Terry Bradshaw was selected by Fox Sports to present the NFC Championship Trophy to the Eagles. Bradshaw has struggled all season with his health, and he was never the most eloquent speaker. He has an everyman appeal that does not always belong in every situation. The Hall of Fame quarterback was absolutely blistered on Twitter for his postgame performance:
One last @Eagles fight song as they fly into the Super Bowl 😎 #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/rwHL5bitH1— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 29, 2023
The hardcore Eagles fans who didn’t appreciate Bradshaw leading the fans in a chorus of Fly Eagle Fly are certainly entitled to their opinion, but that moment captured the essence of Bradshaw’s absolute joy in this writer’s humble opinion. It probably never entered his mind that it could be interpreted as a self-aggrandizing moment. Celebrating with a fan base that once booed Santa Claus, probably wasn’t a good idea, but they were singing awfully loud for being offended patrons:
Why does Terry Bradshaw keep cutting Hurts off?— Carson (@cmacrae13) January 29, 2023
Eagles fans do have a point about Bradshaw flubbing the Jalen Hurts interview and it begs the question of why the silky-smooth James Brown wasn’t on the stage during the presentation. Brown is one of the best in the business at anchoring a group of diverse personalities and keeping it looking like an orderly process. Bradshaw’s “Gosh, Oh Golly” personality plays well in most of America, but it was the wrong man for the job, and he is bearing the brunt of it on Twitter.
It has been well documented that Bradshaw has been dealing with health issues that would have floored an ordinary man. He didn’t seek public sympathy and was only forced to reveal his diagnosis because his fans were very concerned. Early in the season, he was mocked mercilessly when he finished a segment out of breath as washed up and a disgrace to broadcasters, but Steeler Nation recognized his tendency to drag himself into the spotlight when he should be in a hospital bed.
Bradshaw’s health was widely speculated on for the next week and he began the next week’s broadcast by revealing a serious health issue and in typical fashion, smiled through the pain:
“The cancers are not there, I’m not dying.” Bradshaw related. “The treatment [radiation] maintains fluid in my face and my jaw, and this side of my face is partially numb. It’s coming, it’s slow, but I’m totally fine. I may not look fine, but I’m totally fine.”
Sunday night’s performance might just be Bradshaw being simply overwhelmed by a job Fox Sports probably should not have asked him to do this year. In fairness, Bradshaw has done the presentation in the past and it has gone smoother. He memorably called Jeffrey Lurie, ‘Doug Lurie” five years ago, but Eagles fans didn’t seem to mind the flub as much during that ceremony:
THE EAGLES ARE YOUR NFC CHAMPIONS 🏆🦅 #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/09LejXAVFU— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) January 29, 2023
Bradshaw is approaching 75 years of age and he is slowing down. He may not be the same communicator he was even a couple of years ago, but he certainly is smoother than the wooden Rob Gronkowski who seems woefully out of place at the desk. Gronkowski is being groomed as the new everyman on the panel, but he is far behind Bradshaw at this point.
That should scare Fox, but Father Time is undefeated and at some point. He simply won’t be able to continue as a regular. The Steelers icon ended his playing career ignominiously after returning from a devastating injury against the New York Jets. Bradshaw re-injured himself in the return and hung up his spikes quietly.
Bradshaw didn’t go out on his own terms in the brutal business of professional football and if he continues to slip, he may not get to choose when he leaves broadcasting. Bradshaw cryptically predicted his demise earlier this year:
“There’s a part of me that says, how long can you do television,” Bradshaw said. “I am not through, I can tell you that. I live to entertain. Billy Graham said the minute you retire is the minute you start dying. I want to go on stage. What if I die on the Fox pregame show? I’d get the big numbers, right?”
After the untimely demise of Franco Harris a little over a month ago, that reminded an all too large portion of Pittsburgh Steelers fans of their own mortality. Here is hoping that Bradshaw can find a better way to exit the public eye. He deserves to go out on his terms and hopefully that will involve a huge send-off in Acrisure stadium.