Brad Sham knows all about “no pain, no gain.”
He spent one late-night Super Bowl eve in a dentist chair having a crown repaired.
Rendered speechless — and not in a good way, either — Sham made the kickoff on time for SB XXVII at Pasadena, Calif., without a trace of discomfort or angst.
And the Dallas Cowboys went on to win the first of their three ‘90s Super Bowls.
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(Until now, Sham had completely forgotten the dental disaster ... or was he just trying to forget? It was hard to tell.)
The venerable “Voice of the Cowboys” is now entering his 30th season (third-longest tenure among play-by-play announcers with the same NFL team). That’s one year longer than either Landry or Schramm.
And like those two fabled franchise architects, Sham has been fired once by Jerry Jones.
“What I did was stupid of me,” Sham recalled.
He dragged Jones’ name into a spitting match between the Cowboys radio booth and then-coach Barry Switzer, on the air, in the next-to-last pre-season game of 1994.
“Jerry didn’t like it, and I don’t blame him,” Sham said.
The Cowboys, at the time, were the two-time defending Super Bowl champs. Jimmy Johnson had been replaced by Switzer.
Sham, then in his 19th season with the Cowboys, was immediately yanked as TV host of The Jerry Jones Show, although he continued to work the booth alongside Dale Hansen for the rest of the ’94 season.
Switzer wanted them both fired.
Sham saw this as an awkward situation (Switzer refused to be interviewed by Sham) which could be remedied by defecting to Arlington to broadcast Rangers games, which he did (’95-97).
Sham returned to the Cowboys only after Switzer was fired. In his second tour of duty (’98-present), Sham has never missed a beat.
Today, Jerry Jones says, “Brad has unique insight into the team. I trust his judgment.”
It started out Super
With the 1976 season already in progress, Sham began as a color analyst alongside Verne Lindquist on the Cowboys Radio Network.
Sham’s NFL initiation was short and not-so-sweet.
The ’76 Cowboys lost only three regular-season games but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Sound familiar?
The next year turned out much better.
“That ’77 team won the Super Bowl,” Sham reminded. “And what has always remained firmly ingrained in my mind is the bus ride to the Superdome for that [27-10 win over Denver].”
As a 28-year-old radio analyst of America’s Team, Sham was working his first full NFL season. He was green. Conditions were crude.
He used alligator clips to attach an audio mixer to his hotel phone line.
He conducted all on-air interviews back to his station from his hotel room, counting on the likes of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Randy White to drop by and chat.
“The team stayed at a New Orleans airport hotel, which was a total dump,” Sham said. “Today, of course, you have ‘radio row’ at the Super Bowl media center, but we were so far from that universe back then.
“Anyway, what I remember most about that Super Bowl is getting on the team bus, and thinking, ‘Why does this feel like every other bus ride to a game?’ I kept waiting for some existential moment to occur.
With the exception that we usually stayed in better hotels, it felt just like every other game. And that always stuck with me.”
Sham’s Creed: Be fair
Sham’s approach to journalism is to inform, enlighten, even criticize as long as you’re fair.
“I’ve worked it out with people when I’ve been wrong,” he said.
“I once critcized Charlie Waters for blowing a coverage  against the New England Patriots. Russ Francis was the tight end, caught the ball and ran about 40 yards. Charlie was the strong safety and chased him down from behind.
“To me, Charlie blew the coverage, so I said so.”
Several days later at Cowboys practice, Waters was in Sham’s face.
“I realized I was completely wrong,” said Sham. “I think it’s important for someone like me to say, ‘I don’t know.’ Now [booth partner] Babe Laufenberg knows. He played [in the NFL]. Trust me, he knows.
“As for Charlie, we were completely fine after that. He knew I wasn’t out to get him.”
Sham, a man of candor, doesn’t shy away from voicing an opinion — even though he’s the play-by-play guy.
This, of course, got him in trouble during the’94 Cowboys-Broncos pre-season, pre-game show.
“My inclusion of Jerry Jones in those impromptu remarks was unfair,” Sham admitted. “The only thing Jerry ever said to me about that incident was: ‘I don’t even know how I got into that conversation.’ And he was 100 percent right.
“I thought about it later, and I don’t know how he got into it, either.”
The ’94 Switzer flap
It began with Hansen and Sham independently learning about “a lot of in-fighting” among Switzer assistants.
“There was a power vacuum with Jimmy Johnson gone,” Sham recalled. “Assistant coaches were elbowing each other like big men in the low post.”
After comparing notes and realizing they were onto something, Sham and Hansen agreed before the Aug. 21 pre-season game at Texas Stadium to hold off until they had more.
But Hansen spoke up. Sham jumped in ... and Jones was tossed under the bus right along with Switzer.
“It was stupid of me to choose that forum to do what I did, if I was going to do it at all. We didn’t have the time to get into it,” Sham said. “Then, to throw Jerry in there was unfair to Jerry.”
Switzer appeared on Hansen’s WFAA-TV show and “created a firestorm,” according to Sham. The coach accused the broadcasters of making up stories.
“That’s about the worse thing a reporter can be accused of doing — making up a story,” Sham said. “That was just outrageous to me. We didn’t make up anything.”
Jones immediately fired Sham as host of The Jerry Jones Show and Switzer severed all working ties with the “Voice of the Cowboys.”
The ’94 season ended bitterly in San Francisco, a fitting taste in everyone’s mouth, with a 38-28 loss in the NFC championship game.
The Rangers now were looking for a radio play-by-play man.
“I always liked baseball,” Sham said. “And this was my chance to get out of an environment that I didn’t feel particularly wanted.”
His relationship with Switzer today?
“We’re fine,” Sham said. “Barry probably doesn’t even remember it happened.”
No. 3 in NFL longevity
With more than 30 years apiece on the job, Gil Santos of the Patriots and Merrill Reese of the Eagles rank 1-2 among NFL broadcasters with same-team longevity.
Sham, 58, would be No. 1, if not for those three years spent away from the Cowboys.
“Brad has credibility with our fans,” Jones said. “He has a good eye for what’s happening on the team, and he has an opinion that comes across without being intrusive.
“I trust his judgment. Not one time have I had to talk to him about an issue that we have to be sensitive about. There’s no need ... he’s always around it.”
Brad corroborates the non-interference part of Jerry’s story.
“That’s one thing I respect about Jerry, just as I respected about Tex Schramm. Tex never interferred [with the broadcast], either.”
So, how did Sham and Jones get back to working together after the ’94 blowup?
“I was in Japan covering the Nagano Olympics for CBS radio when news came down that Switzer was fired,” Sham recalled. “I got a call from [KVIL-AM’s] Ron Chapman, wanting to know if I wanted to come back.”
Sham said sure ... but only if Jones was OK with it.
“I had a speech all prepared,” Sham said. “But I never got to speak one syllable of it. I walked into Jerry’s office, and he threw his arms open.”
Jones told Sham: “We’re happy to have you back. This is where you belong.”
Sham’s highlight reel
Sham has called five Super Bowls with the Cowboys. He has done games in London, Tokyo and Mexico City.
He has authored one of the most storied lines in team history (Oct. 22, 2002): “Move over, Sweetness. Make a place for Emmitt.”
So, when asked about his “favorite moment” in this, his 30th season with the Cowboys, Sham replied, “Do I have to pick just one?”
He gave us three quickly, off the top of his head:
Jan. 31, 1993 SB XXVII (Rose Bowl)
Cowboys 52, Bills 17
“It was such a perfect day,” Sham said of the scene that drew 98,374 fans to that game. “Before the kickoff, the sun was shining, the dew was on the grass, mountains in background ... and to know what these players and coaches had overcome in three previous years just to get there.”
(Maybe this is why Sham had forgotten he had a crown repaired at the UCLA medical center the night before.)
Dec. 16, 1979 (Texas Stadium)
Cowboys 35, Redskins 34
“That still might be the best football game I’ve ever seen,” Sham said. “Verne Lundquist was doing a boxing tournament in Japan for ABC, so I was doing play-by-play for only my second time. It was a back-and-forth game and it was for [a berth in] the playoffs. It was huge. It was also the day somebody threw a funeral wreath inside the Cowboys dressing room. Harvey Martin decided it was the Redskins, so after the game he threw it inside the Washington dressing room.”
Dec. 15, 1977 SB XII (Superdome)
Cowboys 27, Broncos 10
The bus ride from the dumpy airport hotel to the biggest game on the planet. But I think you’ve heard this one already.