Terry Bradshaw grew a beard the week Jo Jo Starbuck filed for divorce. When a newspaper columnist wrote that Bradshaw had grown a beard following his first divorce seven years ago, the quarterback shaved. So begins a hard season for a soft guy.
A man who works with Bradshaw was there the day Jo Jo's lawyers called.
"Terry had talked to Jo Jo just the day before and there had been no indication anything was happening," the man said.
"Jo Jo had said, "Terry, our marriage is floundering, ' and Terry told her, 'I know it's floundering. If you want to get it on the right track, come to Pittsburgh to be with me.'"
Come to Pittsburgh. Come to the ranch. What Bradshaw wanted was a wife at home. But he knew, he had to know, that Jo Jo Starbuck was at home only on the ice, where she was a figure-skating star. She had her career, he had his, and together they were alone in separate worlds. Come to Pittsburgh, he said. He might as well have asked a bird to give up flying.
"The next day after they'd talked, it hit," Bradshaw's friend said. "Jo Jo's lawyers filed for divorce. I never saw Terry so shook up."
The question for the sports page is how much the divorce will affect Bradshaw's performance for the Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I don't see any problems," his friend said.
"Terry has learned to play football by rote," a Pittsburgh sportswriter said. The allusion is to Bradshaw's slow maturation as an NFL quarterback of cunning as well as skill. "And now that he does now how to play, I can't see him losing it because of a personal problem."
Chuck Noll, the Steeler coach, says Bradshaw may be better than ever because he will throw himself into football to forget his divorce.
Only Bradshaw knows the pain and he isn't talking about it now. He talked about it three weeks ago. He told a writer the divorce was his fault, that he wasn't a dutiful husband, that he was more concerned with making money in the offseason than being with Jo Jo. He told the writer he wanted Jo Jo back. He also went on television once, saying, sure, it bothered him.
But now he isn't talking about Jo Jo. "Two reasons," said Joe Gordon, the Steelers' public relations director. "One, it's too personal, and, two, there's a divorce lawsuit going and he doesn't want to say things that could hurt him."
Quarterbacks often come with swagger. Ken Stabler is a rakehell in a pickup truck. Joe Namath threw more passes out of uniform than in. The patron saint of carousing quarterbacks, Bobby Layne, might have collapsed in giggles upon reading last March -- in Playboy yet -- an interview in which Terry Bradshaw said he loved Jo Jo so much that when they worked in different cities, they read the Bible to each other over the telephone.
Stabler is twice divorced. If Namath broke hearts, his own was nicked once or twice. But no one inquired as to whether these failures would affect the quarterbacks' work. The thought didn't occur that playboys cry.
With Bradshaw, the question -- Is there a Super Bowl after divorce? -- in legitimate because here is a quarterback without swagger, a quarterback who wears his heart on his sleeve, a quarterback who has told the world his life was straightened out when God put him with Jo Jo Starbuck.
"It's typical Terry to take the blame for the divorce," a Pittsburgh writer said. "The guy is just so sincere and so open. If the Steelers lose, he'll be saying it was his fault. When his marriage falls apart, he says it's his fault, but the truth is that he and Jo Jo never had anything in common.
"In the Playboy interview, Terry said, 'I want her at the ranch and she wants the bright lights.' All they had in common was their strong belief in God. She didn't come to Pittsburgh with him, and his last offseason he didn't go on the road with her.
"But I believe him when he says he wants her back. It might look like he's being less than a macho man to say he wants her back, but that's Terry. He doesn't care about that stuff."
Bradshaw's first marriage, to a former Miss Teen-Age America, ended after the 1973 season.
The Steelers won the Super Bowl the next two seasons.
Then, in the summer of 1976, Bradshaw married Starbuck.
That season, the Steelers lost four of their five games. Complacency was the accepted cause. Some wondered if Bradshaw was a better quarterback single than married, especially when the Steelers failed to reach the Super Bowl either that season or the next.
Such speculation ended in 1978 with the Steelers winning a third Super Bowl. A fourth victory last season evened the score as a bachelor, two married.
In three preseason games this year, Bradshaw has been very good, completing 10 of 16 passes for 170 yards last week. He faces the Dallas Cowboys here Saturday night in a final warmup for a regular season that will be a test of Bradshaw's heart in more ways than one.
Marriages that go public invite trouble.
Steven and Cindy Garvey, Pete and Karolyn Rose, Bruce and Chrystie Jenner. They sold their hearts. Bradshaw didn't do that. There is no guile in him. He was a happy man made happier by sharing the happiness he knew with Jo Jo. Now that is gone, and we see the quarterback hurt.Root for him.