Updated: May 1, 2020
Depending on the day, sometimes we flourish, other times we flounder. It can feel like a nightmare in which our country and our world are being defeated by invasive, alien germs, or borderline depression brought on by fear which can drive us to the wall. Other times, small blessings can ignite joy. And a simple act of kindness, random call from a friend or the glory of a fresh new morning sunrise can calm our souls. Deep feelings abide.
Call it Quarantine Schizophrenia.
We eat, drink, read, pray, watch Netflix and Amazon Prime, walk, eat again, phone a friend, water our new tomato plant, watch any re-run of any sporting event, settle for a lousy movie, snack, pray some more, check email, check snail mail, perhaps stretch, contemplate what’s for dinner, watch or listen to any talk show, and generally stay busy to avoid thinking the worst.
Memo to self: Stay busy. Self-pity and fear are agents of destruction.
Right now, with my business on hold and my world upside down, I yearn for the day when we’ll have college football again. We are so hungry for content that many of us watched almost the entire three days of the NFL Virtual Draft, which proved interesting for Gator fans that saw C.J. Henderson go to the Jaguars. Then six other Gators were chosen which tied Florida with Georgia for the second most SEC players. Funny, I don’t even watch the normal NFL Draft past five picks -- but I stayed tuned to this one.
After seven weeks of self-quarantine with my wife Joni -- we’re feeling healthy and blessed but quite often needy -- small pleasures mean everything and tiny bits of progress feel monumental. Some days I’d just settle for a hug from one of my kids or grandchildren.
We dare not curse the darkness. I try to remember that through some bad times great discoveries have been uncovered. (Supposedly in 1665 during the Plague of London, mathematician Isaac Newton invented or advanced previous theories on calculus or physics or gravity – or one of those math things.)
So when you’re having a bad day, invent something! Or write and record a song, which my friend Terry Bradshaw did.
I was having one of those down days last week when a call came from the most upbeat, spirited friend I know. For more than three decades, Terry Bradshaw has been a blessing to many, but especially me and my family. He always makes me laugh, usually inspires me to words and definitely leaves me better than he found me. The generosity of his spirit makes his wealth seem the equivalent of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
There was no real cause for me to be down or dispirited that day, except I was about to indulge myself in bit of self-pity. I’d had no luck qualifying for any of the SBA loans, had seen neither hide nor hare of my stimulus check and there was no sight of any sponsorships for @TheBuddyMartinShow or any new advertisers for my college sports magazine @GatorBaitMedia.com. Like about most of America, my future was cloudy and finances we spotty, at best.
To quote that shop-worn cliché from Dickens, these are “the best of times and the worst of times.” And for me, life had just started getting a bit better.
Terry is quick to share whatever he’s got with those he loves – material or spiritual. He hands out blessings like Johnny Appleseed. Turns out, I needed it that day.
It was Week 4 of our self-imposed quarantine and maybe Week 2 1/2 for Terry and his wife Tammy on their 800-acre ranch in Thackerville, Okla. This time we were talking a little politics, a bit of football and weighing in on family and faith matters when Tammy walked into the room and blurted out: “I’m going Quarantine Crazy.”
I’m not going to try and convince you that bells and whistles went off, but Terry and I gave each other a virtual high five over the phone and both concluded there was some poetry in that statement. So Terry blurted out: “That’s a country song!”
A week or so later, after he and Tammy had called their songwriter friend Jimmy Yeary, they would meet in Nashville at a recording studio with one sound engineer and knock out Terry’s vocals in under an hour. Then the Bradshaws flew back to Oklahoma.
Terry is no stranger to music, having covered the Hank Williams song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” which made it to Billboard’s Top 20 in 1976. Last year he began a regular show in Las Vegas at the Luxor and was planning to do more touring BTCV (Before The Corona Virus). The man can sing.
I’ve heard Terry belt out tunes spontaneously, anywhere and everywhere, for over 30 years. In New York taxis … walking down Sixth Avenue … on the golf course. For three years on Sunday autumn mornings when we walked in the New York CBS Broadcast Center where we worked on “The NFL Today,” we would break out in Vince Gill’s “When I Call Your Name,” echoing down the hallways of the CBS Broadcast Center in two-part harmony.
A few days ago, Terry sent me a cut of “Quarantine Crazy” written by Yeary, who had also penned Rascal Flatts’ No. 1 “Why Wait” and the incredibly sad-but-tender No. 1 platinum hit by Lee Brice “I Drive Your Truck,” among others. I was impressed with Terry’s vocals on this one. And this new song, a parody about life in Pandemic exile, wasn’t too shabby. Pretty dang good, I thought. But I wasn’t prepared for the media onslaught that was about to happen.
A few days later a friend texted me to say that the Fox Show “The Five” had just teased Bradshaw’s guest appearance at the top of the show. So I flipped it over from The Paul Finebaum Show and, sure enough, there he was, live from home on “The Five.”
The first sentence was about the song and Jimmy Yeary. And then he said, “I was on the phone in my office with Buddy Martin, a really great sportswriter I’ve known for 30-something years. And we were talking football, and Tammy’s in the kitchen and she hollers at me and says, ‘Terry! I’m going quarantine crazy!’ I said, ‘Quarantine crazy? Hey, that’s a country song title.’ I said, ‘Buddy, I’ll call you back.’”
Now excuse my vanity, but imagine my surprise and glee to hear Terry’s high praise on national TV. He did it again and again in national interviews to the point where it was almost embarrassing … on Fox News, Fox News business, Colin Cowherd -- and later he repeated it in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine.
I must admit I loved it. I loved the attention, but more importantly I was deeply touched by his generosity. Really, there was no reason for me getting all that pub because I had little or no role in the song, except as a cheerleader.
All of which caused me to gush to Joni: “I think Terry is the most generous friend I have.”
“The BEST friend you have,” she shot back.
“Well, maybe – but certainly the most generous,” I countered.
I could recite many other instances of generous gestures by Terry, but let’s just start with this: Him insisting that he wanted to be a regular weekly guest on my small-town radio show (without pay) for over three years -- acting like it was a big deal to him. At a family wedding in Dallas, he announced a group of about 40 well-wishers.
“Really?” one of them asked. “Where’s it going to be on?” – (expecting a reply of “New York” or “LA” or “Fox” or “ESPN.””
“Ocala, Florida,” they were told.
How about the gift of a car – a used Tahoe that he no longer needed on the ranch and which I now drive as my main vehicle? All we had to do is pick it up at the ranch on our way back from Denver. After dinner that night, we played cards and Terry offered:
“How about coming to Hawaii for a family wedding in two weeks?” he asked. What followed was a trip on a private plane to Hawaii and two weeks in a 5-star hotel.
Then Terry showed up in 2019 for the Ocala Quarterback Club’s presentation of The Scot Brantley Trophy during “An Evening with Terry Bradshaw” – paying his own way and volunteering to return every year for it.
I could go on, but you get it. Most generously, Terry has this knack of showing up at just the right time and making you forget about your crappy day, after which you just wish he lived next door to you.
This taught me, once again, that even in the worst of times the true definition of a friend is somebody who appears unexpectedly to lift your spirits without wanting anything in return.
It is upon these gracious gestures and generosities we can bond our lives with strength to pay it forward. That kind of contagion would serve us all.
Even if I’m not a “really great sportswriter” anymore – or even if I never was one – I felt like it that day.