If there is a single, succinct description of this man, it’s “larger than life.” He was physically big, with a loud voice and a presence that immediately filled a room. He loved to gesticulate, waving his hands and arms around excitedly as he made a point, or coached a play, or simply wanted to teach everyday folks about football. John was knowledgeable; practically a walking encyclopedia about both players and the game. Listening to him call a game, especially with Pat Summerall, made even the most casual viewer realize it wasn’t just a job. It was a labor of love.
John Madden’s achievements have been well covered elsewhere, so I’ll just write about what he meant to me. I started watching football regularly in 1981, the same year Pat and John started working together on CBS. While my dad taught me the basics of football, John helped me to truly understand the deeper aspects and strategies of the game in a simple and very fun way. Hearing John get excited about football made me excited about football, and was one of the reasons I kept watching it.
He also did things like this..
John loved people as much as football. As many know, he did not like to fly because of claustrophobia, and that’s why he (eventually) began traveling to games by bus. Another reason he didn’t like flying is because you “never see anything.” Crossing the country in the Maddencruiser™ allowed him to connect directly with fans and especially their cuisine, which is how America was introduced to “turducken,” now a Thanksgiving staple in many locations.
Most of all, John Madden never lost his wonder for life. He shared his passion for the game without reservation. He led a celebrity existence and remained humble. He wasn’t afraid to show his heart.
Thank you for being part of my Sunday afternoons, John. Happy trails. Hug Pat for us.