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Esiason, Deford share unwanted bond

It was sportswriter Frank DeFord that first drew former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason to help increase awareness and raise funds for cystic fibrosis. Videojournalists: Chris Ware, Mark La Monica.

Tuesday’s HBO “Real Sports” features the bond between Boomer Esiason, whose son Gunnar was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993, and correspondent Frank Deford, whose daughter Alex died at 8 from the disease in 1980.

It was a speech by Deford about Alex 25 years ago that first got Esiason involved in the battle against the disease, one that naturally gained added momentum when it touched his own family.

Esiason’s first call after Gunnar was diagnosed was to his father. His second call was to Deford.

In the HBO segment Esaison recalls Deford initially sounding “floored,’’ then saying, “There’s a reason for this. We really do need somebody of some stature, of some recognition, to bring this disease to the forefront.’’

Since Alex’s time, and since Gunnar was diagnosed, significant progress has been made in extending the expected life spans of those with CF, now into the late 30s, helped in part by the $100 million Esiason’s foundation has raised.

“As far as I'm concerned, I'm going to live ‘til I'm 95,’’ Gunnar, now 22, says. “I have never once ever considered the possibility that there is a life expectancy with the disease. A textbook is not going tell me how long I am going to live.’’

Gunnar tells Deford nothing scares him, other than having his blood drawn. His father says he is scared to stop the fight against the disease before it is won.

"I only want what every other parent wants for their child," he says, "and that's for them to live a happy, fulfilling life, and hopefully feel what it means to be a parent themselves."

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