The Boomer Esiason Story
I don’t know very much about Boomer Esiason because I’m not a big football fan. I know, one shouldn’t admit that in the final days before Super Bowl Sunday. But I saw an interview on Real Sports the other day about Boomer Esiason, and I can’t get it out of my head.
Boomer Esiason played for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals. Today, he is a NFL commentator and analyst. In the late 1980s, he attended a meeting of the Quarter Back Club of Washington DC to receive an award. The featured speaker that night was Frank Deford, chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. When Deford spoke, Boomer realized that this was not just an awards ceremony. The evening was actually a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
Boomer listened as Deford recounted the story of his daughter Alex who died at the age of 8. Boomer describes the talk as the most moving talk he has ever heard. Frank Deford described one father-daughter moment that had Alex and her daddy (Deford) laughing, and as Alex walked away, she said wouldn’t this have been great, Daddy.
Frank knew what she meant. She was saying that it would have been so wonderful to have a full life as daddy and daughter – all of it – all the years and laughs and special moments. Soon after, Alex became very ill and passed away.
Boomer listened to Deford that night and was so moved by the speech that Boomer asked Deford, “How can I get involved? How can I help?”
Deford told Boomer that he could help by leveraging his celebrity for CF patients. Boomer began helping with fundraisers and often visited the sick children who were hospitalized with CF.
And then, four years later, in 1991, Boomer and his wife had their first child, a son they named Gunnar. One day, Boomer was called to the phone in the middle of practice. He had to get home. It was an emergency. Boomer was on a respirator in Children’s Hospital.
When Esiason arrived at the hospital and was met by the doctor, a nurse was there. Boomer saw the CF on her name tag. He knew instantly that his little boy had the same illness that had taken Deford’s daughter and was claiming the lives of the children he visited in hospitals.
What was the chance of that?
Devastated, Boomer called his father first. And then he called Deford.
The call set the stage for everything that came next. Boomer was all in. This was about his son. From that moment on, every contract he signed had a clause in it that included a donation to the foundation. He worked all hours, didn’t turn down any invitation, lived on five hours’ sleep every night. This was for his son. And Boomer’s fame, his name, his everything was for this son.
I cannot help but see a spiritual reality in this story.
We have a Lord who understands our weakness, who became like us, experiencing everything we experience. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son. He bore our infirmities. Like Gunnar.
His Heavenly Father looks at the Son and pours out everything for that Son. He holds back nothing. Like Boomer.
We are the little ones, languishing in hospitals, scooped up by Boomer and Gunnar and benefiting by so great a love – the love between father and son.
There is another lesson here as well.
Like Boomer Esiason, we have been asked to make this personal. Faith is not just knowledge and hours of volunteerism. It must become real, everything, as powerful as love itself. Everyone who encounters us must walk away, having caught a glimpse of the faith we hold dear – just as anyone who meets Boomer Esiason walks away having had an encounter with the mission of CF. We must throw everything we are – our name, our work, our life – behind the Kingdom of God. When people think of us, they must also immediately think of our story. Our story of life in Christ, that is.
We must have the same kind of zeal for the Kingdom that Boomer has for his son. We are both in this for one reason – there are so many waiting to be saved.
We aren’t just dabbling at this work, like it is something we do. It is who we are – because we love the Son that much.