Column: Madden was one of a kind

Published 10:29 am Thursday, December 30, 2021

Growing up watching the National Football League in the 1970s and 1980s, you could not help but be drawn to all of the personalities that played on Sundays.

But not all of those personalities were wearing helmets and playing between the lines. Some of them stalked the sidelines. One in particular made an impact that lasted his entire coaching career right up until he drew his final breath.

John Madden was not only larger than life, he was a cultural and pop icon whose presence will be felt for decades to come.

Perhaps part of his allure came from the fact that he coached the Oakland Raiders, who were a collection of talented football players, but also a collection of wild personalities that caught the attention of an entire nation.

The personalities were not only players and coaches, but the Raider fans, who were a wild rowdy bunch that drew your attention to them every time they were on television. Their outlandish costumes and wildly painted faces were originators of what we see today in stadiums around the National Football League.

Madden was a no-nonsense guy who told you exactly how he felt about everything. He didn’t worry about whether or not his players’ hair was too long or what they might be doing off the field. He worried about winning, which the Raiders did a lot under his tenure.

He coached the Raiders for 10 seasons, which included winning the 1977 Super Bowl. When he retired from coaching, he stepped into the broadcast booth where he and partner Pat Sumerall set the standard for calling NFL games. Madden remained in the booth until his retirement in 2009.

Madden was so good he worked for all four of the major television networks. He made the game easy for the casual fan to understand, but gave us football junkies information that was valuable to understanding the complexities of the game. He also made it fun. You never turned off a game early if Madden was calling it because he was going to take you all the way to the finish.

As his popularity grew, so did his opportunities outside of football. He had countless cameos in both commercials and on television. He became the voice of Madden NFL video games in 1988, which is still the industry standard for football video games.

His All-Madden football teams are still being selected. The first team was picked in 1984. His most recent team was announced recently. I am going to assume that those annual awards will continue for some time to come.

Madden said a lot of great things during broadcasts. Things that some people loved, while other people hated. But one thing is for sure, the catch phrase I will always remember is his famous “BOOM” as he described a great hit. Long before Emeril Lagasse’s “BAM” there was the Madden “BOOM.”

The other think I will most remember about John Madden is that he would not fly to games because he was afraid of dying in a plane crash. Instead, the Madden Cruiser was created. When that bus rolled into your football stadium’s parking lot, you knew it was a big game because John Madden was going to call it.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at