Boomer Esiason: A man for all seasons

Former NFL quarterback plays for good causes

Boomer Esiason

Photo courtesy of Ft. Hamilton
An advertisement for the upcoming charity softball game features Boomer (left) and co-host Gio.

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Boomer Esiason’s notoriety began as an NFL quarterback, where he had a 14-year run (1984-97) playing with the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals. He received many accolades, including the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in 1988, and broke many records as a left-handed quarterback.

Hailing from Scandinavian roots, Norman Julius Esiason was born and raised in East Islip, Long Island, N.Y. In utero, his mother named him Boomer because of his continuous kicking. Unfortunately, he lost her when he was only 7. His father remained a widower, raising him and his two sisters.

“I believe that my dad invested his life from that point to my life,” Esiason told me. “It’s because of his dedication to me that I’ve had the success I’ve enjoyed. His father was Norwegian, and his mother was Swedish. I believe those backgrounds made him into the great man he was.”

Before his NFL career, Esiason played college football for the University of Maryland, the only school that offered him a scholarship. He thrived, setting 17 school records and twice achieving honorable mention All-American recognition.

After leaving the NFL, Esiason parlayed his knowledge and experience into a successful career as a sports commentator and analyst on network programming including HBO, Westwood One, ABS, the NFL Today, CBS Sports, and Inside the NFL on Showtime. For nearly 12 years, he has co-hosted New York’s popular WFAN Sports Radio Show now known as “Boomer and Gio” (Gio is Gregg Giannotti, who has co-hosted the show for the last two years; before that his co-host was Craig Carton).

Boomer Esiason

Photo: (Staff Sgt Kristi Machado / USAF / Wikimeida Commons
Boomer Esiason on NFL Today Super Bowl XLI pre-game show in Miami on Feb. 4, 2007.

Esiason has also tried his hand at acting; he’s been featured in more than 25 commercials, as well as TV shows and films. Readers may be surprised to learn that he has even written two books: one for children, A Boy Named Boomer, and a novel, Toss, co-authored with Lowell Cauffiel.

But, believe it or not, there is more to Boomer even than sports, broadcasting, acting, and writing. He has also been an avid philanthropist throughout his adulthood.

In 1993, his son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Finding a cure, as well as easing the pain for those living with this disease, became a priority for Esiason. In 1994, he created the Boomer Esiason Foundation, with the mission to create: “a dynamic partnership of leaders in the medical and business communities, joining with a committed core of volunteers, to heighten awareness, education and quality of life for those affected by cystic fibrosis, while providing financial support to research aimed at finding a cure.”

Esiason is very proud of the foundation’s work. “We have been fighting cystic fibrosis for over 25 years,, and we are proud of our contributions to the CF community. From the creation of three different CF centers named after my son, Gunnar, to the millions invested in drug research, and to the millions given to CF patients for college scholarships and the lung transplant grants. I feel extremely grateful to all who have supported us and for those we’ve made a difference for.”

In 1995, Boomer Esiason received the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his play and community service.

Recently, I noticed that Boomer and Gio were scheduled to play a celebrity softball game on June 5, at the Fort Hamilton Army Base. His softball team—Boomer and Gio All-Stars—has been composed of those involved in the WFAN radio show, including a makeup artist, as well as celebrity sports folks from baseball and ice hockey. The funds raised by these games are used to support various charities.

“We were contacted by the base to see if we had any interest in playing a game on the base. With our respect and support for the military, we thought it would be another opportunity for us to promote the sacrifices that our military families make. We are proud to play them,” said Esiason.

It is not the first time Boomer Esiason has been to Bay Ridge. Several years ago, he was the honorary marshal for the Syttende Mai parade. “It’s great to get the opportunity to play on the base and to remember my time as grand marshal,” he said.

After doing some research, I also learned that this would be his third year playing against the Fort Hamilton All-Stars. Last year, his team won 17-12.

This year’s game at Fort Hamilton was earmarked for Wounded Warriors. Unfortunately, it was postponed due to the weather and rescheduled for July 10. It is open and free to the public. But one must preregister and bring proper identification.

Boomer Esiason credits a lot of who he is to his father: “I think it was the way I was raised. My father was a first- generation American, who fought in WWII. He never ever complained or spoke of it. He was as unselfish and dedicated a person one could ever meet,” he said. Like father like son.

Esiason’s dedication both on and off the field speaks for itself. He truly is a man for all seasons.

This article originally appeared in the June 28, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Victoria Hofmo

Victoria Hofmo was born, raised, and still lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the historical heart of Norwegian New York. She is 3/4 Scandinavian: 1/2 Norwegian and 1/4 Danish/Swedish. Self-employed, she runs an out-of-school-time program that articulates learning through the arts. Hofmo is an advocate for arts and culture, education, and the preservation of the built and natural environment of her hometown, with a love for most things Scandinavian.