Remembering John Madden (1936-2021)

Football Dec 29, 2021

Tonight, we remember the great former NFL coach and broadcaster, John Madden, who died on Tuesday at age 85.


I never met John Madden in person, but like so many millions, I really thought I knew him.

A few weeks ago, someone posted a question here on social media.  It went something like this -- which five people would you choose if you could have a private dinner party and invite anyone?  I answered with five names who I really would love to meet and listen to.  But among all the names I didn't share or select, but strongly considered, one was John Madden.  He just seemed genuinely interesting.  Filled with gusto.  A lover of life.  And a man with great stories.  He knew everyone in the game for the past 60 years, as a player, then a coach, then a broadcaster.

I can remember seeing an old interview with his ex-Oakland Raiders players about Madden when he was coaching the team back in the early 1970s.  Remember, Madden was only 32 years old when he took over the team as the new head coach.  Several players were older than him.

The thing that made Madden such a powerful presence and force of nature wasn't just that he was a great football coach.  According to those who knew him best, Madden was a great life coach.  He spent many practices and hours and hours and hours talking to his players, and more important -- listening to his players.  On many occasions, they didn't even talk football at all.  Players said Madden was always bringing up current events and various teaching life lessons.  He engaged people.  He recognized there's no separation between private life and public life.  We are who were are.  Our disposition -- attitudes, ideals, goals, and values -- doesn't change on whims, worth, or worldly goods.

On Christmas Day, one of the TV networks ran a documentary on John Madden's incredible life.  I didn't watch it yet, but I plan to.  My understanding is that Madden hadn't been seen in public in nearly ten years since his retirement.  So, the documentary was and is a wonderful parting gift.  A gift not to him, but to us.

Indeed, Madden was not only a coach of life to his players, he was a coach to us all.