Commentary: Mike Lopresti
Bradshaw, Williams Confront Depression
May 6, 2003, IndyStar.com
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The man on the telephone has four Super Bowl rings, a television
name . . . and a lifetime of living with depression.
"Nobody," Terry Bradshaw was saying, "likes talking about what a
mess they are."
No. Old quarterbacks are supposed to talk of yesterday's
touchdowns. His passes, after all, gave wind to the Pittsburgh
Bradshaw is here to talk of the time he couldn't stop crying on
a football field . . . the day he had to be carried off an
airplane . . . the blackout just before a Super Bowl telecast .
. . the spending binges on horses and cars and women . . . the
three divorces . . .
"All products of depression," he said.
"Football I could take. Three hours of focus. The rest of my
life has been hell in a handbasket."
Bradshaw is taking his ordeal public these days, sponsored by
the company whose Paxil drug has rebooted his life.
He is paired with Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams --
leading rusher in the NFL last year, and a victim of a social
anxiety disorder so powerful, he once was afraid to go to the
Millions of Americans know the feeling. Many are men (talked
about less). Some are professional athletes (talked about
"In our industry," Bradshaw said, "people don't want to know
about these disorders. Athletes don't want to have to deal with
it. We're supposed to deal with physical pain."
Williams can recount years of wondering why he was too fearful
of the neighbors to go out for the mail, and so intimidated by
the media he conducted interviews wearing his helmet.
Bradshaw recalls Super Bowl victories that could not be
appreciated or enjoyed. Not the second they were over, because
depression was waiting in the locker room.
"Hated 'em," he said. "Got no joy out of playing in 'em. There
was always the fear of what could happen if we lost the next
one. What would they say about me? I never wanted that burden."
Five years ago, with another marriage gone -- "Rock bottom," he
called it -- Bradshaw finally looked for professional help.
Found it. Started treatment. Got better.
So did Williams, who was a New Orleans Saint when he disclosed
his ailment, to a pro football culture more comfortable with ACL
Not long after, according to Williams, he was called into the
coach's office. "What the hell is this?" Jim Haslett said.
"I had no friends in football," Bradshaw said. "I attributed it
to the fact I was different. It's the Hasletts of the world that
keep people like us from coming out. It's macho-man stuff."
Bradshaw knows what has happened lately to two other macho men.
Barret Robbins was center for the Oakland Raiders, who
disappeared just before this year's Super Bowl, his bipolar
condition aflame when he stopped taking his medication and
"He's a wonderful young man who made a horrible mistake,"
Bradshaw said. "You'd better know you have a problem."
Mike Webster was a Hall of Fame center who snapped thousands of
footballs into the hands of Terry Bradshaw.
Webster was the first of those championship Steelers to die last
year, tormented to the end by physical and mental fiends.
"I don't think there are enough of us rallying to support people
like Mike Webster," Bradshaw said. "We'll support a guy who
beats up his wife or a guy who has three visits to the drug
factory and gets caught. But mental disease seems worse."
So two successful men spend spring at the microphone, sending
their messages to those too frightened to open the door at home,
or see only darkness on the sunniest days. Those who suffer in
silence, as they once did.