The legendary John Madden has passed away. He was 85.
I’ll try to find some words, but this hasn’t fully sunk in yet.
His documentary, All-Madden, just aired on Christmas. It was incredible and is worth your time. There were moments where those who knew Madden best were talking into the camera, but then it cuts away to a shot where we see Madden sitting and watching that footage on a TV in front of him.
I thought it was so great that he got to hear how much he meant to so many. I thought about how many phone calls, emails, and text messages he’d receive once it finished airing. I thought about all the people thanking him for being him and how he deserved all the praise in the world.
And three days later, he’s gone.
It doesn’t seem fair.
John Madden was great at everything. He was a Hall of Fame football coach, who retired after 10 seasons, at the age of 42, with a winning percentage of .759.
Madden then went on to become the greatest colour commentator in football, if not all of sport, winning 16 Emmy Awards. He used the telestrator as both an educational, and comedic, tool, to teach fans at home the X’s and O’s of the game, while also entertaining them. He made football, fun. He also made Turducken a Thanksgiving staple.
He has been the face of EA Sports’ NFL video game series since its inception in 1988 – Madden NFL. The game has sold more than 250 million copies.
I told you, he was great at everything.
Madden transcended generations. Depending on when you were born, you were enrolled into the Madden School of Football and Entertainment at a certain stage in his life.
Someone get out the Sorting Hat.
Maybe you were first introduced to him, and his array of arm gestures, when he was on the sidelines as Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders. Maybe you know him best as a colour commentator, who eventually worked for all four major broadcast networks: CBS, FOX, ABC, and NBC.
Or, maybe you’re like me and grew up learning football by playing the EA Sports Madden NFL video game.
Yes, I remember seeing Al Michaels and John Madden on TV calling games, but I was between 10 and 16-years-old during their tenure as a broadcasting duo. At that time, I was a casual follower of the NFL, flipping in and out of games, not really watching any in their entirety, outside of the Super Bowl. Being from Canada, other sports were higher on my pecking order. I didn’t get the John Madden experience from television.
I got it from the video games.
The Madden NFL games had an influence on my life, just like they did on millions of others. Please allow me to share some of my memories with you.
Madden 2003 was the first one I played. It was for the Gameboy Advance. As soon as you reached the main menu, “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. would be blaring out of the speakers. I was hooked.
I never even asked myself, or anyone, “Who is this guy with the booming voice and why is the game named after him? Why is he standing next to the “Start” button?”
It just felt natural that this man would be there. Almost as if he was a God-like presence, who would oversee our ventures into the world football. There was nothing to question.
My favourite play in that game was HB Sweep because that allowed me to get outside and away from the tacklers. If the ball was on the left hash mark, I ran it to the right. If the ball was on the right hash mark, I ran it to the left. That way, I had extra field space to work with.
I was subconsciously learning about strategy and angles.
And then Madden NFL 2004 came out in the summer of 2003. I had the PC version. That was the most fun I had ever had playing a video game. The game was incredible and so, too, was the soundtrack. I loved it back then and I still love it today.
It takes me right back to my 12-year-old self and those summer days sitting at my desk, with a breeze coming through the window, playing Madden NFL 2004. I can picture all of it like it was yesterday.
Don’t worry, I played outside a lot that summer, too. But I’ll always cherish those memories of playing Madden. It was a special.
Fast-forward to Madden NFL 06. There was a new game mode – to me, at least – called Franchise Mode, where you got to control a team. And I mean really control it. You were, essentially, the owner.
You could relocate the team, build a new stadium, adjust ticket prices, overcharge for hotdogs…the limit did not exist. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was the coolest thing. I even remember calling my mom over and saying, “Look, I can set prices for the concession stand!”
I don’t think she cared.
That was probably one of the first times in my life when I really started seeing sports as a business. I mean, looking past all the flashy advertisements on display at games, and really seeing it. This video game put my mind into a different realm. I was 15-years-old.
And I have always liked to think that this was a seed, or a turning point, or foreshadowing – whatever you want to call it – for me eventually ending up at university, studying Sport Management. I had been a sports fan my whole life, but who knew you could go to school and study sports?
Those Madden games did a lot for me. Hours upon hours of fun. Also, hours upon hours of education.
John Madden taught me football. Simple as that. He gets the credit.
Whenever I see an NFL coach mismanage the clock, or not call a timeout when they should have, I think to myself, “They need to play more Madden.” The game is a teaching tool.
There is a misconception with video games that children are just mindlessly staring at a screen for hours. But I promise you, if they are playing Madden, they are learning something, even if they don’t realize it in the moment.
They are learning terminology, they are learning the role of each player on the field, they are learning strategy, they are learning rules, they are learning math vis-a-vie clock and scoreboard management.
The game is “Mario Teaches Typing” for football. You are educated and entertained at the same time. What else would expect from a game named, “Madden”?
I grew up with it. I doubt the memories will ever fade.
Anyway, thank you for listening to me go on and on about the Madden video games and their impact on my life. I think that’s the beauty of John Madden, though. He did so many things that touched people in so many ways, that every article you read today, tomorrow, and forever, will touch upon something different.
Put it all together and you realize that John Madden made millions of people happy. What an incredible legacy to leave.
Madden is the NFL and Madden is football.
No one will ever forget that.