On his bus to Canton, Ohio, for the 2005 Hall of Fame game, John Madden was talking about his favorite season – not spring or summer – but football season.
Sitting side by side in the dining style booth, Madden told me how he woke up like a bear out of sleep as the NFL season approached. He recently went to Soldier Field for a Chicago Pierce training session, which will stimulate the appetite for a season of food.
“I know it sounds fake,” he said as we rode on the Interstate 80, “but there’s no better smell than that grass – and the smell of a baby’s head. It’s a great feeling that football is back. You’ve been asleep for six months. Then my body. Feels something.
When I first heard of Madonna, I had no idea who she was 85 passed away on Tuesday, Analyze a football game. But of course when he was on CBS in the early 1980s he shared his appetite and interest in the game like a newly born bear. He was a whirlwind of originality through his rude but majestic approach to discussing X’s and O’s, his comic-book sound effects (Bam! Boom! Doink!) And his electronic telecaster squiggles that taught a generation how plays are made.
He brought a coach’s sockboard to America’s living room – and watching football is not always the same.
Madden was a light years better than many commentators before him as a commentator and entertainer; He seemed to call the game completely different. His predecessors at the booth were slow to analyze bass or runs and were the first to guess plays as efficiently as Madden did. Today’s top analysts – Chris Collinsworth (who replaced him on NBC), Tony Romo and Troy Eichmann – are not nearly as impressive or funny.
One advantage of Madonna’s highly informed, unpolished, Everyman appeal is its ability to keep the audience watching or awake during a blow. Much of it was Madden – he would have been unmatched by almost any other play-by-play announcer. But his relationship with his broadcast partner, tough ex-player Pat Summer, was part of the magic. Summer made Madonna an expert straight man, like Butt Abbott first Madonna’s Lou Costello.
The end of Summer’s dialogue – after describing the basics of a play – is as simple as saying “yes” on both ends of the Madonna monologue. Fans, who complained that the announcers had spoken too much, did not mourn the death of Summer.
Al Michaels was more of a chatterbox than Summer, and he had a different chemistry with Madonna on two football Ph.Ds, such as ABC’s “Monday Night Football” and NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”. Students who follow some high level in pig skin understanding.
“He spoiled you,” Michaels said after Madonna Retired in 2009. “I should never have wondered if John was informed or ready. John can run with you on any matter and engage you on any matter.
It seems to exist only when many athletes call it games. But Madden created a huge football brand for himself: as a commercial pitchman for countless products (“Did you get a tough case in the foot of an athlete? Boom! Get Dinactin”); The name of the most famous “Madden NFL” electronic arts video game and the most famous Denison of a bus after Ralph Cramdon because he did not fly (his wife Virginia, licensed pilot).
When he and his crew (two drivers, friends, another agent like his agent, Matt Millan) stopped at a roadside restaurant to breathe a sigh of relief, fans knew they might be looking at him and chatting – after all, he was Pork Charles Gould. Some food.
Food was an important part of Madonna’s world. When I went to New York from a game in Pittsburgh in 1997 with him, the bus menu had a spicy cabbage and noodle dish, sausages and chili. “Mmmm,” he said, inhaling the scent of his coronary smorgasport. “Fat and sugar smell good. Steamed tofu does not smell good.
He added, “Anything that smells good is fat.”
And of course, there was Thanksgiving turkey, which was transformed into turducken, a rotten chicken stuffed into a rotten duck stuffed into a rotten turkey. This chicken festival existed before Madden became popular, but it seemed to have been created to satisfy Madden’s appetite and his desire to talk about food during games.
He was dating during his time as coach of the Oakland Riders: overweight, his red hair unbuttoned, his shirt partially unbuttoned, a side bang hanging from a belt loop (as if questioning who he was there for), screaming and waving his arms. That personality was fully translated into the Miller Light business campaign by former athletes, coaches and celebrities; In one, he banged through the wall of a bar and stepped inside.
To the extent that there was no Sportchester he was paralyzed by our TV set and changed his craft to the extent that he had no real followers.
Shortly before Madden’s retirement, Philadelphia Phyllis’ voice, Harry Glass, collapsed at a booth at Nationals Park in Washington before the Billies-Nationals game and died at a nearby hospital. I asked Madden if retiring when he was healthy was the way to avoid dying in the game.
“That’s not one of my thoughts” He told me, “But maybe it’s not that bad.”