Experts on human behavior may ponder the following phenomenon: no command to boo Charlie passed through the city in advance of the season opener; no meetings were held or leaflets passed. Yet—as if by some marvel of telepathy, some miracle of ESP—thousands suddenly booed in unison when Charlie answered the P.A. announcer's call.
Now that the fans had chosen Charlie to fill their deep-seated need to hate, they set about justifying their choice. Just look at that oaf, they said. Look at him charging forward with his head up and his big behind sticking out (in the view of coaches, letter-perfect form) and his mouth hanging open. Even worse, the fans noted that no matter how many Steelers had been run into the ground by an enemy charge Charlie usually remained on his feet. The fact is that Charlie does not care to have people knock him down, and he has the strength to see that they don't.
When the 1965 season had run its course Charlie made tracks out of town and began 1966 on a satisfying note. In January NFL athletes elected him president of their Players' Association. Soon after, he joined the Houston law firm of Talbert, Giessel, Barnett & Stone and, although a rookie, was immediately entrusted to argue negligence and accident cases before District Court, the state's highest trial court. By July, when he reported to training camp, he had gone undefeated in four trials—operating on defense, by the way. Then he set aside his conservative courtroom attire, cleaned out his desk in the State National Building, accepted a raise from Art Rooney, and presented himself for another season of abuse.
This time he was philosophical. Said Charlie: "You get to thinking, 'How many offensive tackles in the history of football have been booed?' The answer is none. In fact, people don't know their names. So I would say I've been tendered quite an honor, a place of high esteem. One of football's most important values is the opportunity it gives people to get out and release pent-up frustrations. Maybe their wives or their bosses have been picking on them. So you see, I'm of great therapeutic value to the American public."
Still the occasional urge to climb into the stands poses a certain frustration to Charlie himself, and he has toyed with a couple of ideas under the heading of self-therapy. He has considered communicating to the crowd via a series of long banners that he would unroll from time to time. "Come on, now," one would read toward the close of the game, "give a big boo for Bradshaw. It's your last chance." Also, Charlie thought he might assign Equipment Manager Tony Parisi to paint him with a bucketful of mud in full view of the crowd.
Bill Austin, a tough Vince Lombardi disciple who succeeded Mike Nixon as Steeler coach, is satisfied with Charlie, laundered or filthy. "Charlie has been having a real good year," he told Vice-President Dan Rooney not long ago, and Rooney himself goes further. "I think Charlie has had the best year of his career." After opening day Rooney told his P.A. announcer to discontinue pregame introductions, because "it's a waste of time." And besides, Rooney adds, possibly with Bradshaw in mind, the introductions invite ugliness.
The scowling Austin, who appears tougher than he really is, has taken some of the heat off Charlie. The fans appear to have been soothed by visions of Austin flogging the Steeler players with a bullwhip or in some way making their lives miserable. So the fans have lately contented themselves with a smattering of brief insults to Charlie. There is hope that next year the insults will be even briefer. Last month Charlie won his first case in a Pittsburgh court when he defended a man charged with malicious mischief. The fans' verdict on Charlie Bradshaw may also be coming around to not guilty.