Sunday, April 19, 2009

The end of an era

This is a Sports Post.
Sometimes these are really fun to write. This one both was and wasn't. A celebration of an era, the moving on of a broadcasting giant.

John Madden has stepped down.

Coach Madden, whose name now means football to a whole generation of young video gamers and whose voice and mannerisms mean good football is about to be played...or at least talked about...has decided to retire from broadcasting.

It was my opinion for a long time that John Madden along with his former long time cohort and co-announcer Pat Summerall should have been the designated Super Bowl announcers. It did not matter who broadcast the game, that pair should have been in the booth. I floated this idea in 1995, but then, I guess floated is the wrong term since what I really did was talk about it one night at a bar somewhere in middle South Carolina. Not exactly the powers that be, so to speak.

Sidenote - I'll watch the last fifteen minutes of Replacements just hear John Madden and Pat Summerall banter.

Madden understood the game better than a whole lot of people still standing on the sidelines pretending to be gurus today. With a career winning percentage as a coach of .759 in a 10 year career (considering personnel turnover, that's just ridiculous) and a Super Bowl ring, he not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. Hell, he danced the walk. He retired from coaching at 42 to avoid the health problems coaching stress was bringing on and went into broadcasting.

And if he hadn't been the man he was, he would have made it to the Hall of Fame on those stats alone. As it was broadcasting made a great man greater.

He didn't originally intend to coach. When you think about, how many kids want to grow up to "coach" the Super Bowl champions? He originally was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles (known as just as "Philly" in the first gen Madden) and got hurt during training camp. He picked up the coaching bug during his rehab and after his knee didn't come back right, he took the express train going from helping coach a High School team to college assistant coach under the legendary Don Coryell to head coach of the Raiders by age 32.

To say he was accomplished considering this was his "doing the best with the hand he was dealt", is an understatement.

Then he went onto broadcasting, which is where most of us know him from. In my mind it was not really football season until I'd heard John Madden call a game. He brought a sometimes crazy, sometimes incoherent, usually entertaining and always amazingly insightful viewpoint to the game. John made you understand the players were men, who did things off the field. More than just behemoths and athletes, but guys who were just guys. And he called so many important NFL games it's scary, so many close ones my head hurts. He even made bad games good by explaining the intangibles when you otherwise would have turned away. You found out why this guy turned that way, or what might have been on the coaches mind when he made that play call you didn't get.

And most importantly, unlike a lot of announcers out there who played quarterback or receiver and now sit in the booth...Madden appreciated the work of linemen and made you appreciate them too. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was a lineman when I played football.)

The fact that to most guys under thirty, the day the game that carries his name comes out is practically a national holiday speaks for itself.

Mr. Madden, you sir will missed. Thank you.

Enjoy the your wine.

No comments: