Terry Bradshaw has always been an enigma. He admitted it to me and millions of other people on a Monday night at Heinz Field. My buddy, Todd and I were at the Steelers/Colts game that night and surprise, surprise there’s T Brad getting honored or recognized or at least acknowledged at half time. He stood at the center of the field, flanked by his two daughters, and accepted the (mostly) applause and cheers from the fans that didn’t have to pee or need more nachos. He said how good it felt to hear the ovation from the Pittsburgh faithful again and encouraged the adulation to continue a little longer. He apologized for being an enigma to the fans and stated that the fans were always an enigma to him as well. For years Bradshaw had largely avoided Pittsburgh, even missing Art Rooney’s funeral. The four time Super Bowl champion, and two time Super Bowl MVP, did the best he could to begin to square his reputation with Steeler Nation that night. The Blonde Bomber then began returning to the Steel City more and more often. Stan Savran did an excellent interview with Bradshaw on Sportsbeat (RIP) in which they discussed the quarterback’s up and down relationship with the Pittsburgh fans, media, and Chuck Noll. The relationship between the QB and the City of Champions continued to warm. In recent years, Bradshaw has been seen in Pittsburgh hosting celebrity roasts, town hall meetings with former team mates, and interviewing current players and coaches. The citizens of Steeler Nation have come to know, respect, and mostly like Terry Bradshaw.
Bradshaw’s post football career has been next to amazing! He plays a mix of sage and simpleton, comic and commentator as well as anyone since Andy Griffith. He is a trusted football analyst, go to guy as a product pitch man, compelling interviewer AND interview subject, and has even done some acting. Not bad for a man who was called out as dead more times than Rasputin.
Last week Terry Bradshaw made some minor headlines for comments he made on Jay Leno’s late night (but not too late) gabfest. I am not a huge fan of Jay’s (CoCo, Baby) but watching him spar with Bradshaw, who goes off script and bounces from topic to topic like a humming bird on crack, is a real joy. There is no canned conversation when those two chatter boxes throw down and that is refreshing. Jay steered (after about seven attempts) the conversation towards football (surprise!!) and specifically to the suddenly hot button issue of NFL head injuries. Bradshaw did his level best to laugh off the first few questions and then waded into the fray by admitting that he had been knocked unconscious on the field six times in his career. He also added that if he had a son, he would not allow the child to play football. (Steeler Nation may wish that Clay Matthews’ old man had the same convictions…..) Then came the Bradshaw bombshell that got him some media traction: “In the next decade, we will not see football as it is”. OMG!! Bradshaw is predicting the end of the game! Well, probably not. That quote is as nebulous and enigmatic as anything that anyone has ever put out there. You could say that about anything: breakfast cereal comes to mind but I’m thinking that is because I’m hungry as hell right now. Yep Terry, things change. Football changes all the time. When Stan Savran (love the show!!) asked Bradshaw how severely his ADD/ADHD affected his ability to call his own plays, Bradshaw’s broke it down simply: “If the corners were up it was man to man. If they were off the line, it was zone. Throw it to the open guy”. I would say the game has changed a lot since then, Terry. The schemes are more complex, the players better conditioned, the equipment is top notch, the playing surfaces are much better, and almost nobody is on the juice!!
I know that the Hall of Fame member is addressing the concussion concerns that are on everyone’s mind (har har) right now. He told Leno that he sees basketball and soccer becoming more popular high school sports in the near future because they present less chance of injury. I’ve seen the waiting room at UPMC’s Sports Medicine Institute; I don’t think all of those kids play football. Modern football is safer now than it ever has been. Medical technology is better now than it ever has been. Players are being diagnosed with more injuries and conditions because science is allowing us to see the brain working in a 3D environment and players are actually pulled from competition if they are having symptoms. Tiny cameras can look inside the knee and shoulder and elbow so that even tinier medical instruments can go in and repair damage that couldn’t have even been seen let alone be fixed when Pittsburgh was building its dynasty.
Are concussions a major concern for the league and its players right now? Absolutely!
Do these issues need to be addressed right now? Damn straight!
Is this the beginning of the end of professional tackle football? Not a chance.
Is Terry Bradshaw still the beloved mayor of Dog Patch? You betcha!!
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