BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Boomer Esiason was too big for Cincinnati. He is too big for sports. He is too plugged in in too many places to be confined to pithy comments on the three-step drop. His talents scream for a larger stage.
The Boomer Esiason on this ABC publicity photo looks like he came right out of GQ.
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Monday Night Football is a nice forum, but Norman Julius Esiason deserves something more along the lines of The Truman Show. He should be kept in front of the cameras 24 hours a day -- at gunpoint, if necessary -- so that America misses nothing that is hot, hip or happening.
Call your cable company today and tell them how much you want The Boomer Channel. Operators are sure to be standing by.
The Cincinnati Bengals' retired quarterback is riding into the sunset in a stretch limousine. He has displaced the dreary Frank Gifford on the National Football League's prime-time showcase, and has also agreed to lend his glitz to the Miss America pageant. Difficult as it is for a man to be overexposed at a contest devoted to cleavage, Boomer Esiason is putting his nascent broadcast career at considerable risk.
He must be pleasant without being patronizing, and spontaneous without seeming sexist. The Miss America pageant is one year younger than the 19th Amendment, which provided women the right to vote, and the boundaries of correct behavior are more rigid now than they were in 1921. (Rule No. 1: An emcee must be sure to maintain eye contact during the swimsuit competition).
To a man who has spent most of his life in locker rooms, the Miss America gig could be a minefield.
"I don't know how they got this past Cheryl (Esiason)," Bengals coach Bruce Coslet joked Tuesday.
A man on the move
Part of Boomer Esiason's charm is that he tends to act on impulse when prudence might dictate a different course. He was the glamorous quarterback who dared to stage a sit-in in the path of a bus during the 1987 NFL strike. Ten years later, pressed into action in Indianapolis, Esiason sprung Corey Dillon for a touchdown with a head-first roll block.
He responds while others reflect. He dares while others deliberate. He is so charming, earnest and funny that he could make Miss Congeniality seem a shrew.
Cincinnati could not expect to hold such a personality. It could only hope to contain him.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he owned a team or had a couple of big corporations (in 10 years)," Coslet said. "He's got a lot of contacts. He's very personable. He deals with people well. And I think he likes challenges -- seeing if he can do things other people couldn't."
Boomer Esiason is so well connected, he probably has Bill Gates on speed dial. When he played for the Bengals, reporters would bounce rumors off him before lunch, and return to find Boomer had pinned down the facts with one phone call. When he vowed to become the worst enemy of cystic fibrosis, the disease which afflicts his son, Gunnar, it was not an idle boast but the rallying cry of a man who knew all about networking long before he went to work for ABC.
Ideally, Boomer Esiason would have finished the job with the Bengals before abandoning football for the relative safety of the broadcast booth. He would have capped last season's sweet comeback story with a triumphant encore, chasing the Super Bowl ring Joe Montana denied him in 1989.
But a peculiar problem of the Bengals franchise has been the tendency to sign star-quality players who could function beyond the narrow confines of the playing field. Tommy Casanova and Mike Reid, two of the team's early stars, quit football before they were forced to in order to pursue careers in medicine and music.
If Boomer Esiason's exit seems premature, it is only because he has found attractive alternatives to getting his brain scrambled on Sundays.
"I don't know how many young boys grow up wanting to be the next Bert Parks," Bengals owner Mike Brown said Tuesday.
Whatever that number, there are fewer men who would choose to be chased by Dana Stubblefield when they could chat with Miss America. It's nice work, if you can get it.
Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Esiason would've stayed for O'Donnell's deal