Madden can never be replaced, just emulated

If only John Madden had a chance for one final, bone-rattling BOOM!

Madden is a Hall of Famer as a coach and as a broadcaster. Both inductions were merited.

His death Tuesday has inspired tributes from throughout the football and broadcasting worlds. Former players and colleagues have not been shy in expressing love and admiration for Madden and as a man.

Patriots fans of certain vintage – in other words, on the northerly side of age 60 – should recall Madden’s compassion after Raiders safety Jack Tatum sent Darryl Stingley into life as a quadriplegic with a vicious hit during a 1978 exhibition game.

When the game ended, Madden is said to have gone straight to the hospital. In a Madden profile, Sports Illustrated reported that Madden and his wife offered Stingley’s family the use of their home for however long Stingley would remain hospitalized.

Madden visited Stingley regularly. The New York Times reported that when Pats coach Chuck Fairbanks failed to visit the wide receiver and was set to head home on the team plane, an angry Madden made a phone call to someone at the airport and ordered them to “Get Chuck Fairbanks off that plane!”

No one has disputed the gist of that anecdote. It depicts a man whose love of football and respect for its players could not have been deeper.

That love and respect is what fueled Madden’s career as a TV analyst. Set aside the coaching accomplishments, which included a Super Bowl crown and a career record of 103-32 in regular-season games, 9-7 in the playoffs.

And while generations have become absorbed by the Madden series of football video games, first came his career as a broadcaster.

Unwilling – perhaps unable – to submerge his personality, Madden showed fellow TV analysts how it should be done. Players had to earn every Boom!

Most football analysts painted the games in muted tones, reflecting a deep-seated seriousness. Madden’s enthusiasm, fueled by his long-held feelings for the game, made broadcasts fun. A truly radical revelation for the No Fun League.

His humor may have been Madden’s greatest tool in teaching the game to his audience. Madden realized that there are potential fans in America who would not be lured with X-and-O gobbledygook.

The Los Angeles Times recounted Madden’s displeasure when a member of the Monday Night Football production assistant brought in a box of sub-par cheesesteak subs.

“You know what your mistake was? You sent a skinny guy out to get food,” Madden said to the kid’s boss. “Skinny guys don’t care about food.”

He parodied his travels on the Madden Cruiser, a bus outfitted as a mobile home to haul him around the country. His loathing of air travel, he said, was evidence of his claustrophobia.

He never tried to foist himself onto the pedestal occupied by broadcasting blowhards.

“I’m not a journalist, I’m not an actor. I’m a football coach doing television,” Madden said. “It’s fun. It’s my life, my passion. I’ll do it as long as I can.”


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