NFL prepares for life without Madden

David Roman

He could make you smile with just one sentence. Teenagers cursed him when they swore they pressed B on their X-Box controller instead of Y. He surprised viewers when he exclaimed during the last Super Bowl that the “Arizona inside linebacker penetrated the hole and exploded on Ben Roethlisberger.” Some loved to sit down on a lazy Sunday night and just relax to the sound of his soothing voice, while others loved to pump their fists and jump off their couches as he said “Touchdown.” He single handedly made Tinactin “Tough Actin’.”

He retired last year, and we don’t know if football will ever be the same. He is the irreplaceable legend John Madden.

While he was an outstanding head coach for the Oakland Raiders between the 1960s and 1970s, Madden became world famous for his job as a television announcer. In 1981, he was hired by CBS Sports to headline NFL games with Pat Summerall, where he honed his craft and displayed in-depth knowledge of the sport.

Even after Summerall left, he continued to work for the Fox network, where he became a household name through his scribbling of play formations directly on the television screen and exposure to wider media, including video games and advertisements. By the time he moved from Fox to ABC for Monday Night Football with Al Michaels, you couldn’t mention the word football without Madden coming to mind. He began to take guest roles in numerous popular football movies, while low-end comedians like Frank Caliendo made a career simply by impersonating him.

In 2005, he reached a new high by becoming the first television personality to star on all four major networks when Sunday Night Football moved to NBC. However, due to his well known fear of flying as well as illnesses that came with his age, Madden decided to retire last April after almost 30 years of broadcasting, with Cris Collinsworth replacing him in the booth.

A major question that has always been asked about Madden was “How did he do it?” Announcers have tried for decades to become staples over the air and have failed. Dennis Miller tried his comedic act on Monday Night Football, only to be heckled out of the booth, while Joe Theismann was kicked off ESPN after a short stint due to his often negative personality. Similarly, those who do become names in the business don’t have nearly the same amount of respect that Madden had.

While Joe Buck and Tim McCarver have become famous for their work in baseball and football games, Buck is often criticized for his lack of knowledge for the sport as well as his dry personality, and McCarver is mocked for using complete jibberish in his analysis of a play.

Even those who have found success and gained respect on the air have never come close to the popularity of Madden. Joe Morgan may have found a niche doing Sunday Night Baseball for ESPN, but he has never been adored by the public. So how did Madden do it? How did he gain the love and respect of several generations simply by talking football?

For me, the answer is simple: He is America’s grandfather. For the youth, he is the cool guy who creates video games and says somewhat risqué things by accident. He isn’t overbearing or angry when he speaks, but he is calm and collected, as if he is offering you a candy bar when he is describing why the corner blitz didn’t work.

For adults, he is knowledgeable and straightforward, he teaches the game as clearly and effectively as he can while knowing what he is talking about – something many announcers can’t say they do. He also teaches valuable lessons about hard work, persistence and team play – something his “All-Madden” team, which highlights hard-working and hard-nosed players, represents.

In a time where our football heroes are getting caught with drugs or trying to find intimacy on incredibly unreal “reality” shows (thanks, Terrell Owens), having a man who represents the qualities we truly admire in sports is refreshing. In the end, he comes off as a real, down to earth guy who many can relate to, even though we only heard him once a week.

When you turn on your televisions next Sunday for the premiere of Sunday Night Football, think of Grandpa Madden. You’ll end up missing the laughter you got from the phallic symbol he drew accidentally in yellow pen on your screen or the sound of his voice.


David Roman is a junior psychology and sociology major from Windham, N.H. He can be reached at [email protected]