I’ve never understood the appeal to his broadcasting. The overly simplistic statements of the obvious. The “Boom!” sound effects. The turkeys with 18 drumsticks. And the illuminating explanation that every play that occurs on the field is exactly how that play is supposed to occur on the field.
“And what you have here is the big fullback Moose Johnston bulling his way through behind big Nate Newton and opening up a little crease for Emmitt Smith to get the first down, because that’s what you do when you need a first down — you sent your big fullback behind your big guard and you have him open up a little crease so your running back can plow through andget your first down.”
Quick, was that an actual in-game quote from John Madden, or a made-up one?
No, his presence in the broadcast booth never did anything for me. But, as his induction Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame confirms, his presence on the NFL sidelines was legendary.
Madden’s brilliant 10-year run as head coach of the Raiders produced an amazing 112 wins, just 39 losses, and 7 ties. He has the highest regular-season winning percentage in the history of the league among coaches with at least 100 career victories, and not a single Raiders team had a losing season under his direction. His teams won seven AFC West titles during his decade of dominance, and of course the 1976 season was capped off with a win in Super Bowl XI.
So with those numbers and accomplishments staring Hall of Fame voters in the face year after year, how on Earth did it take nearly 30 years for the Hall to open its doors for him?
Raider fans often talk of an NFL conspiracy against their heroes, and real or imagined, they’ve had plenty of solid arguments to make their case through the years. But decades of hiding their eyes and refusing to look seriously at the credentials of John Madden on the part of Hall voters might be the most convincing evidence of all.
Could Al Davis’ many run-ins with league officials, including his lawsuit against the NFL that won him the right to move his team to Los Angeles, have hurt Madden’s chances? It’s a debatable point, considering Davis’ own enshrinement in 1992, but it sure was poetic that Davis presented Madden on the grand stage Saturday.
Perhaps it was the whole “band of outlaws” persona that Madden’s Raiders embraced that didn’t sit well with voters, but the fact that the coach was able to achieve such incredible results despite the outrageous personalities in the Raider locker room is even more a testament to his greatness. Fact is, Madden’s prior exclusion from the hallowed halls of Canton was more criminal than any of the activities, on or off the field, his players were ever engaged in.
I won’t be looking forward to another year of Madden’s ramblings from NFL broadcast booths this season, but the sound of his voice emanating from that podium in Canton was sweet music to the ears.
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.