“When do you sleep? You know, who needs it?” Jon Gruden’s first words to Bryant Gumbel on this week’s Real Sports. advised that getting up at 3:15am every morning to look at game film and prepare for work, Gruden agrees. “Yeah, it’s probably not wise at times, probably not normal,” he says, looking serious for a moment before he smiles. “But it’s my rhythm, it’s the beat that I go to.”
With this, the show cuts to the man in action, yelling on the sidelines when he was coaching the Bucs, mad at the ref: “Are you out of your mind!? Are you out of your skull!?” Yes, that’s the beat that he goes to. As Gumbel reports, Gruden’s approach can seem intense, maybe over-aggressive, even it is incessantly entertaining, all reasons—along with his distinctive face—that he’s known, and mostly beloved, as “Chucky.” Gruden knows what he looks like and how he sounds, that his competitive nature can seem excessive. Here, he lays out why it’s important for his ESPN squad to win over Gumbel: “Look at him! He’s got the tweed suits, he’s got the famous smile. We can take him down!” The game for Gruden is ongoing, in the sense that even if he’s not coaching, even if he’s been on Monday Night Football for three years, he’s prepared, he’s excited, and he’s determined to get it right. If his “fiery temper” can make this erstwhile boy genius resemble Chucky—“You just get mad, and your face just becomes this scrambled egg, I guess,” he self-observes—it can also explain how he’s able to maintain his fierce pace, his love of work, his dedication to the game. Gumbel visits Gruden’s storehouse of tapes, the same site where he runs Gruden’s QB Camp. Smart, informative, and often funny, the show illustrates its host’s faith, that every play can be broken down and rethought, can be a learning experience, can make the next plays better. As for Chucky, he’s always good.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.