JIM MANDICH PASSES AWAY AT 62: I was sad to hear the news last night. I am sure many of you were, too. Thoughts and sympathy to his wife, three sons and extended family. Mandich, "Mad Dog," was a major, meaningful figure in South Florida sports for decades, from the moment he was a second-round Dolphins draft pick in 1970, a tight end out of his beloved "Mee-chigan," arriving with long hair and hippie beads around his neck. He succumbed to cancer. I hate the phrase "lost a battle" to cancer. Mandich never lost much of anything he had a fair shot to win, from his days as a Michigan captain and Perfect Season Dolphin to his successful career in the construction business to his years as a beloved fixture on WQAM-560 to his seasons broadcasting Dolphins games. He was an unabashed homer, but somehow gave the phrase a good name. He was a plain-spoken evangelist for the Dolphins, exalting and aching with the team's fortunes. I loved that open passion. If you grew up down here (as I did) and you play word-association with "Miami Dolphins," you think "Shula and Marino" first. Rightfully. Right after that though, you better include Mandich. Truthfully, Jim and I were acquaintances more than close friends. That's my regret now; that's on me. I think I might have turned down an invitation to speak at his Miami Touchdown Club luncheon one too many times. Those luncheons, by the way, quietly raised money for former Dolphins in financial need. Jim always had my respect, mostly for what he did after football. He had a great, distinctive on-air persona, sharp, blunt yet folksy, familiar yet fresh, his humor wry, all delivered with a particular, unmistakably riveting cadence. He was a guy you'd like to sit down and have a "green lizard" with. More important, he was a guy with a generous heart, genuine, a man of integrity -- always.
You want an epitaph for Mandich? Here is my simple suggestion, and I can say I really believe it:
NOBODY LOVED THE DOLPHINS MORE.
Farewell, Jim. You mattered around here. A lot. You will be missed. And your catch-phrase echoes on: "Awwwriiight, Miiii-aaammmiii!"