The fire still burns for Terry Bradshaw, former Super Bowl MVP quarterback.
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"I get about five boxes--about 125 a month--from Connecticut. For every one I smoke, I give away two. I like to smoke while watching tapes and watching the games."
The Sunday show will run smoothly. That's because the leisurely feel of the show has been arrived at with painstaking preparation. From 8:15 A.M. till show time there are production meetings, rehearsals, makeup. "We rehearse until airtime and there are constant changes," Gumbel notes.
New information is added, cuts have to be made. In the first half hour of the show, Gumbel will hear from producer Eric Mann about 15 times: time runs long, segments have to be shortened. Mann, says Gumbel, rises at 7 A.M. on Sunday, after going to sleep about 3 A.M. the night before. Audio assistant Rich Brender says more than 200 people work on the show. "Researchers, gofers, producers--plus all the people who just worry," he says with a laugh.
A show might open with Bradshaw at the blackboard one moment, then switch to Dan Fouts in Atlanta, to Jim Nance in Buffalo, to Randy Cross in New Orleans, to Tim Ryan in Chicago and back to Lesley Visser in the New York studio. A lot of handoffs in about two minutes. Each is picture perfect.
But at times improvisation becomes the rule. "Terry can talk about eight, nine, 10, even 12 games at a time. He is able to do that and read coverages on the field and tell the situation," Gumbel says appreciatively. Occasionally Bradshaw will see something that demands a physical explanation, like the time he grabbed a ball and demonstrated exactly how quarterback Jim Everett of the L.A. Rams was fearful and thus, threw off his back foot instead of stepping up. "Terry has always liked Everett," Gumbel explains. "He thinks he has all the cool, but is losing his heart."
Earlier in the season, Bradshaw reviewed a CBS tape showing Everett throwing an interception and then running away from making a tackle. Everett would not return a phone call on the subject, and Bradshaw was going to look at the tape himself to see if Everett was a "woosey." Would Bradshaw have run away from making a tackle? "He-l-l-l-l-l no." End of discussion. Bradshaw makes clear his preference for "a man's man" like Bill Parcells. In quarterbacks, he likes the understated valor of Phil Simms.
"When it comes to halftime updates and highlights, it's "fly by the seat of your pants," Gumbel says. CBS switches to regional games across the country, trying to take fans live to the most exciting contests.
Visser, who was a sportswriter for the Boston Globe for 12 years, covered Bradshaw during his playing days. "He still has all the qualities you would expect of a championship quarterback. Greg and Terry are a studio version of Madden-Summerall. Greg is urbane and dry like Summerall, while Terry is not afraid to be physical and opinionated like Madden."
For all his candor, there's a side to Bradshaw that he has hidden from public view. It is his Baptist faith. "I found in the past when I would talk about my relationship with Jesus, someone would see me with a beer and say, 'Hey, I thought you were a Christian.' So just shut up and don't say anything. Then they won't know, and I won't hurt anybody. I keep to myself. People are just waiting for you."
The signs of his spirituality are present though. The word enthusiasm corrals Bradshaw the way he corrals cattle in Roanoke. To understand his manic fire and convulsive excitement, his immersion in the moment and his irrepressible spirit, one must understand his enthusiasm. Interesting word, enthusiasm. It derives from a Greek prefix and root meaning "having God within." People refer to his exuberance, his wackiness, his genuineness. "He's more fun than anyone I've ever worked with," says Rich Brender. Yes, fun, too.
In this business where people often don't like one another, but purport to get along on the air, Bradshaw says the studio crew is like family to him. Studio guys say the same. And Gumbel calls him his best friend.
Ken Shouler is a sportswriter and author based in White Plains, New York.