By Peter Schwartz
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The same thing happens every year, as my family and I settle into our seats just before the pregame ceremonies. The teams are introduced and a large American flag covers the field before the national anthem. Since we started taking him to this game a few years ago, my son Bradley will always lean over to my wife and I and say, “Someday, I’m going to play in this game!”
I expect the same Wednesday night at Hofstra University, when we attend the 22nd annual Empire Challenge, a football game between high school seniors from Long Island and New York City. The Boomer Esiason Foundation will donate proceeds from the event to support local high schools that need money for uniforms, helmets and other equipment such as tackling dummies.
The game also brings attention to a subject that is also near and dear to Esiason’s heart — cystic fibrosis. The former NFL star and Long Island native started his foundation after his son Gunnar was diagnosed with the disease at a young age. Gunnar would go on to play football at Friends Academy and then actually played in the 2009 Empire Challenge sporting his dad’s No. 7.
Esiason never expected his son to play in the game, let alone get the start.
“The way that the New York City kids reacted to him when they stood up before the snap of the first ball, walked across the line of scrimmage and gave him a big hug because all of the kids realized that maybe this game would not have taken place had it not been for his diagnosis of cystic fibrosis,” said Esiason, co-host of WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” morning show.
Known affectionately as the “Boomer Bowl,” the event has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It started as a game that only included Long Island kids, with a contest that pitted Nassau County against Suffolk…