Thursday, April 16, 2009


John Madden, the greatest football broadcaster of all time, has announced his retirement at the age of 73. People claimed that Madden had lost it a few years ago, but in the last couple of years, on the brightly lit stage of Monday/Sunday Night Football, he seemed refocused, as into the game and perceptive as ever, not afraid to be technical and loving every minute of it.

As coach of the Oakland Raiders for ten years, Madden was rumpled and ornery. Once, after calling a practice on Christmas Day, which fell in the middle of playoff season, Madden angrily erased the "Merry Christmas" someone had written on his blackboard.

But as a broadcaster, he was engaging and funny. He reminded me of the great rock critic David Fricke; they each had a seemingly limited palette of pet sounds (e.g., doink! for Madden, skronk for Fricke) but would employ them with such originality and in such fresh settings that they never grew tiresome. And more importantly, they never lost their excitement for what they were seeing or hearing, and showed an enthusiasm about getting you to see it the same way.

I used to go out of my way to catch any game Madden was doing on CBS or Fox, even if it featured the hated Giants. Of course, that was much easier once he moved to prime time. Let's hope someone brings him back for a Super Bowl or two a la Keith Jackson and the Rose Bowl.