Terry Bradshaw’s cancers shook tight-knit crew of Fox NFL Sunday present

Michael Strahan says that Terry Bradshaw is the heartbeat of the "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame show. (Ian Maddox for The Washington Post)
Michael Strahan says that Terry Bradshaw is the heartbeat of the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame present. (Ian Maddox for The Washington Submit)


LOS ANGELES – Howie Lengthy was mendacity on the underside bunk in a sleeping quarter contained in the USS Harry S. Truman when he noticed one thing he’d always remember. The “Fox NFL Sunday” present was capturing remotely within the Mediterranean Sea and the Corridor of Famer was sharing a small room with fellow on-air character and shut pal Terry Bradshaw. The pair received nearer than anticipated that weekend.

“He goes up toward the top bunk and, you know, your dad’s tighty-whitey underwear,” Lengthy mentioned via fun. “That’s a sight that will forever be seared in my head.”

That was 22 years in the past. Since then, the present has continued to thrive as king of the Sunday morning pregame reveals whereas the solid has grown right into a household. “Fox NFL Sunday” averaged extra viewers than another NFL pregame morning present final 12 months, based on Sports activities Enterprise Journal. By marriages, little one births, sicknesses and life usually, the group of Lengthy, Bradshaw, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Jay Glazer and Curt Menefee have change into extra than simply co-workers. In an ever-changing media panorama with extra platforms than ever, the longevity and continuity of the identical group collectively for 15-plus years is irregular.

That’s why that household was shaken to its core within the final 12 months when Bradshaw, 74, shared information of his battle with a pair of cancers. Remedy for bladder most cancers, recognized in November 2021, was profitable, however needed to be adopted by surgical procedure to deal with Merkel cell carcinoma within the spring.

“I’ll be honest, I cried when I saw him,” Glazer mentioned. “I kind of turned away, teared up and hugged the s— out of him.

“That’s my brother, it’s hard, man. It’s really hard.”

Strahan put it plainly when he known as Bradshaw, “the heartbeat of the show.” He, together with Lengthy and Johnson have been there when the pregame present debuted in 1994 after Fox received the printed rights to the NFL. Almost three many years later the present is a mainstay amongst NFL pregame reveals, and the four-time Tremendous Bowl-winning quarterback with the Pittsburgh Steelers is the comedic engine — the aw-shucks elder with tales of yesteryear.

Bradshaw was content material preserving his medical situation from the general public, however viewers criticized his efficiency originally of the 2022 season.

He appeared to lose his fastball as he struggled to finish his ideas throughout segments, and at one level he needed to lean on and relaxation his brow on Lengthy’s shoulder. Bradshaw’s face even slumped a bit after the 2 battles with most cancers, however the viewing public didn’t know. Surgical procedure had left him winded as his left lung wasn’t at capability. By the point the season started, Fox and Bradshaw’s co-workers knew, however he didn’t need a pity occasion from the general public. However he informed his spouse Tammy he wanted to say one thing as soon as individuals began to speak and requested producer Invoice Richards for time to deal with it on air.

“I got real self-conscious,” Bradshaw mentioned. “I said, I’ve got to get this out there because I don’t like what people are saying. And a lot of it was mean. It was mean stuff. ‘He’s embarrassing himself. Move on. He’s an old this and [that].’ I was like, Whoa.

“One’s bad enough. Two, are you kidding me? … Then all the people that been ripping me, they felt bad. And now I’ve got a whole brand new fan base. And so I should have done it earlier.”

Whereas Bradshaw lauds the assist he has obtained from others on the present, he unknowingly was a saving grace for one more teammate. Glazer, 52, had silently been coping with melancholy and psychological well being points for years and didn’t essentially cope in one of the best ways. He has been with Fox since 2004 as one of many premier NFL information breakers and credit Bradshaw opening up about his personal psychological well being difficulties for permitting Glazer to maneuver ahead.

Glazer wrote the e-book “Unbreakable: How I Turned My Depression and Anxiety into Motivation and You Can Too” that was revealed in January.

“For years, I thought I was having a heart attack when I was having panic attacks,” Glazer mentioned. “We didn’t talk about it. And one day I heard an interview with Terry Bradshaw, who I had been working with, and he was talking about it. And I was like, ‘Oh s—, that’s what it is.’

“It gave me the confidence to talk about it inside this group. Funny thing is, they used to all say I was crazy. They know I’m crazy. … But they didn’t know how much pain I was in. Now that they do, all they do is tell me they’re proud of me.”

Glazer raves concerning the function the sextet performs in one another’s lives, and so they all credit score that for the success of the present. Individuals have gravitated to seeing a gaggle of buddies speaking ball earlier than settling in for the day’s video games. There’s an emphasis on the informal interactions over hardcore statistical evaluation. And that comes naturally because the group has shut relationships on and off the set.

Throughout his enjoying days with the New York Giants, Strahan used to provide Glazer rides dwelling after practices when he was a neighborhood reporter. Now Glazer is godfather to considered one of his youngsters. Glazer and Menefee beforehand hosted the present “Unnecessary Roughness” on the MSG community and Glazer was the most effective man in Menefee’s marriage ceremony. The group takes an annual journey collectively outdoors of labor obligations — the Florida Keys, Montana, Las Vegas and different locations. Glazer helped prepare Lengthy’s youngsters — Chris and Kyle — as they reached the NFL. Lengthy laughs at the truth that the 2 have been youngsters when he first began on the present and now each are retired from the league.

“Howie’s wife and my wife text each other like high school girls,” Menefee mentioned. “Our families are friends, we’re friends.

“Our text chain, if HR ever saw it, probably, we’d all be looking for new jobs. That’s just what we do.”

These relationships, Glazer explains, are vital to his psychological well being. He mentioned his colleagues perceive him greater than his household does. He has gone to Lengthy’s home on a nasty day or can flip to any of them when, in his phrases, the beast will get out of the field he’s struggling mentally.

“When February rolls around and the Super Bowl hits, and that first weekend comes, I struggle without my family,” Glazer mentioned. “This is my team. We’re each other’s team. And I struggle. I struggle all offseason when I’m not with them. That’s how much love I have for them.

“And they know it. … So Howie will check up on me. Curt will make sure I’m okay between the ears.”

‘I love being with those guys’

Whereas his co-hosts are primarily identified for soccer, Strahan is in a unique stratosphere. This explicit Corridor of Famer and Tremendous Bowl champion has transcended the sport greater than any of his cohorts. He’s a number for “Good Morning America” and was beforehand on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” and received daytime Emmys. Strahan even flew to area final 12 months.

Nonetheless, he’s there each Sunday morning in the course of the season.

“I have the most fun that anybody should ever legally be allowed to have at work,” Strahan, 51, mentioned. “I absolutely love the guys. And I feel like if I weren’t a part of the show and if I went off and just focused on everything else that I’m doing, I would be the one who’s missing out. I would be missing out on the laughs. And I would always wonder what’s going on?

“If the show ended today, if my career ended today, it would be the most fulfilling and fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. Without a doubt.”

Whereas Strahan is adamant about staying, Johnson stands out as the closest to leaving. The 79-year-old Corridor of Fame coach is the eldest member of the group and has two Tremendous Bowls and a nationwide championship on the résumé. He has a house within the Florida Keys and spends loads of time on the water. Johnson flies to Los Angeles to do the present solely when Fox has a doubleheader. He’s the primary one on set as a result of he’s nonetheless on Japanese time for a present filmed on the West Coast.

“I’ve been threatening to retire for five years, but it’s hard for me to pull myself away from it,” Johnson mentioned. “I don’t fly all the way to L.A., at my age, for anything other than I love being with those guys.

“I see all these other shows and they’re talking heads and they’re talking statistics and they’re boring. … We’re in the entertainment business.”

On any group, or any present, everybody wants a job. And in each film, the comic wants a straight man. Welcome to the Bradshaw-Lengthy relationship.

Lengthy, 62, could also be greatest identified for terrorizing quarterbacks with the Raiders, however these Sundays he’s in a wonderfully tailor-made swimsuit, tie and pocket sq. to associate with dark-rimmed glasses that give off a professor vibe. Not a hair is misplaced on the spiky, barely graying, brown coif. Whereas Bradshaw wanders off the cuff, Lengthy is the practiced and polished load-bearing wall.

“Howie is the biggest square, nerd, whatever of all us,” Menefee mentioned.

However that’s wanted, even away from the set. Throughout considered one of their abroad journeys, Lengthy and Bradshaw went to go to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican Metropolis. No hats allowed, Lengthy was explaining as they entered. Quickly thereafter, Bradshaw got here up lacking.

“You see the interior of the church and it’s like the trumpets in your head are blaring,” Lengthy mentioned. “It’s like, ‘Oh, my God.’ And I turn around and he’s gone and I hear water splashing. He’s Baptist. He’s not Catholic. ‘You’re playing with holy water.

“What are you doing?!”

In all the chaos that revolves across the group, Menefee, 57, is the glue on Sundays. Serving as host since 2007, he permits the personalities to shine whereas preserving the prepare on the observe and transferring ahead. The duty wasn’t easy as he changed legendary host James Brown. The present had already been established as the highest NFL pregame present and the one change could be Menefee. Any downfall and the finger could be pointed at him.

“The goal was not to screw it up,” Menefee mentioned.

Sunday mornings are organized chaos on the Fox Studios lot in Century Metropolis as 20 to 30 individuals scramble in a pre-show observe routine on the model new prolonged actuality set. The tales are endless. Glazer remembers Strahan by chance ordering them a {couples} therapeutic massage. All of them laughed when strait-laced Lengthy struggled with a marijuana reference. The Bradshaw tales are infinite.

And so they all try to understand the second. If something, Bradshaw’s well being scare reminded everybody to understand the current. Johnson already talks about retirement. Bradshaw is aware of the tip is nearer than the start. So the group of buddies which have frolicked in viewers’ dwelling rooms for a technology tries to cherish every second.

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