Ottawa Citizen

Bradshaw conquers demons and leaves them laughing

Entertaini­ng doesn’t come naturally to NFL broadcaste­r

- BY MATTHEW SEKERES

Thirty years ago, the prospect of Terry Bradshaw speaking before 1,000 people and interactin­g with perfect strangers was as unlikely as his misspellin­g “ cat” if you spotted him every letter but the vowel.

Yet, yesterday, at the Aberdeen Pavilion, the former National Football League quarterbac­k was mobbed upon his entrance and showed no ill effects as he signed autographs, posed for pictures and conducted interviews with ease. Bradshaw, 58, served as the keynote speaker for the University of Ottawa Heart Institutio­n’s tribute dinner for Rough Riders legend Whit Tucker and his wife, Heather, one of his 40 speaking engagement­s this year.

Whit Tucker hand- picked Bradshaw to speak, saying he always liked him as a player and a broadcaste­r, and that he wanted the evening to be relaxed and fun. And outside of large gatherings, relaxed and fun describe Bradshaw perfectly.

“ Crowds only bother me if they are … you know, crowding you,” said Bradshaw, who demonstrat­ed by putting his massive hands on an observer’s shoulders and acting like the clown prince you see on television.

Bradshaw is famous for his Hall of Fame career, his four Super Bowl titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers and, more recently, for his bombastic television work as the centrepiec­e on the Fox Network’s pregame show. But as a young player in the early 1970s, Bradshaw was seen as withdrawn, aloof and anti- social — precisely the opposite of what you see on television these days.

“ I run a horse business now, and I am very serious,” said Bradshaw. “ When I played, I was very serious. But television — and I got this many years ago — is all about entertaini­ng, and it jacks me up!”

Since his playing days ended in 1983, the Louisiana- born Bradshaw has revealed that he dealt with anxiety attacks after games and was bitter with the Pittsburgh fans and media for the constant ribbing about his country- bumpkin roots.

He even avoided Pittsburgh — its stadiums, events and Steelers functions — until two years ago, when he was invited back and given a rousing ovation. Yet his insecurity led Bradshaw to walk to centrefiel­d with his two daughters, and he later explained that his offspring were the only guarantee that he wouldn’t be booed again.

Unbelievab­le as that sounds, those who only knew the television personalit­y were shocked when he announced that he was diagnosed with depression after his third marriage ended in 1999. He has since become a face of the cause, encouragin­g others to seek help.

“ You’ve got to know that you have issues, and you have to be brave enough to talk to your doctor,” he said last night. “ You have to open up and talk about what is wrong.”

This week alone, Bradshaw will do plenty of talking. He will visit Ottawa, Indianapol­is and Anaheim, giving five of the 40- plus speeches he will deliver this year. And at $ 40,000 U. S. per engagement, according to the agency that represents him, it proves that Bradshaw isn’t as dumb as former Dallas Cowboy Thomas “ Hollywood” Henderson surmised prior to Super Bowl XIII, when he said Bradshaw was so thick, he couldn’t spell “ cat” if you spotted him the “ c” and the “ t.”

 ?? ASHLEY FRASER, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN ?? Terry Bradshaw knows how to play to an audience and provided Whit Tucker, right, with the lightheart­ed occasion he requested.
ASHLEY FRASER, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN Terry Bradshaw knows how to play to an audience and provided Whit Tucker, right, with the lightheart­ed occasion he requested.

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