Photo Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

WWJD #38: All-Madden



John Madden’s impact was bigger than football, broadcasting, and video games. He was a renaissance man in every sense of the word.


Photo Credit: AP

When news broke on Tuesday evening that former Oakland Raiders head coach, broadcast legend, and Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden passed, I felt a part of my childhood die as well. There was nothing like waking up on a Sunday morning and watching NFL football on Fox when John Madden and Pat Summerall were on the call in the ’90s. For me, a fan of the Green Bay Packers, who had endured horrible football my entire life (ok, the late ’70s and early ’80s), it was exciting to know that they would be at Lambeau Field, the Mecca of football, for the game.

Hearing Madden’s stories and how he would explain the game in such simple terms was terrific to me. I played football my entire life, and as a young kid, it was Madden who helped me understand the game. He taught me what “Cover-2” was and the definition of a “Sluggo.” So when he and Summerall would talk about the game, share stories of when they played and what they learned during their weekly interviews with the teams, I was glued to the tube.

The Fox Game of the Week was must-watch TV every Sunday for me, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me from watching it. John Madden made it fun, simple, and inviting to fall in love with football. He was the best at his job calling games and the chemistry he had with Pat Summerall; well, it felt like your two cool uncles sitting around talking to and educating you about football.


After the Packers game, I would turn on my Sega Genesis or Playstation (1, 2 or 3) and play the EA Sports Madden video game.


Photo Credit: James V. Biever/Getty Images

I would have my season with the Packers on my memory card, as well as other seasons and rosters. They all were different. One season and roster had all my friends created in the game and put on their favorite teams playing the position they played or wanted to play. All of my friends and I were 99 overall, so we could ball out when we played against each other. I had another season where the roster constantly updated and the ratings untouched. Finally, I had one with just me on my team, catching passes from Brett Favre.

In my late teens and early 20’s, we had a Madden League that we played in every Monday. 10 of us would go to a friend’s house, the Ehlers‘ residence, to watch Monday Night Football when John Madden was calling the game with Al Michels. We all brought a dish to eat or drinks as we watched MNF on one TV and WCW Nitro on another. After the MNF game, we had our Madden League going until well after midnight.

It was cool to hear all the Maddenisms when we played the game because it was just like watching the broadcast… I can hear it now, just like it was yesterday, “BOOM!” in John Madden’s voice. “Is his head in there?” when a player’s helmet would come flying off after a big hit. Or to hear his hearty laugh when Brett Farve would make some crazy, off-the-wall play followed by “How does he do that?” I bet you have a ton of memories like that with your favorite team and Madden as well.

The video game is how younger generations knew him. For me, it was his broadcasting career. I first recall John Madden on the Miller Light commercials as a kid. I thought he was funny and a crazy coach for whom I would have liked to play. See, my grandfather worked for Miller Brewing Company for years, so I loved those commercials. At that age (4-7 years old), I didn’t know he was the former Raiders coach. Then, one day, I saw him on TV while watching a football game on CBS. I was shocked and thought it was so cool! “Pop, there is the Miller guy on TV talking about football!!” I shouted out. I will never forget that day because I really wanted to understand football at that point.


But Madden was more than a video game, he was an icon.


Photo Credit: NFL

The role that John Madden had in football can not be understated. He is one of the main reasons football has grown so much in popularity. Madden became larger than football between the video game, the broadcasting, and his role in movies. He was likable by nearly everyone. From a die-hard football junkie like myself to a casual fan to a wife or girlfriend who only watched football because her man liked it, they recognized him and came to love him. He was a part of their football-watching experience.

Madden took his job seriously, but he didn’t take himself too seriously. He knew the story wasn’t about him but the game and the players playing in it. He knew that kids, spouses, players, and coaches of all age groups were watching, and he had to be the bridge to them all. Madden was bigger than the game, though he would never admit it.

Coach Madden was also a bridge to the past and a connector to the future. He is one of only a few who could sit at the table with Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, George Halas, Al Davis, and other iconic coaches. He could also sit at the same table as Tom Brady, Jerry Rice, Brett Farve, Jim Brown, Michael Vick, and Aaron Rodgers. I can’t think of another person that can say that. He was the ultimate connector to football’s past, present, and future.

John Madden was everything and more to football, and now it’s time that football pays the ultimate respect back to him. He was a Super Bowl champion with the Oakland Raiders. He was a Pro Football Hall of Famer as a coach and broadcaster. He also changed the way we play football on a video console by ensuring that his Madden Franchise could be fun and a teaching tool for players and coaches alike.

I think the NFL should re-name its All-Pro players to “All-Madden.” Also, they should re-name the NFL MVP award to the John Madden NFL MVP award. It should be a massive TV production at the NFL Honors Awards and treated like the Super Bowl.


Part of my childhood died on December 28th. I pray that John Madden’s wife, Virginia, and his family know just how much he was/is apreciated. His impact was far greater than he may have realized to so many lives that he touched as a coach, broadcaster, or video game icon. He will be missed.



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– Joe Arrigo

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