TERRY BRADSHAW + HOWIE LONG
ONE IS A thrice-divorced, 65-year-old, four-time Super Bowl--winning quarterback who was raised Baptist in Louisiana and starred for the Steelers. The other is a 54-year-old from Boston, married for 31 years and raised Catholic, who spent 13 seasons terrorizing quarterbacks as a Raiders defensive end (and who won one Super Bowl). But Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long are as close as brothers. The Fox NFL Sunday commentators, celebrating their 20th year on the air together, will be part of the network's extended pregame coverage of Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday (2 to 6 p.m., EST), as well as the halftime and postgame shows. SI caught up with them in Seattle before the NFC championship game.
Howie, what is the first word that comes to mind when describing Terry?
Bradshaw:[Interrupting.] Phenomenal. [Laughs.]
Long: My wife [Diane] always laughs at whatever Terry says. Laughter might be the word. We can be apart for months in the off-season, and the second we are back together, it's like we were together yesterday.
Why does the relationship work?
Long: It's like that phrase catching lightning in a bottle, because I really don't know. We do come from different backgrounds, and there's an age difference, but for whatever reason, from Day One we just gravitated toward each other. I am lucky to call him my friend.
Bradshaw: That is what's so great about this. It's kind of like true love. People can't define it, like when you look at an old ugly guy with a beautiful young woman, and she's happy and totally in love. It's just chemistry. He represents a lot of the things that I wish I were. He's a good-looking man. He has a great marriage. He's a great dad. He's intelligent. He's a smart businessman. He's all of those things. I'm a 180 from that.
Long: That's not true.
Bradshaw: I do things Howie really wishes he could do. I'm the idiot. I do a lot of crazy things.
Long: Well, I am boring.
Bradshaw: One day I looked over to him, and I told him, "You know what your problem is? You're boring." It stunned him, but in a good friendship you can say things like that.
Long: When we started at Fox, [Long's sons] Chris was eight, Kyle was five and Howie Jr. was four. My kids have really grown up with Uncle Terry, and he fills the bill of the bad uncle. All the things that you want your kids not talking about or doing, Uncle Terry is more than willing to say or do with them. My boys love Terry to death. With any great friendship, you genuinely care about each other and look out for each other. I tend to be more protective of Terry than he is with himself. I tend to get riled up when I hear or see some misconception of the guy. He has ridden this 'Aw, shucks' thing pretty well, but don't buy into any of that crap.
How much do you feel the toll of playing professional football?
Long: I gauge days on a 1-to-10 scale, and there are never any really good days. It's a question of whether the day is a 3 or 4—which is tolerable—or is it an 8? Between us, we have had more surgeries than years in broadcasting.
Bradshaw: If you played 10 years in the NFL and started, trust me, you're gonna hurt. Every day you get up and it's the same routine: O.K., I have to take a couple of Tylenols; I gotta take a Celebrex; I have to get in the steam or sauna, which I do every day. But I can't run anymore, and I was a huge runner.
Long: I miss that too.
Bradshaw: I also can't lift anymore because I can't hold anything over my head.
Would you marry again, Terry?
Bradshaw: Yes. I'm a three-time loser, and I feel so dirty. Getting divorced was never, ever something I contemplated. I feel like such a complete failure. I make fun of it because it is the best way to protect myself. I don't want to take my last breath without having someone who loves me.
Howie, have you or your wife ever tried to set Terry up?
Long: My wife loves Terry, and we've talked about it a lot. But we tend to be more protective of him.
Bradshaw: More like [protective] of the girl. I think I protect myself too much. It's nature. You don't want to get hurt. But I will bump into someone one of these days. Or not.
Terry, your daughter Rachel is engaged to [Titans kicker] Rob Bironas. Will it be cool having a kicker in the family?
Bradshaw: I have no choice. It is a matter of the heart. If that is who she picks, that is who she picks.
Long: He [Bironas] came to the show a few weeks ago. Nice guy. But on his way out the door—now I still have some of that old man strength—I put the handshake on him and said, "You know what, I'm a flight away. And unlike your future father-in-law, I'm not worried about you liking me."
Bradshaw: I got word that he wanted to ask me for her hand while we were all on vacation in Hawaii. I was like, "Well, that is not going to happen. He's not going to ruin my vacation." So every day I was gone, and then when he was around, I made sure other people were around. I was not ready for him. Then during their bye week, he walked into my den [at Bradshaw's ranch in Thackerville, Okla.] at four in the morning when I was drinking coffee. I was like, "You are up awful early." He said, "Well, I don't know if you know this, but there is a reason we are here this week...." I stopped him right there and said, "O.K., you be nice to her," and along with a lot of other stuff I said, "God bless you, and I love you both, and I'm here for you." He said, "Well, you sure made that easy."
How interesting is this year's Super Bowl for you?
Bradshaw: I am a company guy, but I don't particularly like playing Super Bowls in cold weather. I don't like any restrictions or excuses. I am happy for my network, because it will bring so much exposure to Fox.
Long: The most moving Super Bowl for me was the one after 9/11, for all the obvious reasons. There was the halftime performance by U2, and Terry being the savant that he is—and I am paraphrasing—said something in the pregame like, "In a year like the year we have had as a country, how can you pick against a team called the Patriots?" You looked at those teams on tape, and there was no logical way anyone thought the Patriots would beat the Rams. And, sure enough, my boy Nostradamus got it right.
Who is the one person you have yet to meet that you always wanted to?
Bradshaw: I'm not easily impressed.
Long: I met Charlton Heston, and that was cool.
Bradshaw: I would have loved to meet Fred Astaire.
Bradshaw: I love Fred Astaire.
Long: Oh, you have no idea. When you are locked up in an eight-by-10 room in an aircraft carrier [during a visit to the USS Harry Truman in 2000] with a guy who has old man underwear on, and he is watching black-and-white movies all night, well, that was the apex of my life.
Bradshaw: I am a huge Fred Astaire fan. Huge. I was born at the wrong time. I should have been alive back in the 1920s. Howie, you could have been Clark Gable. Imagine if you had a little mustache and said, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
How long do you each want to continue in broadcasting?
Long: I have fun doing what I am doing. We laugh so hard off air—more than you can imagine. It really is like what it is on air, except much funnier. And we could not have computer-generated a better guy to join the show than Michael [Strahan]. A lot of it for me would be tied to how many years Terry goes.
Bradshaw: Well, I am doing it another 10 at least.
Long: Then I'll address it in 10 years. When my man packs it in, I plan to start digging a hole for him in my backyard in [Charlottesville] Virginia.
Bradshaw: I want to see my hole. Because I plan to decorate it with a cherry tree.
Long: We already have the plot picked out in the back yard. Terry and I will be together for a long time.
"I TOLD HIM, 'YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR PROBLEM IS? YOU'RE BORING,' " BRADSHAW SAYS. "IT STUNNED HIM, BUT IN A GOOD FRIENDSHIP YOU CAN SAY THINGS LIKE THAT."
Get more of Terry and Howie's conversation with Richard Deitsch and catch up on his Media Circus column at SI.com/mag
Photographs by ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
NEIL LEIFER/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (BRADSHAW)
JEFF CARLICK (LONG)