For the nineteenth time ever the Chicago Bears will sq. off towards the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving in a sport that might charitably be dubbed the Tryptophan Bowl. On one aspect, you might have a listless Bears staff that simply broke their finest quarterback prospect in 40 years. On the opposite, a dismal Lions squad seemingly hellbent on reserving their second winless season in little more than a decade. The one upset chance right here is to our stomachs.
But when there have been one man who might make this matchup midway appetizing it was John Madden, nonetheless the NFL’s most colourful commentator more than a decade after he referred to as his final sport. Earlier than the Minnesota native was synonymous with the league’s star-crossed online game franchise Madden was soccer’s enjoyable uncle – a two-way lineman who discovered his technique to teaching after a coaching camp knee harm nipped his professional profession within the bud, solely to wind up main the Oakland Raiders to victory in Tremendous Bowl XI on the document younger age of 40. That he never suffered a dropping season and stays the franchise’s most profitable coach, with a profession win proportion that tops Vince Lombardi’s, is as a lot a testomony to Madden’s sharp thoughts because the Raiders fickle management.
After 10 full seasons on the Raiders sideline – the place his mountainous stature, raveled mien and laissez-faire administration flawlessly meshed with a staff of proud insurgent – Madden retired from teaching and shuffled on to a broadcast profession at CBS, churning by a slew of males in crested blazers earlier than matching with Pat Summerall, Madden’s sales space soulmate. The place Summerall was deadpan and laconic describing the motion, Madden was freewheeling and bombastic, a gridiron onomatopoet who salivated over seal blocks and blitz pickups whereas his friends waxed on concerning the fruits of that soiled work – the high-arching completion or breakaway run. That is, when he wasn’t godding up a sure gunslinging Inexperienced Bay Packers QB.
However that’s to not say Madden solely spoke in Booms, Pows and Favres. His reside, improvised Maddenisms have been as pleasant as something that tumbled from the mouth of Yogi Berra. They ran the gamut from soccer axioms (“If he’s even,” Madden would say of a receiver chasing down an extended ball whereas operating shoulder to shoulder with a defender, “he’s leavin’”) to insights on the enterprise (“Low-cost and obtainable … you never need that as your nickname”) to normal observations (“There’s no canine that has more enjoyable than a golden retriever”) to scrumptious nonsense (“Butkus might have been a Belushi or Belushi might have been a Butkus.”) That wit not solely keyed Madden’s prosperity throughout 4 networks, nevertheless it additionally scored him tons of cash pitching beer and video video games and, late in his profession, made him ripe for send-ups from grasp mimic Frank Caliendo.
Apparently, the one factor Madden disliked more than these impersonations was air journey. His behavior of crisscrossing the nation to his TV assignments by way of coach-bus – aka the Madden Cruiser – solely made him more endearing and his video games additional vital. (He famously never referred to as a Professional Bowl whereas it was completely in residence in Hawaii, nor did he anchor any preseason video games outdoors the contiguous 48.) However Thanksgiving was affirmation that Madden’s everyman persona was no act. If Madden drew that task, it meant there’d be more than only a late-season triumph on the road. There would even be meals. Madden is most likely more chargeable for introducing the world to a quintessentially American delicacy referred to as turducken – which is precisely what it feels like: a rooster cooked inside a duck cooked inside a turkey.
Whereas Madden’s Thanksgiving sport unfolded, cameras would reduce to the feast being ready contained in the Cruiser for the massive man and his TV entourage. On the finish of the sport Madden would give away drumsticks from a six-legged turkey to the standout performers on the successful aspect. As a Chicago native who was cursed to develop up a Bears fan, it all the time felt like it will be both Barry Sanders or Calvin Johnson who’d wind up leaving me and mine hungry.
It’s been 13 years since Madden departed the sales space to spend more time together with his household. However Fox – which, in 1994, scooped Madden up in free company and paid him more than any professional participant – hasn’t forgotten the person who gave their then-fledgling NFL protection on the spot credibility. For the previous few Thursdays, the community has dropped tasters for All Madden – a biographical documentary slated for launch on Christmas Day, with everybody from Troy Aikman to Michael Vick heaping due reward and respect.
That lots of the gamers who delighted Madden of their heyday wound up following him into the sales space is no fluke. Largely, they function a reminder of Madden’s singular aptitude for the job. Actually, NFL followers have but to see a shade man who can fill his crested blazer. Matt Millen, a four-time Tremendous Bowl-winning linebacker, seemed poised to grow to be Madden’s inheritor obvious at Fox earlier than destroying his credibility within the Lions entrance workplace, assembling their notorious 0-16 staff. Jon Gruden aped the everyman to extra on Monday Evening Soccer whereas firing off bigoted emails to associates and colleagues. Aikman is a bit too stuffy, Cris Collinsworth overly sarcastic; Tony Romo is the category nerd who can’t wait to let you know how completely he anticipated each query on the check. Solely the ManningCast comes near Madden’s enjoyable uncle soccer power. That it takes two, and a gentle stream of visitor stars, says every thing.
In retirement the 85-year-old Madden has grow to be an more and more distant determine, popping up from his NorCal residence like a sort out eligible to make the odd interview or assertion. (General, Madden wasn’t actually constructed for right this moment’s sizzling take ecosystem; the closest he got here to roasting something was to name common Thursday night time video games a mistake back in the day.) Nonetheless, Madden’s absence looms massive, particularly on this vacation. And in a league the place pretensions are recognized to boil over, NFL followers must be grateful that that they had an authority who didn’t take himself too critically for so long as they did. It’ll be good to see him once more within the Fox doc and be reminded of this: If Madden isn’t the sport’s best-ever broadcaster, he’s simply its final Thanksgiving chef. Which is to say: nobody introduced more spice to the snoozer that is Bears versus Lions, a matchup that’s nonetheless a giant fats turkey.