John Madden’s absence from NFL life is never more felt than on Thanksgiving | NFL – After World

For for the 19th time since 1934, the Chicago Bears compete against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving in a game that could benevolently be called the Tryptophan Bowl. On one side, you’ve got a listless Bears team that just broke their best quarterback prospect in 40 years. On the flip side, a grim Lions roster seems poised to book its second winless season in just over a decade. The only upset option here is for our stomachs.

But if there was one man who could make this matchup halfway appetizing, it was John Madden, who, more than a decade after his last call, was still the NFL’s most colorful commentator. Before the Minnesota native was synonymous with the league’s star-crossed video game franchise, Madden was football’s fun uncle – a two-way lineman who found his way to coaching after a knee injury at training camp in the buds of his professional career suffocated, only to land in the end. He led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XI victory at the record young age of 40. That he never suffered a losing season and remains the most successful coach in the franchise, with a career win rate exceeding Vince Lombardi’s, is as much evidence of Madden’s keen mind as the fickle leadership of the Raiders.

After 10 full seasons on the Raiders sideline – where his mountainous stature, disheveled expression, and laissez-faire management teamed perfectly with a team of proud rebels – Madden retired from coaching and switched to a broadcasting career at CBS, where he did a Crowd of men in blazers with crests rummaged through before they match up with Pat Summerall, Madden’s booth soulmate. While Summerall described the action dryly and laconically, Madden was free-running and bombastic, a grid Onomatopoeia who drooled over seal pads and lightning pickups while his colleagues raved about the fruits of that filthy labor – arching completion or apostasy. That is, unless he was launching a certain gunslinger from the Green Bay Packers QB.

But that’s not to say Madden only spoke in Booms, Pows, and Favres. His life, improvised insanity were as delightful as anything that came out of Yogi Berra’s mouth. They ranged from soccer axioms (“when he’s balanced”, Madden would say that a receiver chases a long ball after him while running shoulder to shoulder with a defender, “he goes off”) to insights into business (“cheap and available” … you never want to have that as a nickname “) to general observations (” there is no dog that has more fun than a golden retriever “) to delicious nonsense (” Butkus would have been a Belushi could or Belushi could have been a Butkus. ”) The wit not only shaped Madden’s wealth in four networks, but also made him tons of money selling beer and video games, and at the end of his career made him ready to send Master Mimic Frank Caliendo.

Apparently Madden only liked air travel more than these imitations. His habit of traveling around the country by coach – aka the Madden Cruiser – to his television shows only made him more lovable and his games more important. (He famously never called a Pro Bowl while he was permanently in Hawaii, nor did he anchor any preseason games outside of the contiguous 48.) But Thanksgiving was confirmation that Madden’s Everyman personality wasn’t an act. If Madden got that contract, it meant more than one late season triumph was at stake. There would be food too. Madden is probably more responsible for introducing the world to a quintessentially American delicacy called turducken – that’s what it sounds like: a chicken cooked in a duck that cooked in a turkey.

Before his career as a broadcaster, John Madden led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI at the young record age of 40. Photo: Dennis Desprois/NFL

While Madden’s Thanksgiving game was going on, the cameras cut the feast that was being prepared in the cruiser for the big man and his television entourage. At the end of the game, Madden gave away drumsticks of a six-legged turkey to the outstanding performers on the winning side. As a native of Chicago cursed becoming a Bears fan, I always felt that either Barry Sanders or Calvin Johnson would leave me and mine hungry.

It’s been 13 years since Madden left the booth to spend more time with his family. But Fox – who brought Madden into the free agency in 1994 and paid him more than any other professional – hasn’t forgotten the man who gave instant credibility to his then-fledgling NFL coverage. For the past few Thursdays, the network has a taste of All Madden – a biographical documentary slated to be released on Christmas Day, with everyone out Troy Aikman to Michael Vick showering due praise and respect.

It is no coincidence that many of the gamers who loved Madden in her heyday followed him into the dressing room. Most of the time, they serve as a reminder of Madden’s unique flair for the job. In fact, NFL fans have never seen a colored man who can fill his blazer with crests. Matt Millen, a four-time Super Bowl winner, seemed poised to become Madden’s heir at Fox before shattering his credibility in the Lions front office and assembling her infamous 0-16 team. Jon Gruden mimicked Jedermann in excess on Monday Night Football while firing bigoted emails to friends and colleagues. Aikman is a bit too stuffy; Cris Collinsworth is too sarcastic; Tony Romo is the class nerd who can’t wait to tell you how perfectly he expected every question on the test. Only the ManningCast comes close to Madden’s funny uncle soccer energy. That it takes two and a steady stream of guest stars says it all.

In retirement, the 85-year-old Madden has become an increasingly aloof figure and emerges from his home in NorCal like a tackle authorized to give one or the other interview or testimony. (Overall, Madden wasn’t really built for today’s hot-take ecosystem; he came closest to roasting when he labeled Thursday night’s regular games a bug Back to the day.) Nevertheless, Madden’s absence is great, especially on this holiday. And in a league where presumptuousness is known to boil over, NFL fans should be grateful for having an authority that hasn’t taken themselves as seriously as they have for so long. It’ll be good to see him again in the Fox documentary and be reminded: if Madden isn’t the best broadcaster in the game, he’s easily the ultimate Thanksgiving chef. That said, no one gave the Bears versus Lions snoozer more flavor, a matchup that’s still a big, fat turkey.

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