BOOM! A Late Appreciation For John Madden

As a nation preps its veins for its greatest addiction – football is America’s heroin, if you don’t know – there’s something that even three years later seems a bit … off. No, it’s not just replacement officials, the apparent end of the diva wide receiver era or the painful void of a good touchdown celebration.

As crazy as this might sound, I miss John Madden.

It hasn’t been that long since the legendary coach and analyst parked his ginormous motor coach for good, but as those seasons go by, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who appreciated his style as much as this Scribe.

It was a style that over time grew a bit stale for some. While it was never off-putting, some were certainly turned off by the fawning of the game’s most reckless gunslinger. And ultimately, it was one that lacked in all of the extremism that exists in the national NFL booths today.

Yet, it worked for three decades.

When in the booth, Madden did something that seemingly NO ONE attempts to do anymore. He kept things simple enough that the casual fan didn’t exactly feel overwhelmed with football terminology. At the same time, he provided enough that a die-hard fan could test his or her knowledge of the game. It was a hard balance that even in our era of highly advanced camera technology and bite-sized morsels of play reviews can’t seem to replicate.

Despite the much-mocked appreciation for Brett Favre – who is no longer just a kid out there – Madden was phenomenally objective. If you can name a time where Madden ever lambasted a team or even a troubled player during a broadcast, it was certainly rarer than a Tim Couch highlight reel. When sports media types of his time talked about offensive linemen and fullbacks as unsung heroes in contrast of their more popular teammates, he was one of the few to single out the motions of those men on a consistent basis. After all, he had an affinity for guys that did the dirty work to make the game what it is today.

You can argue that a major reason that appreciation for Madden has gone by the wayside over the years is … well, Madden. The video game franchise he created became a definitive staple of the Millennials/Generation Y. Not only could we simulate the game we just watched the physical Madden telestrate on Sunday, but we could actually simulate entire seasons and franchises. With a brilliant group of engineers and designers behind him, the Madden franchise acted as a proving ground on how we fans would run a team despite how phenomenally terrible we would be at it in real life.

Suddenly, video game tendencies shaped our psyches. Never run the ball or pass to the intermediate receiver, don’t stop blitzing and go for it on fourth down at all times. We figured that we have our master’s degrees in Madden Football, and we know everything there is to know about the game, so there was no need for Madden in the booth anymore.

Yet, his approach to calling the game is exactly what’s needed today.

We demand television analysts to "tell it like it is," even though at some point, they’ll predictably tick us off by saying something asinine, inaccurate and/or amazingly biased. For that reason, we have much more snark and condescension in the booth than before, just as NBC and ESPN have given us with their Sunday and Monday night games. We also have jargon that will completely go over the heads of those who started watching football in recent years for fantasy reasons (you know who you are).

This is where John Madden is missed. His folksy personality was extremely hard to dislike. Even his growing detractors couldn’t deny that. Like how Hubie Brown turns you into the player he's discussing (“Okay, I’m Tim Duncan on the low block …”), Madden could explain the purpose of each play and movement without veering away from the large portion of the audience that had little clue what an A-gap is. He didn’t take himself too seriously, yet, he understood the tremendous responsibility in keeping viewers as informed as they were entertained.

Football is a complicated game. And while this definitely isn’t a call for a comeback by the travel-weary 76-year-old former coach, there’s hope in that maybe one day, the NFL and its TV partners can find someone to carry the mantle.

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