MATT’S MUSINGS: Boom! One of my heroes celebrated his 84th birthday recentlyFree Access

 April 10 marked the birthday of one of my heroes.

He’s a man who did it all in the game of football, whether it was coaching, announcing games or even creating football video games.

I’m talking about John Madden.

I’ve always enjoyed Madden for many reasons, and I hope someday to meet him before he passes. (Madden lives nearby in Pleasonton and was raised in the Bay Area.)

One thing some people don’t know about Madden is that he played briefly in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles prior to an injury which ruined his playing career.

Of course, he then went on to a legendary career on the sidelines with the Oakland Raiders, producing one of the best winning percentages of any coach in NFL history, and winning a Super Bowl title along the way.

Some might say he retired from coaching too early. 

But he then spring-boarded into an amazing career as a color commentator with CBS, FOX and ABC. This is probably where he built most of his fame, for his humorous takes and his famous zingers he would use, such as “Boom!” any time a big hit occurred.

One reason I love Madden is his enthusiasm for the game. You could tell by listening to him how much he enjoyed the sport, and how much he enjoyed being around it. 

It seemed like in the late 90s and into the early 2000s, when you heard Madden’s voice introducing a game, you knew it was a big game. Madden got to be on hand for all of the biggest games. Network producers knew he would draw in viewers.

He broke football down into simple terms, which was big for me as a young person. His diagrams and step-by-step explanations of what was transpiring on the football field were so valuable to a young mind hoping to learn the sport.

I also got into his video games, which remain some of the best-selling games even today, when they are released with each new football season. I spent hours playing those games as a young child.

Probably the biggest reason I respect Madden is, like most people, I admire his “everyday man,” or “regular Joe” quality.

Madden seems like a guy you could spend a few hours with, sharing stories and just hanging out like friends. He has the ability to relate to people. He has humor. And he’s friendly.

He’s also human. He has a well-documented fear of flying, so he would travel around the nation in his gigantic bus, the Madden Cruiser. I mean, how cool is that? From what I hear, the cruiser now is stationed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. I’ve got to check that out someday.

To wrap up this column, here are a few of my favorite Madden quotes from over the years:

“If you see a defense team with dirt and mud on their backs they’ve had a bad day.”

“The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break.”

“Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.”

Happy birthday, John.

Matt Johnson is assistant editor of the Gazette and can be reached at matt@mariposagazette.com

3 responses to “MATT’S MUSINGS: Boom! One of my heroes celebrated his 84th birthday recently”

  1. Monty Thornburg says:

    Interesting Musing’s Matt:
    Well, Matt, you nailed it. Yes, Madden is friendly and funny. Think about him teaching sex education in a Jr. College!
    Probably the biggest reason I respect Madden is, like most people, I admire his “everyday man,” or “regular Joe” quality.
    Madden seems like a guy you could spend a few hours with, sharing stories and just hanging out like friends. He has the ability to relate to people. He has humor. And he’s friendly.
    A little personal history. Some of my best friends played for Madden in football at Hancock Jr. College where I graduated in 1965. Armondo “Gabby” Vasquez was one of his best players and went with him to San Diego State where Madden coached from 1964 to 1966 before going to the Raiders. His (our) best player was Terry Hermeling who went on to the Washington Red Skins and won the 1972 NFC Championship. Gabby was a linebacker and put me out of football with a knee injury at Santa Maria High School. Santa Maria then was small like Mariposa and we all knew and played ball with each other. Madden’s wife was an English teacher at Santa Maria High School and he and she both came to us from Cal Poly. I did make it back into sports through Track and Field and I lettered on the Hancock Track team (Quarter Mile) before a second knee injury; Madden was an assistant coach on that team. My best memories come from all the stories he’d tell in the required Health Class, however. When it got to the sex class funny stories would circulate. One more little tidbit. Madden, you know, won’t fly! In 1960, 22 of 48 players on the Mustang, Cal Poly football team were killed in a plane crash in Toledo, OH when he played there. John Madden put together a Memorial benefit match for his old team when he coached at Allen Hancock.

  2. Monty Thornburg says:

    Interesting Musing’s Matt:
    Well, Matt, you nailed it. Yes, Madden is friendly and funny. Think about him teaching sex education in a Jr. College!
    “Probably the biggest reason I respect Madden is, like most people, I admire his “everyday man,” or “regular Joe” quality.
    Madden seems like a guy you could spend a few hours with, sharing stories and just hanging out like friends. He has the ability to relate to people. He has humor. And he’s friendly.” You wrote, Matt.
    A little personal history. Some of my best friends played for Madden in football at Hancock Jr. College where I graduated in 1965. Armondo “Gabby” Vasquez was one of his best players and went with him to San Diego State where Madden coached from 1964 to 1966 before going to the Raiders. His (our) best player was Terry Hermeling who went on to the Washington Red Skins and won the 1972 NFC Championship. Gabby was a linebacker and put me out of football with a knee injury at Santa Maria High School. Santa Maria then was small like Mariposa and we all knew and played ball with each other. Madden’s wife was an English teacher at Santa Maria High School and he and she both came to us from Cal Poly. I did make it back into sports through Track and Field and I lettered on the Hancock Track team (Quarter Mile) before a second knee injury; Madden was an assistant coach on that team. My best memories come from all the stories he’d tell in the required Health Class, however. When it got to the sex class funny stories would circulate. One more little tidbit. Madden, you know, won’t fly! In 1960, 22 of 48 players on the Mustang, Cal Poly football team were killed in a plane crash in Toledo, OH with friends from when he’d played there before going to pro football. John Madden put together a Memorial benefit match for his old team when he coached at Allan Hancock College, where he’d come after his own knee injury.

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