I absolutely loved John Madden. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Madden was an interval part of the growing NFL brand to youngsters like myself. I can remember watching these football games that my father loved, but for me, I was waiting to see what John Madden would say and what he would diagram with the telestrator. Madden gave every game life through his work in the broadcast booth. He had the type of personality that you just wanted to hang out with. He was an inspiration, an American gem, and he inspired me as well much later on.
We were Giants fans back then. That’s the New York football Giants my Dad would always remark. Phil Simms was the quarterback and Lawrence Taylor was the otherworldly defensive menace terrorizing other teams. I can remember sitting watching them play the Dallas Cowboys and Madden just taking over the show. Pat Summerall would try to keep the big guy in bounds, but there was very little he could do. You’d hear a “Boom” there and then the telestrator would start going, and before you knew it, you were smiling or laughing…or in other words enjoying the game.
I wonder if Madden would survive in today’s NFL world… Today, the NFL is pretty woke, with social justice slogans on helmets and messages written out in the end zone. We’ve also seen that the NFL is unbelievably bad handling controversy and scandal. Madden loved football and he had no problem criticising a player that went over the line. I can remember hearing him say something to the like of, “What the heck is that guy doing? You can’t hit that guy that far after the whistle. That’s a penalty every time. What a bonehead!” Would that fly today? I suspect not.
The world is different now and those old days are just that. When hearing that the old coach passed, I saw some video footage of his team playing in the Super Bowl. Almost every clip showed a play that would have been flagged for unnecessary roughness today. All of those guys would have been tossed. There aren’t many like Madden anymore. Perhaps the only coach close would be Belichick in New England.
About seven years ago (maybe more…), I was working at the University and they were looking for someone to sit in and be the color commentator for a men’s basketball game. I played in college, so my name got brought up. When the offer was thrown my way, I panicked. I can’t do this. Talking about a game with my family and friends is one thing. Talking about a game for strangers to enjoy…that’s a whole different ball game. I took a day to truly think about it. John Madden and Bill Walton were my two inspirations to say, yeah, I’ll give this a try.
Madden and Walton brought a joy to the games that I think is sorely missed now. Sports unite us, give us an escape, and show that through hard work, steady improvement, passion, dedication, and teamwork…so many cool things are possible. Madden recognized that and made sure that the viewers and listeners at home knew that this was all enjoyment of the culture of the nation. We work hard, we work together, and we have fun doing it. You can find all of John Madden’s achievements with a simple search, but I loved the guy for the personality he was.
Rest in peace John Madden.