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“Wow, That Was Something”: Looking Back on How John Madden Changed Football As We Know It

Over 5 decades of being involved with the NFL John Madden was a part of our hearts and homes and changed football and how many of us came to learn and love it.

Erik Drost, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“Wow, That Was Something”: Looking Back on How John Madden Changed Football As We Know It


Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

As a 1980’s baby, John Madden had long been off the sidelines when I came into the world. But I did spend the better part of my life having Coach Madden teach me about football, whether I was aware of it or not. His legacy is as much about what he did off the field as what he did on it.

To those that grew up in my generation, he was the soundtrack of our Sunday afternoons before we even recognized who we were listening to. It wasn’t until we got older and more aware that we started to recognize the genius that he brought to our television screens. His gift was often in the simplicity of his presentation and his personality. He didn’t fly first class, or at all for that matter. Instead, due to his anxiety and claustrophobia, he rode in a bus. He would exclaim “BOOM” the same way his audience at home would when a big hit happened. John Madden was everyone’s broadcaster, and he made us love football because of how much he loved it.

Sideline Superstar

Initially drafted by the Eagles in 1958, John Madden would never actually see the sidelines as a player in the NFL – due to a career ending injury. But it was through that injury that he learned how much he loved teaching, and eventually pursued a coaching career at the collegiate level where he could do both. He eventually would catch the eye of former Raiders owner Al Davis after being hired to be a linebacker coach for the team. In 1969, at the age of 32, Madden would go on to become the youngest head coach in NFL history (at that time). He would then go on to become the winningest coach in franchise history and lead them to one Super Bowl victory in his decade at the helm. This all before stepping away from coaching all together in 1979.

Mad For Madden

It wouldn’t be long before John Madden would be back involved with the NFL, however. For someone that was unsure of whether he would like broadcasting he sure ended up leaving his legendary mark on the field. His easy going and relatable way of teaching the game to the viewers was never preachy. He presented the game of football the same on television as he would have if you were sitting next to him on the couch. John Madden felt like a family member to all of us as we invited him into our homes for over 40 years – until his retirement in 2009. It wasn’t only fans that recognized his magnificence. Players would play harder whether it was knowing that John was covering their game or they were trying to make the All Madden team.

John Madden is one of the rare people that spans several generations of NFL fans. For whatever my mid 80’s generation is called, our parents and grandparents watched him coach and broadcast. We grew up with him broadcasting and teaching us about the game and then playing along with his voice in video game form. And for the generation that never got to listen to him actually call a game they still hear him every year when the new Madden Football game is released. And in the same way that players used to play for his recognition when he would call their games, players now play to become the face of the video game. It is one of the greatest honors to grace the new year’s cover of the game.

Though the highlights of all the forms of his NFL career are forever enshrined in Canton at the Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 2006, his contributions will last in the hearts and homes of all those he touched in his 85 years.

To put it in his own words from his latest tribute All Madden: “Wow, that was something”. Well so were you John Madden.

An actor by degree, sports lover by day, and a bartender by night. As a native of suburban Detroit it took moving to NYC for Katie to fully realize her love of all things Michigan and Detroit sports. Feel free to engage her in her love of the coolest city and prettiest state in the country and why she will always root for Ohio State to lose every sporting event ever. No, really I am dead serious about that last statement.

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