This afternoon at Sun Life Stadium, a new decade began in proper form thanks to his son, Michael, and wife, Bonnie. The 11th year of the weekly luncheon kicked off on September 6 inside the Sun Life Stadium Club Level in Mandich’s memory with former Dolphins Kim Bokamper and Joe Rose occupying “Mad Dog’s familiar place as the hosts on stage.
Despite the change of venue from Shula’s in Miami Lakes, every effort was given to maintain the aura Mandich created each week. Dolphins quarterback
“I think everything went well but we’ll tweak a few things. I already have my list,” Bonnie Mandich said. “I think Jim’s here right now and I told Joe and Bo that earlier, that he’s looking down making sure everything was going okay and that we’re not making a fool out of ourselves. I think he’d be proud and we hope this will keep going for at least another 10 years.”
Anyone who was concerned that the light-hearted atmosphere might go away in the new location was quickly reassured when Bokamper dropped the first profanity about one minute into the program. He and Rose kept the jokes coming as the guests came on stage, drawing chuckles from Henne and his wife Brittany.
There was a special moment in between Zagaki’s appearance and Henne’s that resonated with the crowd. Bonnie Mandich was brought on stage with Bill Fauerbach, Vice President of Retail Operations for Publix Supermarkets and he presented her with a $15,000 check.
Both Zagaki and Henne fielded questions from Bokamper and Rose for about 15 minutes apiece, and Rose even got Brittany Henne involved. She admitted how tough it can be for the quarterback’s wife sitting in the stands and said she has left some games crying, adding that “Chad gets paid to handle this stuff, I don’t.” All the while, Michael Mandich observed from the back with a nervous smile.
“It was a little weird and I had a really tough time sleeping last night,” Michael Mandich said. “I was just thinking about how many things could either go wrong or what were people going to think about the new venue. There were just a million thoughts going through my mind, but the show goes on as they say and I think Joe Rose and Kim Bokamper are going to do a great job. We’re really excited about this season.”
Henne immediately grew close to the Mandich family after being chosen by the Dolphins in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft and he and Pro Bowl left tackle
“I’m glad they kept up with it because it was always fun to come here,” said Henne, who is beginning his fourth season with the Dolphins. “He made you feel welcome and he made jokes about it. It was kind of a big joke around session but at the same time it was serious about football. When Michael called me to be the first guy there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be here and help support this cause because it’s a lot of fun to come.”
Besides Michael and Bonnie, the two most nervous people leading up to the one-hour lunch were Bokamper and Rose because those were real big shoes they were trying to fill. Both of them have been on the other side of the coin as guests plenty of times with Mandich, so they wanted to do him proud being the ones asking the questions.
“I have actually been thinking about this for two or three days because it’s one of those things you don’t want to screw up,” Bokamper said. “Jim set the bar high and you want to make sure you want to deliver and you kind of knew what he liked out of it. So I tried to keep it in that same vein, so I had some sleepless hours last night.
“I know Jim thought the world of Chad and I know Chad felt the same way about him so to have him here I think made it as appropriate a group of guest that we could have had for the luncheon.”
Rose of course shared the radio booth with Mandich and Jimmy Cefalo for a number of years so he also felt a strong obligation to keep the legacy going. He was one of “Mad Dog’s” most popular guests at the luncheon every year.
“I have felt Jim’s presence on everything that I have done form his charity event to this,” Rose said. “Every time I’m in the booth something will happen and I almost sense a Mad Dog moment coming in the corner. He is in my brain and in my mind, so this thing being his baby, you’ve got to bring it every Tuesday because he was so damn good at all of this stuff. He built this up and these are his people.
“If he was here now he would say, ‘Bring it. Don’t throw softballs. What are you worried about? Don’t give me that vanilla ice cream stuff.’ I could hear him saying it now.”
Bokamper had one final important message to get out there after the luncheon ended.
“I would ask fans out there to rally around the Touchdown Club and rally around the legacy of Jim because this is very, very important to him,” he said. “If I didn’t know how important this was to Jim I wouldn’t have been so quick to agree to do it, but I know what this meant to Jim. I know what it means to him to give money back to the organization and help former players, so anybody that can join the Touchdown Club and be a part of it, on behalf of Jim I would ask you to participate.”
Membership to the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club includes lunch each week, an official Touchdown Club polo shirt and an opportunity to mingle with community business leaders. Jim Mandich started the Touchdown Club with the goal of giving back to the community. Since it was formed, more than $300,000 has been raised through memberships and sponsorships.
For membership information, please call 305-520-5749. Tickets are limited and required with table reservations. Tickets are transferable but non-refundable.