John Madden Calls It Quits: The Audience Loses Its Voice

David BurnettCorrespondent IApril 17, 2009

DETROIT - FEBRUARY 4: Broadcaster and former coach John Madden speaks at the podium after his selection to the NFL Hall of Fame during a press conference February 4, 2006 at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty images)

John Madden transcended football—the sport he coached and later covered.  There has never been a sports announcer quite like him.  He was an American sports original. 

Madden never talked over our heads.  He would hit us at eye level with small, punchy, syntax-challenged words, pictures, and insights.  He said it; we got it.

John Madden talked about football in a way that everyone could understand.  Along with the fine points of team strategy, he also pointed out the silly, inane little things that go on in games that other announcers would never dare mention.  He often said what we were thinking.

While he wasn’t a comedian, he had a comic’s timing.  We laughed along with him because he never tried to pretend that football was more than just a game. 

But at the same time, when the miraculous happened on the field, those unbelievable moments that cement us as fans, he knew just how to describe what we saw and, more importantly, why it happened.

John Madden will leave one of the most unusual and profound legacies in the history of pro football—great coach, great broadcaster, video game pioneer, and perhaps the all-time sports everyman. 

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He is the one guy who really makes me feel old.  I say that because I can remember very clearly when Madden was young. 

Madden first made headlines when he was named coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1969.  At 32 years old, he was the youngest coach in pro football.

Madden inexplicably retired from the Raiders after the 1978 season.  He would never coach again.  During his time on the sidelines, he crafted the best record in NFL history, based on winning percentage, with 103 wins and only 32 losses.  

He coached the Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory in 1977.  He was an unexpected success as a coach who, after retirement, would immediately start to build a resume as football’s most unique and successful voice as a broadcaster.

Madden started broadcasting football games 30 years ago.  Most of the time, he worked with another football man turned broadcaster, Pat Summerall.  

The two teamed up to become the essential game to listen to for more than 20 years.  When Madden went to Monday Night Football, he generated much of the same magic with his new partner Al Michaels, with whom he also worked on NBC’s new Sunday Night Football

Just like he left the game as a coach, Madden is now leaving the announcer's booth on his own terms and in his own time.

To a lot of kids, Madden is a video game.  In fact, the game that bears his name is the most successful sports video game in history.

John Madden is clearly more than a game.  In fact, he was more than a coach or broadcaster. 

In the purest sense, John Madden was really a great communicator.  In the easiest language to understand possible, Madden told us what is really going on during a football game.  His take on football and his easy folksy manner in explaining it made the game more accessible. 

Football will not be the same without him.

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