Boomer Esiason's typical weekday goes like this: Up at 4:15 a.m. at his Manhasset, N.Y., home, into the WFAN studios in Manhattan's West Village by 5:30 to do his 6-to-10 morning radio show, then various assignments for CBS's NFL Today or Westwood One's weekly pregame show. Three nights a week Esiason plays hockey in an adult league on Long Island. He captains his team, plays first-line center and sometimes isn't off the ice until 11:15 p.m. "I backcheck, baby," he says. "I play hard."
Esiason, 50, played 14 seasons in the NFL, and it's been 14 years since his last game. So the logical questions are: After a full day of work and a night of hockey, what hurts? Knees, ankles, shoulders, wrists, neck, back, head? All of the above?
"Nothing," he said last Friday in his WFAN studio chair, during a break in the show he does with prickly cohost Craig Carton. "Nothing hurts. I don't feel sore. It's amazing."
When Esiason, 15 pounds over his playing weight of 235, moves around the studio, he looks a decade younger. He doesn't limp, isn't slow, doesn't walk hunched over. He golfs twice a week in the summer. The only thing that bothers him, he says, is the occasional memory lapse. Sometimes he forgets whether he's eaten pasta or a turkey burger the night before.
December 12, 2011
"Is that because Bruce Smith hit me like a ton of bricks in the chin once and knocked me out?" Esiason says. "Is it because of how much I was hit in 14 years in the NFL? Is it because I didn't get enough sleep last night? Is it because I'm 50? Who knows?"
Yet in attending two of Esiason's radio shows over the past month, I saw no memory loss or other cognitive limitation as he kept up with Carton's breakneck pace. During a show last week Esiason said controversial Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson was creating a locker-room schism.
Carton broke in: "Spell schism."
"S-c-h-i-s-m," Esaison shot back.
Carton pressed the button to take a call. Anthony from Belleville asked about the long odds the Giants faced on Sunday against the unbeaten Packers. "You ever been in a game like that, Boomer?"
"Yeah, I was," Esiason said without hesitation. "It was called Super Bowl XXIII. Nobody gave us a chance. Actually, I was in a lot of these games. I played 14 years. About eight of those we had a shot. The rest of the time you held your breath and just hoped the receivers ran the right way."
Esiason does wonder about the toll football might take but doesn't fret about it. For a guy who played 187 games, was sacked 318 times and suffered three diagnosed concussions, he, like several of his '86 Bengals teammates, seems remarkably unaffected by a long NFL career. "I never had surgery," he says. "I never broke a bone. Was it luck? General toughness? I don't know. I do know I always felt prepared, always felt like I knew where the rush was coming from. I don't expect to live to 150, but I do expect to have a long and pretty normal life."