Fox NFL Sunday's Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw. Fox NFL Sunday’s Howie Long and Terry Bradshaw. (Real Sports.)

The NFL on Fox is in its 30th season, and that’s sparked a lot of reflection. HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (which is itself ending this year after wrapping up its 29th season) is the latest to do so, with a piece from correspondent Mary Carillo on Fox NFL Sunday that will premiere on their linear network Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT and also stream on Max. And that piece explores the relationships between that pregame show’s panelists through good times and bad, and is perhaps particularly interesting for its exploration of the one between consistent members Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long. First off, here’s a preview clip for the segment:

There are some interesting bits in the full segment. Those include Michael Strahan talking about the ways the group razzed him (including with half a fruit basket after his divorce and with a cake showing off the gap in his teeth) and Bradshaw talking about his famous horse-mounted intro (“New frontier, same game”) on the very first Fox NFL Sunday in 1994 after he came over from CBS. Here’s that intro:

Bradshaw tells Carillo that fit with the new approach Fox brought (something other NFL on Fox figures, including Kenny Albert and Chris Myers, have emphasized). He says he appreciated Fox’s focus on fun as compared to the more staid Xs and Os talk at CBS, and says he was immediately on board with the horse intro: “Loved it.” He goes on to add more:

“It was a whole new approach coming to Fox. There was never a question of you have to impress the audience with your knowledge. I only won four Super Bowls, I think I know a little bit about football. All I’m trying to do is entertain the people and present something to them that’s a little bit fun, but yet has a point.”

But the real highlight of this segment is its discussion of the evolution of the relationship between Bradshaw and Long. Long says “I was still like a player, so my fuse was a little shorter,” and both describe butting heads at times. Bradshaw notably says “A couple times, we had words. I went on The Tonight Show and was talking about his son and him, made an example of him for a funny. And he didn’t appreciate that.” Long says “At one point, I said to him, ‘You ever do that again, I’m going to reach across the table and choke you.’ He said ‘Just warn me,’ and I said ‘I’ve never warned anybody. But you’ve been warned.'”

That relationship grew and changed over time, though. And those two, and the rest of the cast (including Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Curt Menefee, and Jay Glazer), wound up relying on each other, and bonding through the good times and the bad. One that comes in for some discussion here is the time Bradshaw ran out of breath on air last fall and wound up leaning on Long (which he later said convinced him to reveal his cancer battle). Menefee talks about how the panelists knew what Bradshaw was dealing with, calling it “the circle of trust,” and Long has a lovely note there:

“He can lean on me, and I can lean on him. Life is life. There’s a lot of celebration, there’s some hardship, and there’s some loss. You have to have good friends to kind of lean on.”

This is an excellent segment looking at how Fox NFL Sunday has done over the years, and it’s one of many great ones done by Real Sports in general and by Carillo specifically. It remains a pity that Real Sports will soon be signing off. But they’re hitting some good stuff on the way out.

In addition to this segment, Tuesday’s Real Sports episode also includes segments on controversial horse racing figure Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley and his family, and a catch-up with brothers Lucas and Noah Aldrich. Lucas suffers from a rare neurological disorder that inhibits his ability to walk and talk, and Noah helps him compete in triathlons. The episode will premiere at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.