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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Boomer Esiason Offers Life Lessons

The late Irene Esiason gave her son a nickname that would last a lifetime, but she died long before “Boomer” Esiason became a national figure in sports, and then broadcasting.

“I was seven when my mother passed away from lymphoma,” the Manhasset resident explained in an email interview. “No one is ever prepared to lose a parent. It really turns your life upside down and changes things forever. My mom was the one who made our house a home.”

Mrs. Esiason is also the person who gave Norman Esiason the nickname “Boomer” because “I was constantly kicking while she was pregnant,” he said.

“We were living in East Islip at the time,” Esiason continued. “My dad [Norman] never expected to be working and raising me and my sisters [Robin and Susan, who were teenagers when their mother died]. It was definitely hard, but my dad did an excellent job taking care of us.”

Making things even more challenging for his family was “my mother didn’t have life insurance in place when she passed away,” Esiason said. “Money was definitely tight. Luckily, we had neighbors and relatives to help us out with things while my dad was at work. If there had been life insurance, we could have hired the help we needed to keep the household running and to take care of things my mom would have normally taken care of for the family.”

Our email exchange took place because Esiason is the September 2013 national spokesperson for the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education’s (LIFE) Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM). LIAM is an annual campaign coordinated by LIFE to educate Americans about the importance of life insurance as part of a sound financial plan. One of the things he’s done in this role is filmed public-service announcements. They are being broadcast on TV and radio stations nationwide and can be seen online at www.lifehappens.org

“I was handed a tough life lesson at a very early age, and I thought working with the nonprofit LIFE Foundation would be a way for other families to learn from what I experienced,” he said.

“Life insurance is about providing and protecting the ones you love with a financial safety net should the unexpected happen and you’re not around to provide the support you would have wanted to provide.”

Esiason said he’s already conveyed this message to his own children. His son, Gunnar, just graduated from Boston College and his daughter, Sydney, is 21 years old. Gunnar was born with cystic fibrosis and his father’s charity, the Boomer Esiason Foundation, has raised more than $100 million since its inception to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that adversely impacts a person’s ability to breathe.

Before making a name for himself with these charitable endeavors, Esiason was a star quarterback at the University of Maryland, and then had a distinguished National Football League (NFL) career as the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals.  

He’s had an incredible second act as a broadcaster. Esiason has been an on-air analyst for The NFL Today on CBS since 2002, and co-hosts WFAN’s Boomer and Carton radio program.

“Dan (Marino), Shannon (Sharpe), Coach Cowher (Bill Cowher), JB (James Brown) and I really have a great time talking football every week,” Esiason said about his national TV gig, which airs every Sunday during the NFL season. “Much of the cast and crew have been with the show the whole time I’ve been there, so we’ve become our own little family.”

“I’ve been doing the Boomer and [Craig] Carton show since 2007, so about six years now,” he added. They have drawn upwards of 750,000 listeners to WFAN on weekday mornings, making it one of the highest-rated programs in its 6 to 10 a.m. timeslot.

His workload is heavy, he acknowledged.  “It’s hard to believe, but there are times when I feel like the TV and radio shows I do are more demanding than those Sunday afternoon games.”

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: MFBARRY@optonline.net