The Passing of Football’s Soul
Rarely does someone capture the imagination of sports fans despite never playing the sport professionally, but John Madden was the exception to the rule. Yes, he was a legendary head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders, but he more recently captured people’s imagination as a legendary commentator and the namesake of the legendary football video game franchise, Madden. Simply put, every football fan knows who John Madden is, but yesterday, we had to finally say goodbye to perhaps football’s most iconic name.
In a statement following the news of his passing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell mourned the loss of the man who “was football,” and he’s right. Without John Madden’s charisma, charm, sharp but funny commentary and wit on the mike, as well as his effervescent spirit, the NFL and football would not have grown into the phenomena that they are today. All you have to do is think about how much money the Madden video game franchise makes in a year. For instance, Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, announced that Madden 21 made $1.62 billion! However, John Madden’s influence goes far beyond the reach of the eponymous video game franchise. In fact, he undoubtedly influenced the way that commentators across sports announce games.
You see, John Madden was one of the first commentators, along with legendary Dodgers commentator, Vin Scully, to revolutionize sports commentary by telling stories and being personable on the air as a way to relate with the listening audience. To say his brand of commentary was popular would be a gross understatement. Listeners were obsessed with John Madden’s sharp commentary that was always mixed with humor and his down-to-earth nature, and it also that he was a gregarious man that everyone loved to listen to.
Honestly, John Madden’s death is definitely ranked with the passing of Walter Payton as one of the darkest and most earth-shattering moments in the history of the NFL, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the NFL create a special award to honor him the same way they created the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.