Jim Mandich died at the age of sixty-two after a long battle with bile duct cancer. It was a long and tough fight for the man everyone knew as ‘Mad Dog’, but it was a full and eventful life – right down to one final season calling Dolphins football from the booth and even making his way to Augusta National with friends last month for The Masters. Knowing he was at one of his favorite places with his sons; it lets me know he went out as he would have wanted.
I can’t recall the first time I met Jim Mandich, but at the time he’d just made the switch from WIOD to WQAM and I immediately realized that JM wasn’t your average ex-jock.
This was a guy with the intelligence of a PhD, the business sense of a CEO and the toughness of a drill sergeant, with the altruism of Oprah. He was the consummate professional. Even with a nickname like Mad Dog, he never yelled or screamed – he simply motivated you to get your job done.
Jim was one of the few people I worked with over the years that would come in to work, honestly soliciting your opinions because he wanted to hear them. He didn’t just listen for the sake of listening. Jim would empower the people he worked with to the point where you felt you made a huge impact on whatever he was involved with.
During my time as a sideline reporter for UM football, two of his three songs were on the road and helping out with the coaches show, which Mad Dog’s production company produced. I got to know Mike and Marc really well an it was abundantly clear that the Mandich family was tight one, filled with love and job.
I know that Jim absolutely rubbed off on his boys as they carried so many of the same characteristics of their dad.
My last few years as QAM I worked with Mad Dog every day and for at time we had a ‘clash of the titans’ type show called the “Power Hour”. It was an hour of The Hammer (Hank Goldberg) and The Mad Dog together. I did sports updates on the show and vividly remember that as a thank you, both Hammer and Mad Dog took us to Shula’s Original Steakhouse in Miami Lakes.
I know many of you have been to Shula’s over the years, but there was no experience like dining there with Mad Dog as he was the mayor of the steakhouse. Delvis the bartender knew exactly which bottle of wine to bring to the table, the servers knew the cut of meat Jim wanted, how it was to be cooked and what side dishes to prepare.
Even better than the food and experience – the fact that Mad Dog would go around the table, asking each of us questions, with a true desire to know what was going on in all our lives. This wasn’t a typical night out with two big time, on-air talents. This was dinner with two good men who deeply cared about their staff and wanted to express how much our time and effort meant to them.
Many hosts I’ve worked with over the years wouldn’t even pick up the bill at your local fast food joint. Mad Dog footed the entire Shula’s bill for everyone without even thinking twice.
After The Hammer left QAM, Mad Dog took over the drive time slot and I became one of his producers, along with my good friend Captain Curtis. We worked tirelessly in effort to create a great show.
In all honesty, I’ve never worked harder in my life – because the one person I never wanted to let down was Jim Mandich. This man put his trust in me in effort to make his show better and he gave me a chance when a lot of others slammed the door in my face. He even paid me out of his own pocket as QAM was too cheap to pay two producers for his show.
In a horrible economy when I was worried about putting food on my family’s table, Mad Dog kept my head above water.
When the company I had given a decade of my life decided to cut my hours, making me a part-time employee, Mad Dog kept my head above water and helped put food on my family’s table and for that I am eternally grateful.
When QAM decided to end my employment, Mad Dog fought tooth and nail for me to be retained, but the powers that be overruled him and I was let go. The next time we spoke, he couldn’t have been more appreciative of the work I’d done for him and the effort I’d put in. I could hear the remorse in his voice and sadly that proved to be the last time I spoke live with Jim Mandich.
We traded emails over the years and the responses were always positive and upbeat. This was man with the heart of a lion and no matter what diagnosis came his way, he was going to fight like a caged animal – right up to his final breath.
Months back we lost Neil Rogers and while Neil was huge in this community, the loss of Mad Dog hurts even more. This was a man that rolled in from MEEEEEECHIGAN, became a Dolphins legend decades back and from that point on, ingrained himself into the South Florida community.
Even if you weren’t a Dolphins fan, hearing Mad Dog proclaim “Alllllriiigght Miami!!!” would bring a smile to your face. You found yourself adopting his lingo. You’d drive around town with your window down. Your sink a few Green Lizards. You knew there was nothing lower than tits on a snake. Those weren’t just “isms” they were the public’s image of Jim Mandich.
All that said, this man was so much more than a catchphrase. There wasn’t a charitable cause that Mad Dog didn’t support. If there was a secretary or station employee with a charity, a check was handed over without hesitation. Jim Mandich wasn’t afraid to spread the wealth and he was beyond successful – not only as an athlete and broadcaster, but also as CEO of a construction company and a production company. Mad Dog was openly generous with family and friends, but also reached out to anyone less fortunate who crossed his path.
I know there’s no such thing as a perfect human being, but Jim Mandich was pretty damn close.
Great husband, amazing dad and everything you could ask for in a co-worker and a friend. I am humbled and honored that I got to work so closely with the man for a period of time. Just writing this piece, it’s hard to hold back the tears tonight, but a part of me is smiling, knowing that the Mad Dog is pain-free with an ice cold Green Lizard in hand.
Rest in peace, Mad Dog. You were simply the best.