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Doug Farrar
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Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

The Genuine Article

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I think that John Madden's most important attribute throughout his life has been a genuine nature and true likability that transcends age, race, and any other denominator you care to put out there. If you ask the players he coached, they'd tell you that he was the straightest shooter -- he would breathe fire if you didn't do what needed to be done on the field, but as long as business was done, he treated his players like men. Madden's reward for that was a group of players who had been around the block and knew they'd never have an opportunity to play for such a coach again.

As linebacker Phil Villapiano said in the America's Game covering the 1976 Super Bowl Champion Oakland Raiders, "I'd get mad if someone said something bad about me. But I'd get REALLY mad of someone said something about John." To a man, his players felt that way about him. You wanted to do your best because you didn't want to disappoint someone who treated you with care and respect.

Those qualities transferred to a broadcasting career that will be as much a legacy as his coaching record. Madden was as good with the Xs and Os as anyone, and his focus on offensive line was something that I always found very instructive. But it's easy to hire someone who can diagram a weak-side blitz with a Telestrator -- any high-school coach can pull that off. Madden's gift, again, was his ability to make people care about what he said because they cared about him. This was not a man who ever put on airs. He wasn't preaching from on high; he was the smartest gameday buddy you could ever dream of. Madden enjoyed the game as much as any viewer, and that excitement spilled over into his broadcasts.

I think the most unheralded part of Madden's legacy is that he wrote a series of books (my favorite is "One Knee Equals Two Feet") that turned countless people on to football, or helped them learn more about the game. The writing style was like the broadcasting style and the coaching style. Intense, fun, addictive, and educational. Like the best teachers, Madden knew how to insert learning into life.

I will miss him terribly on Sundays. Between Harry Kalas's death and Madden's retirement, I'm taking time to think about the greats who are still with us. People like Vin Scully and Dave Niehaus, whose voices have etched into the hearts of generations of sports fans.

John Madden is a worthy member of that elite group.

By Doug Farrar  |  April 17, 2009; 3:20 AM ET  | Category:  NFL , Oakland Raiders Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Genius of Madden | Next: Much More Than Xs and Os

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