10 Questions with ... Boomer Esiason
June 19, 2012
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
University of Maryland. Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets. Monday Night Football, analyst, ABC, then Westwood One/Dial Global. WFAN/New York, mornings with Craig Carton.
1. You started doing some broadcasting work while you were still playing. Was broadcasting always part of your plan? How did your move into TV and radio come about?
Well, it was always in the plan, and it started way back in the summer of 1983, when I did a summer internship with WJZâ€“TV in Baltimore When I was still at the University of Maryland, and I was cutting tape for one Gayle Gardner, who was a sports reporter (later at ESPN). Oddly enough, another person who was at the station at the same time was Oprah Winfrey. She was the human interest reporter for WJZ. So, I kind of feel that I got my start and cut my teeth in television way back when.
2. Up until you joined the WFAN morning show, you'd always done play-by-play and commentary. Was the transition to being a host and covering more than just football an easy one or did it take some getting used to? What helped that transition?
I used to do a deal with the station -- in 1993, '94, '95 -- Friday afternoons with (WFAN's) Mike and the Mad Dog as starting quarterback of the New York Jets. Believe me, some of those interviews weren't the easiest to do, given the fact that we were not very good football teams, especially late in 1994 and almost all of 1995. And I was also a contributor on the Imus in the Morning show during the football season. So being exposed to those three characters and listening to how they would do their show and being an active participant in those shows while I was still playing, and subsequently with Imus after I retired, it gave me a really great landscape as to what I could expect when I took this job at WFAN. Those 3 guys were very influential in terms of my getting into radio and understanding what my role and responsibilities would be.
3. Replacing Don Imus at WFAN was a huge task - was there any trepidation on your part that going in there to follow that act (and that controversy) would be difficult, or were you confident that you'd be able to make the show your own?
I was confident that I could do it if I was paired with the right person, and wondering what, exactly, WFAN wanted. Did they want a political/sports show, which Imus was, or did they want a 100% morning show that was going to be built around sports but was going to be entertaining after that? Once they decided what they wanted, I knew that I could do that and I could be good at it as long as I had a very good partner. that's exactly what they did. They paired me with maybe one of the most brilliant radio personalities of our sports time, and that's Craig Carton. He's been great to work with. He made any transition that I had, any trepidation that I might have had, he made all of that go away within two weeks of working together.
4. Craig is a very different personality from you. Do you think he's rubbed off more on you, or you on him?
Oh, I think most people would probably say him on me, because some of my language and my descriptive words have changed over the years because of some of the stuff that I hear come out of his mouth. But in all honesty, Perry, for us, it's about having the respect for one another, to know what we're each good at. I know that Craig is like a double order of Don Rickles. He basically is entertaining people every day for four hours a day, and I'm kind of like the sidekick. I'm the guy who's there to reel him in if he gets a little caught off base, or when he starts making some kind of crazy comments about athletes or, you know, behavior in general on the field or in the locker room. You know, I'm there to add an ounce of credibility and to refute a lot of things that he says. But the good thing about our relationship is that there has not been one time in the five years we've worked together that we have left the studio angry at each other in any way shape or form. We understand what we're doing, we're entertaining people, informing people, but it's not like it's heavy lifting there. It's just two guys who really like each other, who enjoy the sports world, and enjoy entertaining and making people laugh. It's one of the reasons I think we're both so successful.
5. Who have been your mentors, inspirations, and/or influences in the business?
I retired in 1997 and went right into Monday Night Football on ABC and worked with Al Michaels. And one of the reasons I went into that booth is because I had such a great rapport with the producer and director of ABC's Monday night football, Kenny Wolfe and Craig Janoff. The reason I knew them was not only because they covered me when I played football, but also because I worked with them on USA (Network) broadcasts of the World League of American Football in the 1990s and got to know the business and got to know them. Unfortunately for me, there were a lot of things working against the success of Monday night football when I got there, and I was exposed to the very ugly side of the business. But there were people like Craig and Kenny who supported me, there was Joel Hollander, who was the original guy who hired me at WFAN, and then, when he heard that ABC had hired Dennis Miller to do Monday Night Football, asked me if I would be willing to do Monday Night Football national broadcasts on the radio at Westwood One, which I have done since the day he asked me way back when in the early 2000s. The people behind the scenes, and the people at the microphone, who would be people like Howard David, Marv Albert, Jim Nantz, Greg Gumbel, James Brown now, Kevin Harlan. I've worked with some of the greatest people in the business, and they restored my faith in what broadcasting should be all about. I'm sure that I've missed others that sometimes I forget about.
6. Of what are you most proud? (Here, you can certainly plug the foundation)
My greatest achievement in business and in maybe my personal life is really where we've come with my foundation and the fight against cystic fibrosis, raising over $100 million in that fight over the last 18 years. So, everything starts and ends with that, for me, anyway. Trying to make a difference and trying to use the example of my son to inspire others with the disease and also to help us raise money to fight the disease.
In terms of business, what I do, and broadcasting, it's about resiliency. You know, getting fired from the top of the food chain, which is exactly what Monday Night Football was, was a very humbling experience for me, and being able to pick up and restart my career, and now to end up on the number one sports station in America and to have the number one morning show is really quite an accomplishment, considering where I came from. And then, the fact that I've been with CBS since 2002 really has... I take stock in all of that and realize how fortunate I am and how resilient I've been over the years, because there are a lot of times when you might end up losing your job or getting fired, or you might not fit well with other teammates, but that has not been the case with me, and I'm very lucky for that.
7. As a player or as an announcer, what was the single most memorable game in your career? You get to pick only one. Was it Super Bowl XXIII, your first game in the NFL, winning the ACC in your last Maryland home game, the 522-yard game, or something else?
Oh, boy, I'll tell you what, the most memorable game for me probably has to be my final game at the University of Maryland at home in Byrd Stadium against the University of North Carolina, in which the students carried the football players off the field and both teams were ranked in the top 10 -- they were ranked higher than we were -- and we beat them right at the end of the game. You put so much time and effort into playing in high school and, of course, in college because you're not paid for those games, and you play the game at its purest form, because you love it. When you put so much time and effort into something, and you accomplish something so great like we did that day at Byrd Stadium and it happened to be my last home game... you can't go out any better way than that.
522, against the Redskins, that was great, too, because it was Veterans Day, and Gunnar was in the stands at the age of five, so that was pretty cool.
8. How do you prepare for your show? How much of it is watching games, and how much comes from other research or methods?
A lot of it is watching games, and then, of course, reading the comments or listening to interviews after the games. The problem with being a morning talk show host is, you gotta get up at 4:15. A lot of these games don't get over until midnight. So can be quite exhausting, to tell you the truth. The hardest part of the job is to be up on everything that's going on in sports, especially the late-night games.
For me, I'm a fan as well, so I go to a lot of these games, I go to Knicks and Rangers games, and I still do Monday Night Football for Westwood One/Dial Global. So I'm at the games on Monday night and still have to be in the studio on Tuesday morning due to our simulcast with MSG (television, which simulcasts "Boomer and Carton"). it is a full life, to say the least. It's also, truly, a great life because I get to do what, I think, every man would love to do, and that would be to go to these gains, and talk about these games the day after and talk about what's coming up, and talk about football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, you name it. It's such a great job.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _______________.
...5 Hour Energy.
10. What's the best advice you ever got? The worst?
The best advice I ever got was from my dad: "You never quit on anything." There have been many times throughout my athletic career from a young boy to an older man to my broadcasting career where you feel you want to quit on something, and it was sound, sage advice. Never, never quit on anything.
The worst advice I ever got? Hmm. That's a good question, because I've worked with people who've given me some really bad advice, but I don't remember most of it, because once you have a failure in your life, you try to put that behind you and not remember it. I don't think I got that much bad advice in terms of football... I remember a coach saying, when I was with the Jets, that he didn't care about anything but three hours on Sunday, and to me, that was the worst thing that a coach could ever say to a football team, so that would be the worst advice I've ever heard.
The Boomer Esiason Foundation raises funds for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis. Boomer's son Gunnar, who was diagnised with the disease at the age of two, is presently a college student and active. Donate by clicking here.