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They wanted to keep it alive for Mad Dog. It was important to him so it is important to them. Joe Rose and Kim Bokamper spend lunchtime once a week talking to Dolphin fans.
They tell jokes. They make predictions. They’ll bend your ear with a few racy stories and, of course, they talk football. They’ll celebrate over a win and pout over a loss. For one hour of lunch and laughs, two of the highest profile former Dolphins emcee The Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club, now in its 13th season, and they do it asking for nothing in return.
“We do it for Jim,” Rose said.
“All for Jim,” Bokamper said.
Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich started the club for many reasons. He loved to talk to fans and loved being in front of a microphone. He wanted a vehicle for companies he did business with to interact with one another. And he wanted to give back.
Mandich, you see, was on a mission. He was determined that no former Dolphins player would wind up homeless and living under a bridge like former Steelers great Mike Webster once did. He wanted to take care of his own and, the way Mandich saw it, every former Dolphins player was indeed his own.
So a portion of the money from every membership in the Touchdown Club goes to the dire need fund for former Dolphin players. While the Touchdown Club isn’t the only contributor to this fund – the Dolphins conduct plenty of their own in-house initiatives — it is nonetheless an important piece of the puzzle
Through its first 12 years, the Touchdown Club has donated $350,000 to former Dolphin players in need, confirms Mandich’s son Nick, who now helps run the club.
When former running back Charlie Leigh passed away in 2006, the fund paid all of the funeral expenses. When former defensive back Mack Lamb passed away in 2010, the fund was there to assist once again. More than 10 living players have received assistance as well, all coordinated by former Dolphins great Nat Moore, now a senior vice president with the team.
Mandich is no longer with us. He died way too young. But his dream did not die with him. Rose and Bokamper have taken up his cause. Every week during football season, they show up for Jim. Share laughs for Jim. Tell stories for Jim. Interview guests for Jim. And together they give the Touchdown Club the type of credibility it needs to exist and prosper.
I have known both Rose and Bokamper for more than 30 years. I covered them as players and watched how their post football careers reached far greater heights than their playing careers.
You see and hear Rose everywhere. On the radio in the morning. On television in the evening. Emceeing banquets. On the broadcast team for all Dolphins games. At the local public tennis facility trying to drum up a game. I often ask myself: When does this man sleep?
You see Bokamper everywhere as well. He does radio. He does television. He’s the sideline reporter on game days. He does post game shows. He’s involved in all sorts of promotions. And in the midst of all of this, he’s got a flourishing sports restaurant business with three already open and another in East Fort Lauderdale and one in Estero, Fla. about to open. How does this man find enough hours in the day?
But as busy as they are, they both set aside time for these weekly luncheons. Last Tuesday was the first meeting of the year. They were both there at Bokamper’s restaurant in Miramar, shaking hands, exchanging smiles, pumping up the crowd with thoughts of a winning season and, of course, paying special tribute to Bonnie Mandich, Jim’s wife, sitting in the audience.
They try to get a current player there every week, but the Dolphins were practicing on this Tuesday so Bokamper and Rose had to adlib, something both of them do very well. And when it was over, they thanked the crowd and gave away a few gifts and then quickly went about their non-stop lives.
“We’re just trying to carry on what Jim Mandich started,” said Rose.
Indeed, they are doing it very well and, most importantly, they are doing it for all the right reasons.
(For information about The Dolphins Touchdown Club, call Nick Mandich at 305 520-5745)
On Friday, AC in the AM offers some insight into Sunday’s game at Indy.
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