The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

The Genius of Madden


Thursday's retirement announcement from the venerable broadcast icon, John Madden, affords us all the opportunity to reflect on his unique career and praise his accomplishments, the joy and enjoyment he brought to the game of NFL football and all of its fans. He might have hated to actually fly in planes, preferring long bus rides, but his contributions to football made us all fly higher every Sunday. His mere presence on a telecast brought almost as much joy to people and fans of the NFL every Sunday as Santa Claus brings to children on Christmas Day.

This is a man who out kicked the coverage in most everything he has done. His career is laden with accomplishment after accomplishment. Madden defeated the odds by leading the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl immortality at a record-setting young age of 32, landing himself in the Hall of Fame as a coach. He then landed himself in a broadcast booth, and the rest is history.

His broadcasting abilities defied all odds. He did not possess the golden boy looks of a Troy Aikman or Joe Namath, never had the down home country charm of a frank Gifford or Don Meredith, was not blessed with the poetic license and delivery of Vin Scully, could not compete with the descriptive talents of a Marv Albert or Dick Endberg and for sure did not have the smooth delivery of his long time partner Al Michaels. Yet, people watched him, listened to him and hung on his every word.

Media greatness, as with all such lists and rankings, requires criteria. For me, these criteria would be uniqueness, enjoyment and passion brought to the craft, the ability to teach the listener more than they knew prior to the broadcast, a talent for being bigger than the game and the ability to move ratings. There are a bevy of quality announcers in the world today, yet few people actually will change the channel for. Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, Jim McKay and John Madden lead the very short list of people in this category and all possessed the majority of these qualities.

Madden's endearing strength and success came from his obvious passion for the game, his clever delivery and his knack for teaching people the subtleties and the behind the scenes aspects of the game. Madden had the ability to make every listener feel like he was talking directly to them. It was as if they were sitting next to each other on a couch eating pizza, drinking beer and watching Sunday ball.

Madden also had a cult-like following that brought viewers wherever he went. People would actually watch a game because he was "part" of it. His video game success made him legendary and unique in the history and business of sports. Great players such as Jordan, Gretzky, Rodriquez, and Manning have had only limited success or failures in attempting to move video game products; yet John Madden's name is more synonymous with the video game industry than Bill Gates' is. It is not explainable with logic or business sense, but is an undisputed fact. At the end of the day, Madden's enduring legacy will not come from the video game sales, super bowl rings, or his humble, passionate, approach that brought us all into his world every Sunday. Rather it will come from the passion and love he brought to football and the NFL for the past thirty odd years. He made watching the NFL each week that much more enjoyable. For this we owe him a great debt of gratitude. He will be missed.

By Peter Schaffer  |  April 17, 2009; 2:44 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , Oakland Raiders , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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