Boomer & Gunnar
Producer: Nick Dolin
In spring 1993, Norman "Boomer" Esiason's life changed forever. While attending a mini-camp for his new team, the New York Jets, Esiason received a call from his wife telling him that their chronically ill son, Gunnar, had been admitted to the hospital and was on a respirator. Following a diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, Esiason made two calls: first to his father in his hometown on Long Island, and the second to journalist Frank Deford, who had endured his own daughter Alex's death from cystic fibrosis when she was eight years old.
At the time, the nine-year NFL veteran and former league MVP considered retiring to spend more time with Gunnar and the rest of his family. Instead, the four-time Pro Bowler decided to use his high profile to establish a foundation to fight the disease by raising money and awareness. Twenty years later, the 52-year-old remains a visible presence in the sports community as a drive-time radio host on WFAN in New York, an NFL analyst on Sundays for CBS, and a "Monday Night Football" radio broadcaster for Westwood One, while 22-year-old Gunnar recently graduated from college. In this REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated segment, correspondent Frank Deford sits down with Esiason to learn more about his years fighting the good fight against cystic fibrosis, the Boomer Esiason Foundation's massive success in raising more than $100 million dollars, and the inspiring bond the two men share as fathers.