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For Bradshaw, It's Not an Act

January 17, 2003|LARRY STEWART

One might think that Terry Bradshaw, toward the end of his football career, sat down one day and planned out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

He had marquee value because he had been the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they won four Super Bowl championships. So all he had to do was get a job in sports television, act goofy and laugh a lot. He'd make fun of people, particularly himself. It was a formula for more riches and fame than he already had, a good master plan.

Except there was no plan.

"It just happened," Bradshaw said from his ranch outside Dallas before heading off to Philadelphia for Fox's coverage of Sunday's NFC championship game. "I'm as surprised as you are."

If Bradshaw's routine was an act, it wouldn't have worked. But it's not an act. Bradshaw is the way he is. He's not normal, and he admits it.

"I'd love to feel normal," he said. "I'd love to prove to myself I'm normal. But I'm not normal."

Bradshaw says his mother used to call him a "squirmer" or a "fireball." She'd say, "He's a very energetic young man who likes to hang from the ceiling."

Bradshaw discovered much later in life that he suffers from attention deficit disorder, known as ADD. Among other things, he has trouble focusing on one task for any length of time.

"I'm always starting projects -- designing a home, building a barn, remodeling, building a lake, changing a driveway, straightening out everything in the house," he said.

"I have tremendous mood swings. It's so bad, there's a joke about me around here. The workers are always asking, 'Did he take his pill today?' "

Bradshaw, despite all his success, has battled demons most of his life. He has gone through three painful divorces. He left the Steelers on bad terms and publicly criticized his coach, Chuck Noll.

When he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he chose a broadcast partner, Verne Lundquist, to introduce him.

But, through therapy, Bradshaw now seems to be winning the battle with his demons.

He appeared at a Steeler game for the first time in almost 20 years in October, when he was honored and warmly welcomed.

On Feb. 9, Bradshaw will be inducted into the Pittsburgh Hall of Fame. On this occasion, he'll be introduced by Noll.

"I'm in a good place in my life right now," Bradshaw said. "It would be perfect if I knew for sure Fox was going to have the NFL for the next eight years and I was going to be a part of it."

Broadcast Beginnings

Bradshaw was always quotable during his playing days. When television reporters needed a good sound bite, they'd go to Bradshaw. That reputation led to a job as a game commentator with CBS in the late 1970s.

About the same time, he played in a golf tournament in Connecticut with Don Meredith and Frank Gifford. Meredith gave Bradshaw some good advice.

"He told me, 'Terry, you just be yourself and you're going to be fine. And have fun.' "

That's what Bradshaw did. But as a game commentator, he was sometimes over the top. He once used a roll of toilet paper to demonstrate a proper center hike in the booth with Lundquist.

CBS tried to tone down Bradshaw, but that didn't work. And because of his ADD, Bradshaw couldn't memorize names and numbers. He was about to quit the television business when he was moved into the studio as a co-host of "The NFL Today." That worked better.

Moving on to Fox

After Fox wrested the NFC package away from CBS at the end of 1993, Bradshaw was the first person to get a call from Fox. David Hill, the new head of Fox Sports, thought that Bradshaw could provide entertainment value plus the credibility Fox needed.

"It has been a perfect marriage," Bradshaw said. "They like me being me, and they encouraged it instead of discouraging it."

For the last nine years, "Fox NFL Sunday" has been the most popular NFL pregame show. This season, the show averaged a 3.5 national Nielsen rating, which is 46% better than the 2.4 for CBS' "The NFL Today."

James Brown may be the host, Howie Long may be the best looking, Jimmy Johnson may have the best hair, but the star of the show is Bradshaw. As was the case with the Steelers, Fox couldn't win without him.

Short Waves

The first of the two NFL conference championship games Sunday begins at noon, and look for more late start times for NFL playoff games in the future. Boosted by late start times during the first two rounds, ratings have increased 9% the last two seasons. ... CBS Sports President Sean McManus, on a conference call with reporters, was asked about splitting the two games and having one Saturday night and one Sunday afternoon. "I think you're better off sliding the kickoff later, as they've done this year, and making it one of, if not the, best afternoons in sports in America."

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