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News » Madden leaves big footprints on TV industry

Madden leaves big footprints on TV industry

Madden leaves big footprints on TV industry

John Madden loved using that word to describe a devastating hit. I felt the same kind of impact Thursday when learning Madden had ended his announcing career.

I wasn't surprised so much as saddened. We all knew Madden would be unplugging his telestrator soon enough. He just turned 73. His streak of 476 consecutive weekend telecasts ended last season when Madden — who doesn't fly — declined to take back-to-back road trips between Florida and his California home to call NBC's Sunday night games. And unlike some of his peers — including former partner Pat Summerall — Madden knew better than to embarrass himself by staying in the booth for too long.


"I know this is the right time," Madden said in a statement.

That doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye.

The NFL has enjoyed unprecedented growth as the top U.S. sports league since Madden began his broadcasting career 30 years ago. He deserves some of the credit for the league's overall success. No announcer since Howard Cosell helped draw such attention to the game.

Madden made football fun for the casual fan with every-guy humor and enthusiastic use of comic-book terms like "POW!" and "DOINK!" He appeased the hardcore football junkie by delving into Xs and Os like no one ever had. The other trappings that marked Madden's career — like awarding standout players with turkey drumsticks on Thanksgiving Day or plastering their faces on the side of his "Madden Cruiser" RV — were secondary to what came out of his mouth.

"He made us all lot wiser about line play, which is something a lot of color analysts or announcers weren't nearly as capable of doing," said Joe Horrigan, the vice-president of communications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "He did it in such an entertaining fashion but with great credibility. There's a difference between those two things."

Madden gradually grew bigger than the games he was calling. Even though he had a face and body better suited for radio — trust me, I'm in the same boat — he became a cultural icon. Foot fungus became amusing when Madden was pitching "tough actin' Tenactin." The same goes for Madden's other commercial endorsements. He wrote best-selling books. He coined an All-Madden team for gritty players overlooked in other all-star balloting.

The video game bearing his name became so popular that Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris recently joked it has led to a rash of NFL teams hiring baby-faced head coaches. Morris, 32, even quipped that he majored in Madden NFL while attending Hofstra University.

"Since he made that game, everybody thought they could be a coach," Morris said. "You've been creating your own team, had your own fantasy leagues, been doing salary caps since you were 12. He ruined the league for the older coaches."

Younger generations of NFL fans may not realize Madden also was once a 32-year-old head coach when promoted in 1969 by Oakland owner Al Davis. In fact, coaching acumen is the sole reason Madden was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

Not that his gift for gab was irrelevant. Horrigan, who helps run the Hall of Fame selection meeting, acknowledges that Madden's announcing career may have subconsciously influenced voters. Horrigan, though, said balloters were told to only consider Madden's coaching tenure as Hall criteria.

The résumé was still good enough. In 10 seasons, Madden guided Oakland to seven division titles and one Super Bowl victory. Madden's .750 winning percentage (103-32-7) remains the best in NFL history.

Amazingly, Madden was a Hall finalist on only one previous occasion 21 years earlier. Madden's "modern-day" candidacy eventually expired (he was re-nominated in 2006 as a "senior" candidate). Horrigan believes a major reason Madden wasn't tapped in 1985 stemmed from voters suspecting that he would eventually return to the sideline.

Madden never scratched that itch. Any temptations paled in comparison to a gig that allowed Madden to stay close to the game he loves without many of the headaches that go with it.

For 20 years, Miami Dolphins media relations chief Harvey Greene has received telephone calls from every announcer set to cover his team's games. Greene said Madden would call earlier in the week than any of them to pepper him with questions.

"He was so meticulous," Greene said. "He would ask me who the slot receiver would be depending on which side of the field the tight end lined up. He would ask about whether the technique of the backup defensive tackles was different than the starters. I had to do a lot of extra homework."

By no means was Madden perfect. Off camera, he was proof that not all fat people are jolly. Madden's fawning over Brett Favre became laughable, as did bursts of hackneyed commentary brilliantly spoofed by comedian/FOX NFL Sunday contributor Frank Caliendo (who must be mourning the loss of material that Madden's retirement brings).

Madden, though, never lost the respect he had built. A lesser voice would have gotten the ESPN-Emmitt Smith treatment after saying New England should have played for overtime in Super Bowl XXXVI before Tom Brady marched the Patriots downfield to victory. Instead, Madden's popularity remained as strong as ever.

Of all his memorable soliloquies, Madden's best was his Hall induction speech. Madden said he believes the "busts talk to each other" when the doors are locked and the lights go out at night.

"These guys are going, 'Oh, no! I hope I don't have to put up with his B.S. for an eternity,' " Madden said.

No, John. Those guys are now the lucky ones.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 17, 2009

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