May 22, 2022

Coach, broadcaster, esports icon: Contained in the legacy of John Madden

This story initially printed in April. In reminiscence of John Madden, who died on Dec. 28 on the age of 85, we’re republishing this piece from those that knew him greatest, speaking about how Madden modified the sports activities we watch, how we watch them and the way our children — and their children — will study soccer.


1. Through the 2006 Tremendous Bowl weekend, Madden was ready to listen to whether or not he’d gotten into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. He’d all the time insisted that he be thought of as a coach slightly than a revolutionary broadcaster, endorsement groundbreaker or esports icon. He was a coach, interval, and would get in — or not — primarily based on the energy of his 1976 Tremendous Bowl win, his 75.9 win share — nonetheless highest of any coach with at the very least 100 victories — and the 12 Corridor of Fame gamers he’d coached.

However he’d been eligible for 22 years already with no luck, and since all Corridor of Fame inductees get a heads-up telephone name earlier than the announcement goes public, Madden started watching that yr’s official announcement by telling pals within the room, “Possibly subsequent yr.”

After which, because the names and photographs of the six new inductees flashed throughout the display, the room noticed the one they’d been hoping for: John Madden. The room exploded in shocked jubilation. Madden had by no means been a lot of a touchy-feely man, so he tried simply giving out handshakes.

However there may be a picture of that second hanging in Madden’s agent’s workplace, and in that blurry photograph, you’ll be able to simply barely make out the previous Raiders coach smiling and enduring the rarest of Madden sights: a hug or two.


2. In 1968, Frank Cooney, a reporter on the San Francisco Examiner, approached the Raiders’ 32-year-old linebackers coach. Different staffers had been buzzing about how the previous Cal Poly lineman had been pressured to limp away from the sport in his early 20s however was on the highway to being a unbelievable coach. “He is actually good at explaining issues,” one coach instructed Cooney.

Cooney, all the time in the hunt for a very good quote, requested Madden, coming into his second season in Oakland, if they may discuss. “Solely off the report,” Madden stated. He did not need to distract from the message of the pinnacle coach, John Rauch. Cooney agreed and was struck by the dialog that ensued. Madden was as sharp as marketed. He observed little issues about gamers and massive issues concerning the sport. Most of what he stated soared manner above his particular teaching obligations — the eight or so linebackers on the Oakland roster — and was extra about philosophy of roster development, playcalling, driving guys to get higher. “He had halogens — there have been lights on inside his head,” Cooney says now.

Cooney can bear in mind considering Madden could possibly be head-coach materials. Sometime — in all probability a few years down the road. Who’d rent a head coach in his early 30s, proper?

Six months later, Madden, 32, was named the Raiders’ head coach.


3. In 1977, Madden walked as much as his fifth-round draft choose, All-American security Lester Hayes, and instructed him he could be taking part in cornerback as a professional. Hayes had begrudgingly switched from linebacker to security at Texas A&M. The very last thing he wished was to get additional away from hitting folks. Now Madden was asking — no, telling — him to play nook. “I began bawling like a new child child,” Hayes says.

Hayes sobbed and begged Madden, proper there on the follow discipline, to rethink. He did not eat lunch or dinner that day, then got here again for night follow nonetheless pleading together with his coach.

Madden was agency however mild. He instructed Hayes he was a former Texas prep dash champion and that may translate higher to taking part in one-on-one with wideouts. He promised Hayes he’d nonetheless have loads of alternatives to attempt to decleat ball carriers from his new place.

“There was one thing in his eyes that made me belief him,” Hayes says. “John has that capacity to see one thing in folks that they did not know existed. Thank God he noticed it in me.”

Hayes gained NFL Defensive Participant of the 12 months in 1980 and was on the league’s all-decade crew for the ’80s. As a cornerback.


4. By 1976, after dropping three straight AFC title video games, the stress began to weigh on Madden. He’d begun to place appreciable weight onto his 6-foot-4, 250-pound body, and gamers observed what number of bottles of Maalox that Madden was guzzling each week.

However then he broke by means of: The Raiders beat the Steelers, and so they have been going to the Tremendous Bowl. His gamers beloved him, although they usually made enjoyable of him behind his again for his pregame pep talks — phrase salads that, when rigorously dissected, did not really make sense. So there was nice anticipation for what Madden may say earlier than this most essential sport. He talked for 2 minutes. At one level, he stated, “Don’t be concerned concerning the horse being blind, simply load the wagons,” which nonetheless causes perplexed side-eyes from his previous Raiders.

However his closing line was clear sufficient: “Gents, that is going to be the only largest occasion in any of your lives — so long as you win. Go get ’em.”

There was a stampede into the tunnel, and the Vikings had no probability. Oakland 32, Minnesota 14.


5. Proper earlier than his first broadcast ever, Madden was perplexed at a manufacturing assembly when the crew laid out the schedule main as much as the sport. “When can we go to look at the groups follow?” he requested.

Producers defined that TV broadcast groups do not actually go to follow.

“Why not?” Madden requested. “I will be speaking about these guys for 3 hours this weekend. I need to see them up shut.”

Once more, they defined, that actually wasn’t how issues labored within the relationship between NFL groups and manufacturing crews. They instructed him they may get him movie from TV video games of the groups from earlier within the season. Madden insisted that wasn’t ok.

Properly, Madden was instructed, normally we sit down with PR folks from each groups to get a obtain of each groups. That must work, proper?

“Nope,” Madden stated. “I will discuss to the coaches.”

From that day ahead, Madden’s broadcast groups went to follow, spoke instantly with gamers and coaches, and got the identical movie that teaching staffs used. Inside six months, it had change into customary follow for TV crews.


6. Within the mid-1990s, Fox was in the course of a pre-production assembly. Madden was on the telestrator exhibiting the crew how he deliberate to interrupt down a selected play earlier than kickoff. He drew everywhere in the discipline, mapping out what particular person guys needed to do on the play, and he slapped on a line the place the primary down was positioned.

“Why cannot we simply hold a first-down line on the display the entire sport?” he requested.

All people shrugged their shoulders. Any person stated it might be too distracting. Any person else stated the expertise would not permit it. “You are improper — we should always do it,” Madden stated, shaking his head.

He let it grasp within the air, and producers within the room began to wonder if perhaps Madden was proper. “The yellow line is a direct descendant of that second,” says Fox Sports activities CEO Eric Shanks, a longtime Madden crew producer who was within the room that day.


7.1. Again in 1984, Journey Hawkins had an thought for a soccer online game. The founding father of EA Sports activities requested an viewers with John Madden, and received an odd reply: Sure, you’ll be able to meet with John from Dec. 16-18, however will probably be on an Amtrak practice for 3 days. You’ll meet him in Denver and experience west.

Due to his notorious refusal to fly, Madden was touring to his subsequent task by practice. “It was by no means the precise aircraft that was the issue for John,” longtime producer Bob Stenner says. “It was his claustrophobia.”

Hawkins was in. He and a few builders boarded the practice and met Madden within the eating automobile. Madden had an enormous cigar in his mouth, and it stayed there for the following three days as they held what would change into a very powerful online game assembly ever held. Madden by no means lit the cigar — he beloved cigars, however not smoking them — in order the hours went on, the moist cigar started to disintegrate, one sloppy piece at a time. “It was like his personal little pacifier,” Hawkins says now.

Hawkins warned him that the expertise simply wasn’t there but for 11-on-11 soccer. “We will in all probability solely get 7-on-7 to suit on display,” Hawkins stated.

Madden beloved the concept of the soccer sport, however he hated the concept of 7-on-7. “That is not actual soccer,” he stated, waving a dismissive mitt by means of the air as a piece of cigar flew off.

Hawkins warned that it might take years to construct a sport that squeezed 22 gamers on one display.

“Then it would take years,” Madden stated.

It took two years.

7.2. In 1983, EA Sports activities paid Dr. J and Larry Chicken $25,000 apiece, plus 2.5% of gross sales, to place collectively their first basketball sport. A yr later, Madden requested for $100,000 and 5% of gross sales. He received it. “No Madden meant no sport,” Hawkins says now.

Madden Soccer has offered north of 130 million copies since its launch in 1988.


8.1. Proper after the EA crew met Madden for the primary time, all of them went again to their practice vehicles in disbelief at Madden’s prolific deployment of swear phrases. “I am not exaggerating, I believe each third phrase out of his mouth is an F-bomb,” Hawkins says. “He’s extremely profane. That is one of many signatures of how good John is. To have the self-discipline to by no means do this on the air, it is exceptional. He is aware of easy methods to swap over to a very completely different vocabulary.”

8.2. One time, the Fox manufacturing crew was struggling throughout a sport. Graphics have been late. Digicam angles have been off. He was catching confusion in his ear. Madden hit the cough button and stated, “You f—ers are lacking a very good sport out right here.”


9. Earlier than one sport within the mid-1980s, Madden had his first pregame session with a make-up artist. He was instructed it could assist scale back glare for the digicam, that it was obligatory. Because the make-up artist labored on him, Madden stated, “You actually assume it is gonna make me look higher? That is like placing frosting on s—.”


10. Madden beloved to ask his crew about their very own athletic exploits. Someday, he peppered Stenner with questions on his baseball profession. Stenner had been fairly good, and he was particularly happy with the best way he might learn fly balls off the bat and instantly get to the appropriate spot. “Kind of like how DiMaggio used to get again,” Stenner stated. He realized the error he had made and tried to maintain going.

“Wait — did you simply evaluate your self to Joe DiMaggio?” Madden requested.

“Oh no, in fact not, that’d be ridiculous,” Stenner stated.

It has been greater than three many years, and to today, when Stenner walks right into a room, Madden says, “Hey, look everyone, it is DiMaggio.”


11. Proper earlier than Tremendous Bowl XXI in 1987 between the Broncos and Giants, producer Michael Frank was accountable for getting tape of each groups, so he received the broadcasts of each convention title video games. Large mistake. Madden was livid — he wished solely the coaches’ movie.

Any person received ahold of the NFC title sport tape, so they simply wanted the AFC tape. Frank was handed the unenviable process of going to the Giants’ crew lodge to get a duplicate of the tape New York coaches have been utilizing to scout the Broncos. When he received there, he was ushered right into a convention room. After a couple of minutes, he heard footsteps and in walked … Giants coach Invoice Parcells. “You actually screwed up, huh?” Parcells stated.

Frank stated sure, that he simply wanted a duplicate of the coaches’ movie of the Broncos. Parcells sighed. “We solely have one copy,” he stated and simply stared at Frank for a really awkward 5 seconds.

“You realize what?” Parcells lastly stated. “I might do something for John. Take this.”

Parcells had gone 12-19-1 in his first two years in New York, and anxious Giants followers had began to name for his head. Madden spoke up persistently to say that Parcells was going to be a very good coach, that he wanted time. Parcells thought it made an enormous distinction in preserving the temperature of his seat at an inexpensive stage.

So he handed Frank the movie and made him vow to guard it together with his life. However on his manner again to the manufacturing crew’s lodge, Frank began to suspect Madden had known as Parcells and put him as much as it. “I believe perhaps he was simply giving me a tough time,” Frank says.


12.1 Within the mid-1980s, Madden was continually getting assignments for NFC East video games, so he determined to get an residence in New York Metropolis. He settled on The Dakota in Manhattan, and he purchased Gilda Radner’s previous residence within the advanced, which had change into notorious after John Lennon was shot there years earlier.

Inside a number of years, with out even attempting, Madden turned the advanced’s mascot. The Madden Cruiser would pull up out entrance, and singer Roberta Flack would hustle out to get onboard for a couple of minutes. Generally Madden would hand around in the courtyard and undergo notes, and on multiple event, Fox crew members would present as much as meet with Madden and he’d be sitting with a pal and her son.

The lady would all the time say hey and excuse herself, after which Yoko Ono would take Sean Lennon again to their residence so Madden might get to work.

12.2. One morning, Madden and his agent, Sandy Montag, have been having breakfast within the foyer of the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. As they ate, a person rolled as much as their desk. He had a thick British accent, and talked about to Madden that within the U.Okay., they normally have been restricted to at least one NFL broadcast per week, and it rotated between the networks. “I solely watch the video games you do, John,” the person stated.

Madden, used to followers approaching him in public, thanked him and waved goodbye. “That man had huge glasses and a giant angle,” Madden remarked after he was out of earshot. Montag had a humorous look on his face.

“That was Elton John,” he stated.


13. Within the mid-1980s, CBS foisted a ridiculous one-week grind upon Madden: a Sunday sport in Atlanta, a present in Las Vegas midweek, then again to D.C. for a Washington sport on Sunday.

However regardless of how arduous the community tried, it could not cobble collectively a practice and automobile schedule for Madden. So it pulled some strings and received him set as much as borrow Dolly Parton’s tour bus for every week.

He beloved it. CBS beloved that he beloved it. The thought for the Madden Cruiser was born.


14. Early within the 1994 season, Madden turned obsessive about the O.J. Simpson homicide trial. All people who boarded the bus was requested their opinion of the case, and Madden had simply had an early cellphone put in on the Cruiser. He’d name L.A. pals like Wayne Gretzky or Fred Dryer simply to see what they considered the trial.

Sooner or later, Madden received launched to Vincent Bugliosi, who famously prosecuted Charles Manson. Madden instantly added Bugliosi to his frequent caller record, and would dial up the bombastic ex-prosecutor on daily basis and put him on speakerphone. “John handled that trial like a soccer sport,” Stenner says.

Madden would pepper Bugliosi about sport plans from each Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran and what really unfolded within the courtroom. Madden was particularly fired up about why Decide Lance Ito would have allowed Simpson to attempt on the glove whereas sporting one other glove. “After all it did not match — he had two gloves on!” Madden stated.

Bugliosi all the time performed alongside. He realized what his position was: to be John Madden’s authorized John Madden.


15. On Sept. 11, 2001, Peggy Fleming was giving a speech in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, when information broke of a terrorist assault. The Olympic determine skating legend completed speaking on the breast most cancers consciousness fundraiser and went again to her lodge. She linked along with her agent at IMG, who instructed her there was no manner she was going to have the ability to get house to California anytime quickly.

She did not assume she might deal with the cross-country drive by herself in a rental automobile. So for 5 days, she stayed in a lodge in Wilkes-Barre. Then her agent known as her with a shock: John Madden, one other shopper on the company, was on his approach to California from New York in his Cruiser. He’d provided to select her up.

On Sept. 17, the Cruiser pulled in. Fleming was there along with her baggage, and jokingly caught her thumb up, like a hitchhiker. The doorways flew open, and Madden swung his head out. “Get in!” he yelled.

She hopped on and spent the following 52 hours watching protection of the terrorist assaults and speaking about profitable a gold medal, surviving breast most cancers, their households, the whole lot. Fleming and Madden have been each significantly struck by the seen indicators of a unified nation — flags on vehicles, farmers portray their barns purple, white and blue, the nationwide anthem taking part in at gasoline stations alongside the best way. “It was such a scary, unsure time,” she says now. “We did not know what the longer term held. However I had my huge new buddy, John Madden, and it felt so protected on that bus.”

Fleming was blown away by the effectivity of the Madden Cruiser operation. Two drivers alternated for your complete journey with solely occasional stops to eat or stretch their legs. They put up a curtain at evening and made up the fold-out sofa in the course of the bus for Fleming, then Madden would say goodnight and head for his bed room within the again.

“I need to earn my manner on the journey,” she instructed Madden at one level, and she or he meant it. So Madden instructed her she might come on his weekly radio present from the Cruiser, and that he was going to get out in Nebraska and scrub the enormous Cruiser home windows, and she or he was welcome to assist out. So she did each.

Once they received to Omaha, Madden and Fleming grabbed a chunk to eat and hit some native retailers. Fleming talked about that she wasn’t loving the present state of her hair and wished she had one thing to cowl it up. Madden stated, “Peggy, let me purchase you a hat.” So she picked out a black felt cowboy hat, Madden insisted on paying for it, and she or he wore it the remainder of the best way.

A number of days later, the bus pulled up in Pleasanton, and Fleming’s husband was there ready for her. They frolicked for an hour or two, however quickly it was time to go. Madden shook arms with Fleming and she or he headed house to Los Gatos. She nonetheless places on the cowboy hat infrequently, a reminder of an unlikely new pal. “He’ll all the time be my buddy,” she says.


16. In 1981, Madden and his co-host Pat Summerall started a run of 22 straight Thanksgiving soccer video games. As a token of appreciation to the manufacturing crews, the community started placing collectively an annual banquet a day or two earlier than the sport, simply to say thanks.

All people loved the idea, and the primary few have been nearly as good as marketed. However Madden himself was nagged by one factor: What concerning the refs? Members of the officiating crew additionally have been sacrificing time away from their households to placed on a soccer sport. So early on within the run, he went to CBS with a request: May they attend the feast? And from that day on, the refs ate, too.


17.1. In late 1996, Madden and Summerall have been coming to city for a Saints broadcast. A New Orleans radio persona talked about that any person must introduce Madden to the turducken, a Louisiana-invented meat monstrosity of duck and rooster stuffed right into a turkey.

Phrase filtered again to Madden, and positive sufficient, native restaurateur Glenn Mistich received a name. Madden wished to attempt the turducken. On the time, Mistich was promoting about 200 turduckens a yr, nearly all of which have been bought by locals round Thanksgiving. He jumped on the probability to show one of many nation’s foremost TV foodies to the turducken.

He went to the Superdome earlier than the Saints sport that Sunday with a lovely turducken — all three birds deboned, with sausage and cornbread dressing and a gravy comprised of the meat juices.

Only one downside: Mistich forgot to convey any plates or silverware. Any person within the sales space rounded up a few paper plates, however they could not discover any forks or knives. So Madden merely reached into the turducken and tore off a chunk, then ate it together with his arms.

He beloved it. And as he was raving to Mistich concerning the turducken, Saints proprietor Tom Benson popped into the sales space to say hey. Benson caught out his hand, and Madden needed to make a fast determination what to do together with his turducken fingers. He shortly licked them and shook Benson’s hand. “That is the final time Tom Benson ever spoke to me,” Madden as soon as stated.

17.2. Over the following few years, the turducken turned the official All-Madden crew meals and was featured prominently each Thanksgiving by Madden and Summerall. Inside a number of years, Mistich had gone from promoting 200 turduckens per yr to delivery 6,000 yearly everywhere in the world. “I needed to rent folks simply to take care of turducken orders,” Mistich says now.

Then, a number of years in the past, out of the blue, packing containers of chocolate started arriving to his home each December. The be aware all the time reads, “Thanks for considering of us all these years. John Madden.”

“John Madden modified my life, and my household’s lives, ceaselessly,” Mistich says. “And he is sending me candies?”


18. When Summerall died in 2013, Madden gave a eulogy for his pal. They’d been companions for 22 years, and Madden all the time tells anyone who will pay attention that with out Pat Summerall, there is no such thing as a John Madden. That day, Madden instructed the group that one criterion for greatness is, Can the historical past of what you probably did be written with out mentioning your title?

His voice cracked when he ran by means of the record of histories that can’t probably be written with out mentioning his pal, Pat — the historical past of faculty soccer, the NFL, the NFL on tv, all of the exhibits that he teed up throughout his broadcasts. “Even ‘Homicide, She Wrote,'” he stated.

About six minutes into the eulogy, Madden gestured towards the sky. “I do know Pat’s up there saying, ‘Brevity, brevity, brevity,'” Madden stated. “Properly, I will discuss over you another time.”

He spoke for 4 extra minutes.


19. When Stenner checked into his first lodge room as a member of the Madden manufacturing crew, his head was spinning. He’d go on to change into one in every of Madden’s closest confidants, however at the moment, he wasn’t positive easy methods to join together with his new boss.

He knew why they have been tenting out in Chicago — Madden favored to park the Cruiser at a very good Ritz-Carlton roughly midway throughout the nation as they awaited the following weekend’s task. However he did not know why the entire crew was required to remain on the 12th ground … till he left his room and went to the elevator for the primary time.

There sat Madden on the lodge sofa, waving him over. “Bob! How’s it going?” Stenner plopped down beside Madden, and so they began speaking, principally about soccer. This went on for a very good 20 minutes till any person else from the crew received off the elevator. Madden stated hey, and it was clear that Stenner might now depart, with the brand new man changing him on the sofa.

Over time, Stenner started to see that sofa for what it was — a snug place for Madden to park, a heat spot in what might typically be a lonely lifetime of bus rides and broadcast cubicles. Madden wanted that sofa. “You have been captives,” Stenner says. “You needed to cease and discuss to him for some time, and everyone wished to, anyway. He beloved to simply hang around and B.S.”


20. On the annual NFL homeowners conferences as soon as, Madden met up for a Mexican dinner together with his previous pal, Corridor of Fame common supervisor Bobby Beathard. They cared deeply about one another … however additionally they could not do something with out turning it right into a expertise competitors.

On this evening, Madden instructed the server they wished to start out with chips and salsa. “Make certain it is sizzling salsa,” he stated. She introduced out the chips, and Beathard and Madden each chowed down. The salsa was sizzling, however they each stored remarking to one another, “They name that sizzling?”

Beathard requested for salsa that had a bit extra kick to it, and fairly quickly one other bowl arrived. Madden and Beathard stored mowing by means of it, and stored watching one another. Each males’s eyes have been watering, and so they have been dabbing at their mouths with napkins and chugging water. “That was nothing,” Madden stated, barely capable of choke out the phrases. Beathard appeared like he may vomit however nodded alongside.

“Obtained something that’s hotter?” Madden requested.

The lady introduced out a 3rd bowl of salsa, and everyone on the desk bowed out of the foolish salsa challenge-except for Madden and Beathard. The 2 males completed the third bowl of salsa, each red-faced and panting. Name it a tie.


21. A standard theme amongst Madden’s pals is how good he has all the time been at studying folks. “He is like Sherlock Holmes, the best way he might take a look at any person and completely dissect the whole lot about them,” says David Hill, who employed Madden at Fox.

One time, Madden leaned over and whispered into his producer Eric Shanks’ ear. “Do not do enterprise with that man you have been simply speaking to.”

“Why?” requested Shanks, who invented the RedZone channel as an government VP at DirecTV earlier than turning into Fox Sports activities CEO in 2010.

“His shoelaces aren’t tied proper,” Madden stated. “He is not paying sufficient consideration to one thing that might actually journey him up. He cuts corners.”

To today, earlier than Shanks makes a deal, he likes to take a fast take a look at the shoelaces first.


22. Someday, Madden was on the telephone at his home when Richie Zyontz, a Fox producer and shut pal, walked in. A pal of Madden’s spouse, Virginia, had known as and gotten Madden as an alternative.

He waved hey to Zyontz, handed him the telephone and headed for the lavatory. “I will be proper again,” he stated. “Her title is June. I believe you may like one another.” Instantly Zyontz was speaking to a random girl he’d by no means met.

They hit it off, and when the season was over, he requested her to dinner.

Then they began relationship.

Then they received engaged.

Then they received married. At John Madden’s home. The most effective man? John Madden.


23. Final Christmas, Zyontz went to Madden’s home. Thirty-nine years earlier, Madden had seen one thing in him, serving to elevate him to a exceptional profession and life. Zyontz will all the time love John Madden, even when they do not say these phrases out loud to one another.

On that day, Zyontz and Madden frolicked, talked soccer, about their households, concerning the good previous days. It was a candy reunion, one which Zyontz needs he might do as soon as every week. However it’s restricted to about annually nowadays, so it is all the time arduous for Zyontz to go away. He does not need their time to finish.

As he headed for the door this previous Christmas, Zyontz felt a whole lot of feelings Madden, who’s only a step slower bodily however as sharp as ever mentally. He stood up and stated goodbye. Madden rose from his seat, too, and Zyontz reached out his arm.

Madden slowly closed the 6 toes between the 2, and stretched out his hand. They shook arms, and Madden put his palm on Zyontz’s shoulder, and Zyontz put his on Madden’s shoulder. It wasn’t a hug, however it was greater than a handshake.