staff at BeanZ. (credit: Carl Wiser)


What do you like to do when you're not working?

I golf quite a bit. I play golf at Simsbury Farms as much as I can. I play probably too much golf, but I have the freedom to do so now, so it's kind of nice. [Fun fact: Bob is left-handed but golfs right. That's because when he started playing baseball there were no left-handed helmets so he learned to swing right.]

 

I'm a huge sports fan. I love to watch Quinnipiac, Yale, Central Connecticut. I'll go to a soccer game at Central Connecticut because I just love watching sports. We go to Yard Goats games. I haven't been to Hartford Athletic, which drives me crazy because I'm a huge soccer fan. I'm one of those guys who on Sunday morning gets up to watch Manchester United.

 

I'm kind of a deranged Cornell hockey fan. It's a great program, so much fun to watch. In 2020 they were the number one team in the country, then Covid hit and stopped everything. I went to college with the coach. My wife and I will travel to games. We went to Lake Placid for the ECACs this year. I used it as an excuse to get ready for the eclipse, which was two weeks later.

 

I admitted during the eclipse coverage that I'm a bird nerd. I watch and feed birds.

 

 What restaurants in the area do you like?

 We go to Table 570 way too often. We love their sushi. And we go to Amici Grill - there's something cool about the vibe there. Our friend has a pizza place in Granby, New England Pizza, so we go up there and grab dinner once in a while.

 

The Valley is full of great restaurants. Now that we're empty nesters we can do that, although it's the early bird specials because I have to get to bed.

 

 

What are some of your favorite outdoor places to visit in the area?

 I live in the Western part of Simsbury and we hike those trails all the time. We have two great dogs, so we bring them out there.

 

The trails at Penwood State Park I love because less people go to that than, say, Heublein Tower. The Westledge Trails, which are near the Master's School, are as secluded as you can get. It's right behind our house so we go up there all the time.

 

People's State Forest, the reservoir. I have the AllTrails app, so I will find a trail and go. We're into tick season though, so the dogs might have to stay home a little bit because that's become such a problem. We have a Bernese Mountain dog, he's a tick magnet.

 

 

What do you do for exercise?

 I can't run anymore - the knees are beat up. I played a little bit of college soccer and did a lot of running and training, so the knees don't hold up for skiing or running anymore, but I can certainly walk.

 

I was part of a great walking challenge this fall. A friend of mine is battling pancreatic cancer. He challenged all of his friends to walk 66 miles in one month. That is more than I've ever walked. A good walk is four-to-five miles... do that 12 times! That's a lot of walking, but we did it. I got to 68 miles and my wife said I looked slimmer, so I better get walking again.

 

If you really put your mind to it, walks are so beneficial. You put in a good podcast and the next thing you know, you've gone five or six miles. Yesterday I walked five miles on the golf course at Wintonbury Hills in Bloomfield - 11,000 steps. I was doing Army golf: left right left right left, right all over the golf course.

 

 

What TV shows do you like?

There are many options to stream right now, but what time do most people stream? 7 to 11. Well, if I got home from work and was normal person, I'd be streaming from 1 p.m. To 5 p.m. What a waste of time. I can't make myself do it. The sun's out, yard work needs to be done, golf needs to be played...

 

I wait for rainy days to catch up on Curb Your Enthusiasm. My wife and I love the series about Wrexham soccer club. I grew up near a race track, so the Formula One show Drive To Survive immediately got my attention. But instead of doing four hours of binging, I'll take 45 minutes.

 

What's something you'd like to learn?

Flying. Aviation is so weather-dependent, and you're up there in the clouds. But it's an expensive endeavor, and when you start out in television at an age when you might want to get your pilot's license, there's no money to do that.

 

I'm fascinated by everything aviation. If I wasn't a broadcaster, I'd be a teacher. If I wasn't a teacher, I'd be a pilot. The taking off looks really fun, the landing always scares me.

 

 

What wisdom would you give to your younger self?

It sounds very cliché, but if you set goals for yourself, you have to always find the drive to achieve them. Like, why didn't I get a job in Boston? A lot of my friends did. I didn't have the drive to have the resumé tapes ready or make all those phone calls. I had different priorities, which is fine.

 

I had a lot of distractions in that time of my life, one being that my mom died in '88, one year out of college. My dad died when I was just turning 30, so I was pretty distracted. When my dad passed away in '95 it shook me, and I was also meeting my wife at the time.

 

I think most people would say everything happens for a reason, and the success I've had here in Connecticut is just amazing. The longevity. People in TV don't last. Scott Haney and I, Dennis House, Kevin Nathan and Keisha Grant... long-running broadcasters are really hard to come by. They either leave for bigger markets or they leave the business. We're kind of a rare breed, and if you ask all of us, nobody has one regret. It's an amazing place to raise your family. So part of me says, if you have goals you should achieve them, but the wave of the world doesn't work out that way.

 

A day can go by where I'm ticked about that, but then there's years that go by where I'm totally happy about it, and I think that always wins out. If you have a happy, healthy family, a great job, those are the things that are great. A younger me would have been more aggressive but the older me wouldn't have been as happy. That's a weird way of looking at it, but a lot of people get caught up in the profession and lose out on the person. I'm so blessed to have somehow figured it out. A day doesn't go by where I'm not thankful for what I have and whatever the future brings.

 

I'm in my upper 50s, so retirement is down the road some day, but I'm in no rush because I love it too much.

Bob Maxon with his family at a Yard Goats game. (supplied)
At Simsbury Meadows with Nick Sinacori from Beanz for a 2022 concert benefiting Favarh. (credit: David Oliver)
With Jim Calhoun at Wethersfield Country Club in 2015 at a tournament supporting Lendl's Adaptive Sports Camp. Bob says he often plays "Army Golf": left, right, left, right all over the course. (supplied)
Bob Maxon with Taylor Kinzler of CT Live! at Dunkin' Park for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a cause Bob has been part of for 15 years. (supplied)
Bob Maxon at the Special Olympics Winter Games in Windsor 2022, where he was an emcee. He also supports Healing Meals, Gifts of Love, Fidelco, and several other organizations in the area. (supplied)

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