The longer you live, the inevitable part of life that you will become very acquainted with is the death of other people. We read and hear about the death of others in the news daily. But it starts to hit home when you see family members, friends, and other people you’ve known personally passing away. It is rough. My father died more than two years ago and I still feel the effects of it. I dream of him often and still think of him every day. It seems like death is hitting closer to home more and more these days. If it isn’t a family member or friend, then it is somebody connected to someone you know or maybe a person you never met in person that had some sort of impact on your life. As a person who grew up loving sports and video games, John Madden was the latter. For me, his death last week symbolized the end of an era.
John Madden meant a great deal to me on two fronts. First was in the broadcast booth and then in the gaming world. I wasn’t born yet when he was coaching the Oakland Raiders. When I was growing up, the team of Pat Summerall and John Madden on CBS and later on FOX was the best two-man announce team in all of football. The way they meshed together on television was really special during a time when I was mesmerized by the presentation of sporting events on television. The way sporting events were presented in the 1980s and 1990s was spectacular. How sports were presented on television during my youth was one of the main reasons I decided to major in Broadcasting in college. John Madden was a part of that.
As a sports geek, I also loved exploring sports history. When I was in the library, I would constantly be in the “Reference” section looking at the volumes that detailed the history of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB). At one time, I could recite most of the champions by year and in many cases, who they defeated to win the championship. That eventually led me to learn about Madden’s tenure as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders and how he led his team to their first Super Bowl victory in January 1977 over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. Madden finished his head coaching career with a winning percentage of .759. But I believe he gets lost in the shuffle when compared to other great coaches (like Don Shula, Chuck Noll, & Tom Landry) due to his 1-6 record in the AFC Championship game. Yet he was a huge part in making the Raiders one of the best teams of that decade.
With respect to video games, I played every football game that bore Madden’s name within the first two decades of the franchise from 1990 through 2010. As the quality of the games began to suffer and Electronic Arts put a heavy focus on its Madden Ultimate Team mode and the game’s microtransactions, I played Madden sparingly after 2010. Then I stopped playing altogether after Madden NFL 20. To see how the games grew from having no NFL or NFLPA license to reaching its peak of quality from 2002 through 2007 to where it is today is saddening to me as a sports gaming fan. And once the games no longer featured the commentary of John Madden himself or his sound bytes, the Madden NFL titles lost a lot of their charm. I will always remember Madden’s line of, “Boom! He’s on his back” after landing a big hit during a game. But you won’t hear things like that in today’s Madden NFL games.
Madden NFL once helped me to ace a final exam in college. I took a football class taught by one of the former coaches at the university I attended. Aspiring to be a play-by-play sports announcer at the time, my purpose was to learn more about the X’s and O’s and gain a deeper understanding of football. It was an amazing class. The final exam consisted of having to design our own custom plays on offense and defense. The first thing that popped into my head was that I needed to boot up the latest Madden NFL game when I got home and go through the playbooks while trying out some of the plays to see how everything unfolded from every position on the field. Then I got to work sketching out plays with a pencil. With the help of Madden NFL, I was very successful on my final. That’s how much you could learn about football through Madden games back then.
I’m going to miss John Madden. Thinking of him reminds me of a time when I enjoyed watching sports and was enamored with the presentation of each event. Madden was truly one of a kind was a vast knowledge of football to go along with a fun-loving personality that made him a beloved sports icon. I am thankful for all of the great memories that he created for the viewing sports audience, all the times that his commentary brought a smile to my face, and for reminding us that it is okay to have fun while being a professional. R.I.P. John Madden.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MADDEN MEMORIES?