Memory Lane with Team Boomer
Life in the Fast Lane
A reprint from an original piece by Coach GP from November 2008
Honor and Privilege……
It is hard to know where to begin so I guess I will start at the beginning ☺
Taking the train into Manhattan and sporting my brand new Team Boomer Under Armour wardrobe so graciously sent to me by the Boomer Esiason Foundation earlier last week, I was looking forward to spending the day at the Team Boomer booth at the New York Marathon expo.
Arriving around 11am at the booth, I was met there by Michaela, Boomer Esiason’s Executive assistant and her colleague and my new friend, Sean Sultanik ….We were soon joined by my friend and very first contact with BEF, Jerry Cahill. I was extra happy as our neighbors were the ING Miami marathon on one side and the Rock and Roll marathon on the other side hosted by my British friend and terrific New York Emcee, Ian Brooks who is the voice of running in NY including the Emcee of the Millrose Games.
It was great to be next to Miami as I will be there in 2009 for my 7th consecutive year doing TV commentary work and guest speaking. The energy between the three booths was terrific and it was great to see Susie, Kelly and Evelyn who were hosting the Miami booth. It was also great to see Ted Metellus the new ING Miami marathon Race Director.Ted was racing the race the next day and I said Ted, “ Man, you gotta go get some rest” He said ‘I know” and finally bailed out of there !
Team Boomer was raising awareness for the fight against Cystic Fibrosis and recruiting runners for future races. We were handing out so many Team Boomer wrist bands especially to the kids which was awesome….
I was selling autographed copies of Run Tall, Run Easy and RunningBuzz.com donated 100% of the proceeds to Team Boomer and BEF. It was so much fun to be able to help in this way. I saw many friends up there at the expo and made many new friends. It was particularly nice to see my old friend Ron Wayne at the expo. Ron was my first ever contact all those years ago when he was a rep. and would come all the way from Alameda county to the highly competitive summer track meets at Los Gatos California in his Mizuno van. He would sponsor races with Mizuno apparel and shoes and I was fortunate enough to earn a great deal of product through race victories and he finally said “ why don’t you just run for us?” and that is how I came to be associated with Mizuno and still am to the present day. Ron is now way up in the upper echelons of the Mizuno Corporation as the executive in charge of all Expo Operations in the USA.
So as the hours passed by the goodwill was spread by the Team Boomer Team. Some of the local NY Jets fans and Boomer fans would come by the booth and see the posters of Boomer and Gunnar Esiason and would ask in their NY venacular, “ Hey is Boomer coming by the booth?” perhaps hoping for a picture or an autograph. Team Boomer were also inviting folks down to a block party at Mr Dennehy’s in Greenwich Village on marathon day which was to extend into the evening inside the restaurant. One of the owner’s of the restaurant was running for the team. Most importantly at the expo the word about Team Boomer was spreading as this is the first year for this division of the Boomer Esiason Foundation. It is a team that with the great people behind it is guaranteed to grow !
(At this point I must say that Boomer was not on his radio show on Thursday or Friday and he was not able to attend the Refi Rock Halloween party at BB King’s on Thursday night, the proceeds of which will also directly benefit the BEF. He recorded a video that was played at the party and explained that he was sorry not be there but he was in Arizona to spend time with a family member who was ill).
….. so now the clock was about 4.15 on Saturday afternoon, the expo was still hopping but I had to make my way from 10th Avenue down on the lower west side at the Jacob K Javits Center up to where the private Team Boomer pasta dinner was at La Giconda, a small very intimate wonderful restaurant on 53rd street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. I left the JJC and intended to go over to Penn and take the subway up to the east side but I had time, it was a beautiful late afternoon in the fall in the City and the City was vibrant and alive so I decided to walk instead listening to U2 all the way across town on my IPOD traversing Broadway, passing close to Times Square and across Park Avenue. I made my way up 3rd to 53rd street and turned right toward 2nd avenue and located the restaurant. I walked in right on time and there were a few runners along with the Team Boomer/BEF employees and there was Boomer. I knew as a former NFL quarterback he was not going to be small but I was at the same time, taken aback to his stature. He is a solid individual and very tall. He was soon introduced to me and I said “Great to meet you Mr.Esiason at which point he said, “Please call me Boomer.We had a nice chat and he thanked me for our contribution and I was never more proud of the Stingers worldwide to think that in some small way we could help a man and an organization of this magnitude. We chatted about the marathon and about the Mets (as Boomer is a huge Mets fan and I married into a Mets family) and discussed his very busy schedule including his MSG show, his daily radio show on WFAN 660am, his Monday night Football work for Westwood One radio and of course his work with BEF. He was explaining to me that one of the reasons that the BEF has been so successful is because they are able to raise significant funds whilst only having seven or eight full time employees so a very large % of the proceeds go directly to helping in the battle against CF which is fantastic.
I passed on my very best to him about his family member who was ill and he informed me it was his sister and that it was just a mater of time. It was very sad.
It was a private function and as such this tiny little cute restaurant was closed and there was only seating for about 30 people. By now everyone had arrived including BEF dignitaries and many of the Team Boomer runners. I sat on my table next to a great guy, George Torounidis on my left who has two family members with CF and the reason why he chose Team Boomer as his charity of choice. George had sat next to me for quite a few mins before he realized that I was the author of his book and he said “ I wake up next to you every morning on my bedside table” I had a good smile at that ! On my right was Natalie Wainright, a delightfull energetic woman married to Nate Wainwright, a coach with the Kansas City Chiefs who runs the BEF satellite office in KC. Across from me were Alexandra Asihel, a delightful Team Boomer runner and Michaela and Sean. Michaela is Boomer’s executive assistant and Sean works full time for the BEF. Boomer himself was on the next table off to my left chatting with the runners. Jerry Cahill was on the table in front of me with his group of runners. Michaela made a great choice for the location of the dinner. We were treated to a delicious four course meal which really hit the spot ! including some fine Merlot !
Before dessert, Boomer stood up and made a poignant speech and I was so impressed that with his sister being so ill, that he stuck to his commitment to come and have dinner with these fine runners running for his cause. His appearance was so important and so inspiring to them and so well deserved after all of their hard training and hard resourceful fund raising efforts. Boomer taught me a great deal in the few minutes of his speech in regard to not only the operations of the BEF but also about the disease itself. For example I did not know that many suffering with CF need to take nine pills after each meal to help with digestion as this is extremely difficult for people with the disease. I had no idea. These pills are expensive. Boomer brought a smile to our faces when he said that when his son Gunnar was diagnosed with CF (he is now seventeen) life expectancy was not great but the BEF has helped to raise over seventy million dollars and as such Gunnar will not only see high school but he will please God see College, see marriage and parenthood and God willing Grandparent hood. Boomer said that his wife Cheryl right now is just focusing on him getting to a point where she can be a Grandma ! Very cute ☺
What happened next amazed me…. I knew that I was scheduled to say a few words to the group but I NEVER expected that I would be personally introduced by Boomer himself who with good humor made mention that I was much more qualified to help them with any advice on the marathon than he was…
I stood up and thanked Boomer and all the BEF fine folk, that had welcomed me into their family to try and help their cause.
I told the runners that the marathon is about them. It is not about the elite athletes per se. I said that in 1990 after my first marathon, also in NY run in 4.41, my life thanks (to my sister Nicole for challenging me to run the race) would never be the same again and that I could never know that I would return to NY for my 8th marathon in 1996 (2nd NY) and that this time I would run a 2.42 before running 2.34 two years later. I implored them that this was the start of an unknown wonderful journey and that some may ‘call it a day’ after the race with ‘Mission Accomplished’ having done great work to raise money for CF and some would continue on a magical journey where the end of the road is mystery and that the only thing that mattered was that they take the journey as far as their DNA would allow them to go. That is all that matters; to try and take it as far as you can safely and enjoyably go. That with the exception of professional athletes and Olympians that most of us once out of high school and college rarely have the opportunity to stretch our physical and mental boundaries ‘Beyond Presumed Limits’!
I told them that they will experience difficulty in the race which is normal in a marathon but that the heroism of helping others less fortunate than themselves, in this case the folks who have CF) will drive them on during those tough moments and that they must finish; this is what their sponsors contracted them to do- to finish the race and I, on behalf of the worldwide Stingers who contributed to enable them all to have a copy of Run Tall, Run Easy to help them on their way, wished them God Speed and Good luck. My final words had to do with what I always say, one needs to do and that is to Declare Ones Intent and before I could reverse the situation, I committed to coming out of marathon retirement and to running the NY marathon in 2009 on behalf of Team Boomer, which will be 19 years since the race changed the course of my life !
At that point Jerry Cahill who suffers with CF informed the group about the BEF Exercise for Life Athletic Scholarship program. Exercise is critical for the CF patient.The Athletic Scholarship will be awarded annually to two high school senior scholar-athletes (one male and one female) who are living with CF. This scholarship is partly funded by Team Boomer.
At the conclusion of Jerry’s speech, signed Boomer footballs were handed out to each Team member including yours truly (and I am thrilled with mine) followed by a one on one photo with the signed football and with Boomer himself. Then we then took a couple of Team photos, one of which I am going to link to here and that was the conclusion of a wonderful evening.
During the meal I had occasion to chat with Boomer about my son Sam who was born with his right arm only formed to his elbow and I was telling him about how accomplished he was at aged four in the things he can do and how he adapts and I was so impressed and grateful to Boomer for genuinely being interested and asking questions about Sam and I said that I would love for him to meet Sam one day and he said that we must come to one of their BEF family functions and I said we would be delighted ! I am so proud of Sam, as I am of both my sons.
I had one last honor of signing a copy of Run Tall, Run Easy to Boomer and Gunnar and his family and wished them peace and health !
I left, walked up the street chatting with George and as we reached the cross roads to go our different ways I wished him the very best of luck in his first marathon and turned away into the night turning my U2 back on and walking across Manhattan back to Penn Station,energized by the beat of the City with a warm glow inside from the great feelings that I felt from this evening’s events and how happy I was that RunningBuzz had reached out to help Team Boomer and the Boomer Esiason Foundation.