Thursday, April 16, 2009

Boom! Went The Broadcaster

Frank Caliendo is the saddest man in America today.

The crown jewel of his impressions, John Madden, has just left the building. Sure, Caliendo can spend the next year or two doing bits about Madden's retirement activities between telestrators, buses, and food, but slowly the act will tire.

And what about the football fan? Will football ever be the same without the crazy man talking in unintelligible bits? No other broadcaster leaves an impression. They're all just the generic, etiolated pairing of a play-by-play guy with a former player. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are solid, but not fun. Tony Siragusa has the jolly size of Madden, but he has the broadcasting skills of a gimp and is generally a large waste of pants.

Sure Madden got on your nerves sometimes with his ramblings, but he gave voice to the fat guys on the line, showed us how cool it could be to travel by bus, and showed us what you can do with a digital pen during boring games. He was a quote machine and may have taken the game seriously, but never himself.

John Madden is to football what Yogi Berra is to baseball.

We don't even need to get into the Madden video games which have been played by possibly every football f
an in America. I'm pretty sure my 80 year old grandfather knew what Madden games were.

Madden's greatness stemmed from a love of the game and a love for the personalities in
the game. Even when he was the Raiders coach back in the 60's and 70's (when it was fun to be a Raiders fan) he let his players act however they wanted as long as they prepared for the games. There were a few incidents, but no one shot himself in the leg or got arrested eight times on multiple drug charges. (I know that could be because players back then didn't make the crazy money they do money, mo problems, but the fact is they didn't.)

If a player wanted to ride a horse out to the practice field, drink margaritas in the locker room, or hang naked by a ceiling fan, it was fine with Madden as long as everyone showed up on time and practiced hard. His players constantly say how they appreciated the freedom and wanted to win for Madden.

That love of personalities obviously translated to the broadcast booth. Madden would regale us with his love of Brett Favre or Hines Ward and he helped turn Dallas Cowboys generic fullback Darryl Jonston into an NFL sensation who heard his "Mooooooose!" calls in every stadium. In a sport wh
ere most coaches squash any individuality by players, Madden found a way to bring the personalities to our living rooms.

I wonder if that's why Madden retired...Brett Favre is gone.

Here are just a few of the classic Madden quotes over the years:

"The road to easy street goes through the sewer.”

“When you get hit like that it’s like having a bumble-bee stuck in your helmet, you just can’t get rid of it!”

“The goal of football is to score more points than your opponent.”

"Hey, the offensive linemen are the biggest guys on the field, they're bigger than everybody else, and that's what makes them the biggest guys on the field."

“Wasn’t “Vixen” the name of one of Santa’s reindeer?”

“Whenever you talk about a Mike Shananhan offense, you always talk about his offense.”

“That wasn’t a boom Al, that was more like a WACK!”

"If you see a defense team with dirt and mud on their backs they've had a bad day."

“Here’s a guy who when he runs, he moves faster.”

“From the waist down, Earl Campbell has the biggest legs I have ever seen on a running back.”

"They'll score if they can just get into the endzone."

“Yes, turns out yellow and red make green, I found this out when I spilled yellow mustard on my red tie and it turned lime green not orange.”

He was fat, crazy, loud, and occaisionally senile, but John Madden brought his love of everything football to us. He will be missed. He won't be replaced.

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