The sad news of the death of John Madden has been met with the tidal wave of praise and appreciation that the memory of this great American deserves. His services to the country and the sport he loved are too great to be measured.
The phrase “bigger than life” is overworked in tributes. But John Madden surely was. He was a great coach, an even better broadcaster, and by all reports a thoroughly decent and unpretentious man. In his long life he consistently demonstrated the qualities and habits we like to think of as quintessentially American: ebullience, optimism, hard work, kindness, and appreciation and consideration for others.
On top of this, Madden was just plain fun to listen to. It was impossible to watch a football game Madden was commenting on and not be totally into it. His enthusiasm was that infectious. Too many “color men” in various sports are more annoying than informative, making the simple seem complex. Madden did the opposite, economically making clear what viewers just saw on the field. And he did it with good cheer and humor. He enriched the viewing experience of NFL fans and created many new ones. (What’s happened in the NFL over the past few years would doubtless have been a challenge for this always upbeat, glass is three-quarters full guy. But I’m sure he would have handled it with grace, even though the league hasn’t.)
Here’s a salute from another giant of the sports-casting field, Vin Scully, who worked with Madden and much enjoyed it. Vin says Madden “taught me a lot.” This is substantial praise. Fans of the great Vin — include me in — would not have thought there was much he needed to learn. And here’s an appreciation from another great NFL coach, Bill Belichick. It takes a lot to coax a long and articulate speech from the crabby lobster boat captain. But Madden achieved it.
There seems to be a fair amount of room left on Mount Rushmore. I wouldn’t at all object to adding John’s image to the four worthies already there. Let’s call it the red, white, and blue wing. Appropriate for a great fly-over state like South Dakota, where people still remember what being an American is all about and honor it, as Madden did for his entire life.
While we’re up, allow me to share with patriotic TAS readers some of my other Rushmore laureates. The incomplete list from my lifetime includes: Ronald Reagan, Duke Wayne, Chuck Yeager, Vin Scully, Patsy Cline, Walker Percy, Ray Charles, and Stan Musial. OK, the list is personal and eccentric as well as incomplete. Surely many Spectator readers would have their own additions. Go ahead. Rushmore is a large mountain, and America is a large and great country. It would have to be to produce the likes of John Madden.
Boom! Let’s get carving. And RIP Coach. Thanks for coming our way.