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My Chance Encounter With a New York Sports Icon at the NY Auto Show, Ford Lightning Cameos

We're a car review website if that wasn't already obvious. But every once in a while, a marquee event in the auto industry brings celebrities from all walks of life together to interact and mingle with us common folks.
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Being my first auto show assignment for a major auto news publication, I had more than enough things other than celebrities who may or may not be at the event to attend to that morning. The idea that any person of greater status than the average muscle car influencer on Instagram hadn't even occurred to me in all my fervor by the time I made my way through the maze of exhibitions on hand to get to Ford's display this year.

An exhibition whose two crown jewels were the interactive EV test track featuring the new Ford F-150 Lightning and the Mustang Mach-E GT and the pair of the 2022 Ford GT Holman Moody Heritage Edition alongside the very same 1960s Ford GT-40 Le Mans Race Car that inspired it. There was more than enough on display for any singular reporter to occupy their time with for the next six to eight hours.

So you'll forgive me if when the vaguely familiar silhouette of someone who looked an awful lot like an icon of New York sports broadcasting didn't even register in my mind initially. At first, I was so startled by what initially appeared to be a trick of my eye in all my tunnel vision. It was a case so severe that all I could do was walk it off and get back to taking pictures. Of course, that's the meat and potatoes of why I'm at the Javits Center, to begin with, on press day.

Like a factory-fresh Boeing "Tripe Seven" on autopilot, I went right back to taking photos of the admittedly marvelous-looking tandem of old and new Ford GT as if nothing had happened. It's easy to get lost in some of the stuff on display at a good motor show. Enough to send the thoughts of some spectral ghost of a New York sports radio legend who caught your eye only a few moments ago retreating.

To my own revelation, that very figure of my mind turned out to be substantially more tangible than a hallucination. Standing right there in front of me at the end of a 360-degree circuit around the Ford GT display was a fair-haired six foot five inch (1.96 m) man any football fan in New York City over the last 15 years would instantly recognize as Boomer Esiason.

The native of nearby East Islip, Long Island, and one-time NFL MVP and quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets. He's even better known as the host of the polarizing Boomer and Carton show on WFAN New York. Alongside Craig Carton, who Gregg "Gio" Giannotti subsequently replaced after Carton's involuntary leave from the show following legal troubles. The point was, literal New York Sports royalty was standing right in front of me, his Auto Show press pass proving definitively that he was the real deal.

As a prominent figure in Ford dealerships in the New York metro area, Boomer was accompanied by a group of executives from both Ford and the NYIAS as they gave him the run-down of the same Ford GT Holman Moody cars I'd just finished photographing. Now, I'm not going to posture like I'm not the kind of person who doesn't get star-struck. The single act of matching the face before my eyes with the name on his press badge was enough to get me imitating a Windows 10 blue screen of death.

I can't say for certain whether or not Boomer made out that there was even anybody else around besides himself and his entourage. Let alone some goofy recent college grad lucky to be within first-down yardage distance of the man. Rest assured, he made an impact on me all the same. Fast forward twenty minutes, and I'm getting ready to take a ride in the all-new Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum for a quick launch and brake shot across the long straightaway at the end of the track.

The delightfully colorful driver, hand-selected by Ford for this event, chatted me up as we waited our turn to go out on the trot. When once again, from beyond the driver's side walked that familiar fair-haired silhouette walking right past the front grille of our selected Lightning pickup. With his posse in tow, Boomer walked to where the very same "Eluminator" EV-swapped F-100 truck from 2021's SEMA show was parked, on display for all to see in the back corner of the track.

Boomer's entourage unlocked the prized one-off SEMA truck. He and his own driver then climbed inside and sent possibly the most famous and recognizable classic EV conversion on the planet down the straightaway right in front of my awaiting camera. All myself and my driver could do was sit in awe of the VIP service some of Ford's more prominent partners are treated to at North America's foremost auto expositions.

Although my driver, who I sadly wasn't able to his name in all the excitement, did have to exit the Lightning and go make sure everyone was on the same page as to what was going on. A necessary and well-thought safety move on his part. Kudos to him for that.

And no, I wasn't at all angry that someone cut the line in front of me to have a ride in the objectively cooler play-thing in this adult equivalent of a Toys R Us exposition. If there was anyone in all of New York City with the clout worthy of such a privilege, Boomer would fit the image 100 times over. 

I was simply humbled to have been in any position to have had even a passive interaction with someone so influential to New York Sports during my childhood. Getting to sit shotgun for a hard launch of the dual-motor F-150 Lightning Platinum was just the gravy on top. And if Boomer winds up reading this, thanks for helping to make my first coverage of the New York International Auto Show a day I won't forget.

Check back soon for more from our coverage of the 2022 New York International Auto Show right here on autoevolution.

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