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Madden: Quit fawning over Bradshaw

Saturday, December 01, 2001

So, St. Terry the Martyr deigned to pay Pittsburgh a visit this week, eh? Sound the trumpets, release the doves, and gag me with a Super Bowl ring.

The rocky relationship between Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers has been well-documented. Bradshaw skipped Art Rooney's funeral. Bradshaw had broadcast partner Verne Lundquist present him at his Hall of Fame induction, snubbing the Steelers' organization.

Bradshaw blames the Steelers for making him come back too early from an elbow injury, thus aggravating the problem and shortening his career. Bradshaw had a major falling out with Chuck Noll, his head coach with the Steelers.

Bradshaw wasn't real happy with the way the Pittsburgh fans treated him, especially early in his career, and was justifiably mortified because they cheered when he was injured in a game.

The best response to all that?

How about this: "Who cares?" He should be old news in Pittsburgh.

There's no disputing that Bradshaw has done quite well for himself since retiring in 1983, playing his down-home country buffoon character to maximum effect and for maximum income.

But there's also no disputing that he has turned his back on the town and team that enabled him to become famous.

Bradshaw has chosen not to be a visible part of the Super Steelers legacy, and that's OK.

That's his decision.

In my opinion, though, he needs to get over himself and quit being a baby.

For every bad thing that happened to Bradshaw in Pittsburgh, 100 good things happened. Bradshaw merely cheats himself out of reliving a little glory by not coming back to Pittsburgh for something like, say, the closing of Three Rivers Stadium.

As for potential conflicts with his work on Fox television, the network would undoubtedly love to do a feature on Bradshaw returning to Pittsburgh for a big event.

Bradshaw says there's no longer any problem between him and the Steelers, but don't believe that. Bradshaw certainly remembers the directions to Pittsburgh whenever he has a book to sign and shill. He knew how to get here Wednesday when Fox wanted him to interview Kordell Stewart.

But he seems to lose his map every time there's an event directly involving the Steelers' franchise. Or one that doesn't pay.

By the way, don't think for one second that Bradshaw's wanting a chance to give Stewart encouragement and insight had anything to do with his visit Wednesday. Bradshaw was in town to do his job, period. If he wanted to lift Stewart's spirits, he would have visited during one of the past three seasons when Stewart's spirits really needed lifting. And he would have done it without a TV camera.

We should have fond memories of Bradshaw from his playing days in Pittsburgh. You can still make an argument that he's the best big-game quarterback ever.

But as far as his relationship with Pittsburgh goes, there isn't one. Yet we -- the media and the fans -- fall all over each other genuflecting whenever Bradshaw spares us even a millisecond of his precious time. It's like a guy who keeps chasing a girl for a lengthy period even after she's made it exceedingly clear she's not interested. (Not that I would know anything about that.)

I think Bradshaw enjoys the chase, especially because he knows we won't ever get the catch. Bradshaw likes the attention, but he's never again going to be the "Pittsburgh guy" he was portrayed to be during his career here.

I feel dumb when a real "Pittsburgh guy" like Jack Ham -- who was undoubtedly better at his position than Bradshaw was at his -- gets minimal attention while Bradshaw gets fawned over. Truth be told, I feel dumb for writing this column, but it's a little early to write that Mario Lemieux shouldn't play in the Winter Olympics. Watch this space.

It's a shame Pittsburgh didn't show Bradshaw as much love when he played as we've attempted to show him since he retired. Maybe he wouldn't hate coming back so much. Whenever you abuse an athlete verbally, realize that there could be consequences in the form of long-term bad feeling. When Stewart quits, I won't blame him if he never comes back to Pittsburgh. I also won't care.

Anyway, Terry, thanks for dropping by and thanks for the memories. See you at the next book signing.

Pittsburgh needs to quit living in the past. Bradshaw retired 18 years ago. The Steelers haven't won a Super Bowl in more than two decades. Some of those guys are dead. You have a pretty good football team to appreciate right now. I suggest you drink in as many memories as possible.

There are many reasons to root for these Steelers to win a Super Bowl, but here's the best one I can think of: We would talk a lot less about what happened a heck of a long time ago.

Mark Madden is the host of a sports talk show from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays on WEAE-AM (1250).

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