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Column

Peterson: From Super Bowl champ to shingles harbinger

Terry Bradshaw isn’t a doctor, and I am not inclined to take medical advice from TV personalities.

Did I call Terry Bradshaw a TV personality? My gosh, he won four Super Bowls as quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. He’s a sports legend. He goes by two names as a matter of honor.

And I have to try to dislike him and the Steelers as they beat my Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX in 1975 – XL years ago this year, a long time to hold a grudge. He completed only 9 of 14 passes, but it was the fourth-quarter touchdown pass that put the game away.

And I decided a long time ago – back in the 1970s – that I would forever hold enmity against teams that beat the Vikings in Super Bowls. And the Vikings have been there four times, also losing to Kansas City and Len Dawson in Super Bowl IV, 23-7; Miami and Bob Griese in Super Bowl VIII, 24-7; and Oakland and Ken Stabler in Super Bowl XI, 32-14.

The Vikings have lost as many Super Bowls as Terry Bradshaw has won. I was crushed as a fan four times, made miserable by my Vikings. And five times since then, the Vikings have been defeated in the National Football Conference championship game to advance to the Super Bowl, the last time five years ago in overtime to the New Orleans Saints. Vikings fans know misery.

And that is what Terry Bradshaw is talking about when he is dishing out medical advice these days on TV commercials.

“You don’t want to be tackled by shingles,” he says.

Terry Bradshaw probably now is known more for his co-hosting duties on “Fox NFL Sunday,” playing the funny guy second from the left. And this is a man who has clinical depression, showing again that, with treatment, mental illnesses do not have to be disabling. People can flourish with them if they take care of themselves.

Lately, Terry Bradshaw has been seen on TV doing commercials about shingles, a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. And Terry Bradshaw says you have a 1-in-3 chance of getting shingles if you have had the chicken pox.

According to the Incredible Internet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modifies that: If you are older than 60, you have a 1-in-3 chance of contracting shingles. I’m pushing 60.

And I’ve seen the other commercials about shingles where they have actors describe the intense pain of shingles, where the rash covers large parts of their bodies. Everything that touches it causes pain, even clothing.

I’ve had the chicken pox, and I can pretty much chase it down to a year: 1968. I was in fourth grade, and my parents were having our kitchen remodeled in our house on Fourth Avenue in South St. Paul, Minnesota. I remember that because I was home from school, spending my days watching a man plaster the kitchen walls.

And, no, this wasn’t drywall. It was actual plaster with the wire mesh that was tacked to the studs, and the plaster was spread over the mesh. He had no kind words for drywall, which apparently was just coming onto the market and was cutting into his business.

I seem to recall having chicken pox for a couple of weeks, and I was on a dose of penicillin to kill the virus. The trouble with the penicillin was you had to swallow the pill, and I couldn’t swallow pills. So my parents came up with the ingenious idea of putting the pill in a teaspoonful of chocolate syrup. And the pill would go right down my throat with no problem. Sure.

And after a few times of gagging the pill down my throat, they trusted me to take the pill on my own. But I knew I gagged anyway, so I would take a teaspoon of chocolate syrup and throw the penicillin away. It probably didn’t help my recovery from chicken pox.

And I’ll probably pay for that childish antic by contracting shingles. Terry Bradshaw makes it quite clear that shingles is nothing to fool with. If you’ve had chicken pox, the likelihood of getting shingles is high, a 33 percent chance. I have a friend who had shingles, and it was nasty, and he was only in his 30s.

Terry Bradshaw compared shingles to playing football, and there’s a lot of pain playing football.

“But it’s nothing like the pain that shingles causes. … It was like being blindsided by some linebacker.”

Ouch, doubled over. 

I don’t see my doctor until the middle of March for a physical, and I plan on asking him about the shingles vaccination. I’ll tell him Super Bowl quarterback Terry Bradshaw sent me.

• Dick Peterson, who lives in Woodstock, is a mental-health advocate. He is a freelance writer and a former Northwest Herald Opinion Page editor. He can be contacted at dickpeterson76@gmail.com.

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