By Joseph Staszewski
Boomer Esiason kept the purpose for the night close to his heart.
Hanging from the CBS Sports football analyst and WFAN morning show personality’s neck was a dog tag with Detective Joe Lemm’s face on the front. The dog tag was given to him by Lemm’s widow, Christine.
The inscription on the back included the date of Lemm’s death and his line of duty with the military, along with the words “Heroes Live Forever.” Lemm also assisted at Ground Zero after 9/11.
“Just sitting with Christine and talking about the whole thing, what her life has been like since Joe’s death, brought me back to 9/11 and how many people we lost that day,” Esiason said. “When you hear her voice, you just realize this is a great, great loss.”
Esiason and co-host Craig Carton wanted to help remember the life and help the famly of the former NYPD detective and Air National Guard member, who was killed on Dec. 21 when a suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle packed with explosives into his patrol car in Afghanistan. The duo, along with St. John’s men’s basketball coach Chris Mullin, hosted a celebrity basketball game in front of a crowd of 3,000 at Carnesecca Arena May 6 with all proceeds benefiting the Lemm family.
“Joe Lemm was a hero,” said Esiason, who coached the celebrity team. “He was an American hero… So you can imagine what this loss means to his family and means to the family of the NYPD.”
The 45-year-old Lemm, nicknamed Superman, did three tours of duty overseas and spent 15 years in the NYPD. He was known to play plenty of hoops with his friends and colleagues.
His daughter Brooke sung the National Anthem and his son Ryan was carried on the shoulders of former Knicks center Herb Williams for a dunk before the game. Families of other NYPD officers who died in the line of duty were also on hand.
Mullin said hosting an event like this was natural for him, coming from a family with deep roots in the NYPD and FDNY and being part of a St. John’s community with ties to blue-collar workers and those communities.
“When you see these stories, these are just regular hard working guys providing for their families and they are protecting us.”
A host of celebrities and former athletes came out to support the cause and participate in the game against a team of police officers. The celebrity team included former New York Giants Justin Tuck and Tiki Barber, former Mets and SJU star John Franco, tennis great John McEnroe as well as Williams. Boomer and Carton’s celebrity team beat the NYPD 66-61, with Mullin making two free throws in the final 1:30 to put his team up for good.
“It shows the great side of New Yorkers,” Mullin said. “Guys from all different sports [coming together.]”
They did so to support the memories of a hero, those he loved and those with whom he helped protect the city.
“We are just honoring this man, who gave his life, left behind a wife and two kids, and there is no greater sacrifice than that,” Carton said. “We are going to make sure people remember Joe, the way he probably wanted to be remembered as a great guy who likes to play basketball with his buddies on the force.”