Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mad Dog; The Man, The Hero, The Legend

On Tuesday, April 26th, 2011, South Florida and the entire country lost a beloved football player, radio personality, and philanthropist. Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich passed away last night after battling cancer for over a year. Mad Dog was one of the best things to happen to South Florida and sports talk radio.

Jim was a generous friend to my family and I. He gave us so much in so many ways. From rounds of golf, to meeting pro athletes at the Dolphin's Touchdown Club, to giving me one of the most unforgettable experiences of my entire life, Jim was always there to give.

On January 8th, 2009, I faced a sort of difficult decision. The next day was the BCS National Championship game at Dolphin Stadium and I was at my mom's house (a short 15 minute drive away), but I didn't have a ticket. Did I want to drive back up to Gainesville to be with my fellow Gators to watch the game, or did I want to try to scalp a ticket and do whatever I could to get into the game?? I decided on the latter. I was so close that it seemed wrong to drive away from it.

Ticketless, but excited, I got to the stadium bright and early and began asking people for tickets. As my time slowly ran out, as did my morale. I gave up in mid-afternoon and began to try to distract myself by tailgating with my friends, but in the back of my head, I was watching the clock tick towards kick-off and I still didn't have a ticket. The sun began to go down and I accepted the fact that I would be watching the game from the tailgate.

My phone rang; it was my Mom. "Where are you?" she asked. "Um, at the game of course. You know this," I replied. "I know that!" my mom exclaimed, "but WHERE are you exactly?" I was pretty confused. I told her where we were tailgating and she showed up with my step-dad with some "semi-good news." "Don't get too excited," my mom warned, "but we might be able to get some tickets." I started jumping for joy immediately. Just the idea of POSSIBLY getting into this game was exhilarating. My morale shot through the roof and I started partying harder. "Meet us over at the 560WQAM booth in about 15 minutes," my step-dad said. I ran over to the booth in 10 minutes and there was Mad Dog, doing a live radio show right there in front of us. We walked up, he gave us a wink and a signal to wait a few minutes. We waited patiently as I did my best to keep my excitement inside. Jim finished up his show, put on his blazer and walked up to us with his family. It was about 20 minutes until kick-off and as we exchanged a few words and pleasantries, he handed us 3 beautiful, genuine club-level tickets with embossed graphics and all. I could barely contain myself. You would think that he just saved my entire family from a natural disaster the way I was thanking him. I've never been so ecstatic. The feeling of entering through the club-level elevator, hearing the usher tell me to enjoy the game, and finally arriving on the club-level was absolutely surreal.

The smell of hot-dogs and stale beer filled the air and the sound of gator chants filtered through the oklahoma marching band....I made it, and it's all because of Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich.

On top of just even getting into the game, the Gators chomped the Sooners 24-14, and celebration ensued. WE ARE ALL STRONG FOR OLD FLORIDA, DOWN WHERE THE OLD GATORS PLAY, IN ALL KINDS OF WEATHER, WE'LL ALL STICK TOGETHER, FOR F-L-O-R-I-D-A!!!!! GO GATORS!!!

Thanks, Jim, for one of the most unforgettable experiences in my life. You and your seemingly endless generosity, kindness, and passion will never be forgotten! You will be missed! Rest in peace.

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