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BOOM! That was one heckuva hit!

posted by Jon on 1/10/03

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"If you have a playoff-type defense, and you get a lead like they had, then it's your defense's job to take that lead and get the win. The offense has to score some points, and continue to make plays and get first downs and stuff, so it's not all just the defense, but they need to do their job."
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Modern sociology is quite a strange creature, especially as it concerns interpersonal relationships. Back in the olden times, the only people John Smythe would ever come across were his family and friends, the townfolk he came across in the Olde Towne Shoppe, and the people he read about in rustic-looking books at Ye Olden Towne Li-Brary. Now, most would argue that one can't engage in a relationship with someone who isn't really there. Back in ye olden days, this was probably true. Poor Mr. Smythe, though he could learn everything about a certain individual, could not effectively assign a voice or face to him or her.

Behold, the miracle that is television. And the refrigerator, too. That's a pretty neat invention if you really think about it. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Of course, the people of Ye Olde Tymes didn't have the luxury of television, probably because it would look rather awkward if an "e" was tacked onto the end of "television". Since those primitive days of wood-chopping and butter-churning, TV has replaced the fireplace as the thing to stare at while sitting in the living room. Personalities such as Peter Jennings effectively enter our living rooms every day. You can see him looking at you. You can hear him talking to you. He's right there in front of you. What more do you want? If you want him to listen to you, I think you're just being greedy.

I can see the impact of this in my own life. I would probably rank Alex Trebek a few notches above real people I know on my friendship chart. Yes, I do have a friendship chart. I hang it on my bedroom wall, and when someone insults me I run back to my apartment and drop him or her a few notches. Mr. Trebek is at #17 now, so you real, actual people had better get your acts together.

Look a few notches up, perhaps at #8, and you'll see John Madden. That's right. John Madden is my friend.

He's the grandfather who you can't fully understand, but smile at anyway. He's the next-door neighbor that has to wear a tracking ankle bracelet and won't stop yelling at the pigeons. He's been there with me during some of my most memorable moments, which, coincidentally, happen to involve watching or playing football on TV.

For those of you tuning in from lands that managed to work themselves adrift from North America, we aren't talking about football-football, as you have probably have already guessed. For the sake of haste, think of American-football as baseball with shoulder pads. It's one of our society's most beloved indulgences (I will not say pastime; I'm boycotting it because I think it should have two Ts). John Madden is one of the most commonly associated icons of football, and a truly great football-watching companion to millions of Americans every fall Monday night.

I often hear the saying, "To be a good friend, you must be a good listener." Not John. He talks whenever the opportunity arises. He says what the subconscious thinks, but fails to relay to the conscious.

Subconscious: That player should catch the ball.
Conscious: Uh, yeah, whatever.
Madden: That player should catch the ball!
Conscious: Wow, yeah! He really should!

Mr. Madden has championed the art of the obvious observation, which is important, because I don't want to forget that the team with the ball needs to make a lot of good plays. Following is an excerpt from a transcript of last Saturday's Wild Card playoff between the Packers and Falcons, which I furiously wrote down as I do all television programs I watch:

Al Michaels: Favre, looking left. Under some pressure. He finds Driver in the endzone. Touchdown!
Madden: If you look at that replay, Donald Driver caught that ball on a slant.

(long pause)

Michaels: And it looks like Driver is in some pain. We've got to remember, he was questionable to even play in today's game, and it looks as though the area of concern is his right shoulder. This could be bad for Green Bay.
Madden: Yeah, when you're in pain like that, you've just got to think that Donald Driver scored a touchdown. The Packers scored, and that's what they really needed, was to score. When you're down like that, you've just got to catch it, and that's what he did.

In the same game, he comments following eye candy Melissa Stark's on-field report:

Stark: ...they are telling me that Driver is doubtful to come back in this game. Al?
Michaels: Thanks, Melissa.
Madden: Heh, it's so cold out there, and she has a hat and everything. Before long, she might be a snow person.

(pause)

Madden: Because it's snowing so hard. I was going to say "snowman", but since she's a lady, that wouldn't work. I --
Michaels: First and ten at the Atlanta 26.

In a broadcasting world full of "serious" journalists who strive to make insightful observations in an effort to be "good", Madden is a refreshing change. He adds a very human element to the game he broadcasts, if only because humans are stupid.

Perhaps it's that personable quality that makes Madden such a good friend, or perhaps it's because he attacks one's consciousness on multiple fronts. Enter the John Madden Football series.


Zone defense on the first play of the game? No wonder you guys suck.


Every heterosexual male and lesbian is all too familiar with these video games. Since 1991, football game after quality football game has been released under the banner of EA Sports and John Madden. Fortunately for Madden fans, the series is known for including plenty of commentary from the big guy himself. It began modestly -- my first experience was with Madden '93 for the Sega Genesis. In 1993, it was amazing that a game could talk, so every word Madden said was gospel. As I recall, he only had four sound bites:

"Where'd that truck come from?"
"Amazing!"
"Thatsa way to HIT HIM."
"He'll feel that one tomorrow."

The game cycled these four catchphrases ad nauseum. But it didn't matter, because damn it, it was the first time a video game ever talked to me. His voice, which sounded like Vin Diesel at a marshmellow eating contest, ingrained itself in my psyche.

In a mere ten years, the Madden series has progressed to near-TV-realistic commentary. Though no more insightful then they were ten years ago, his comments take much longer to say. And despite being utterly conquered in gameplay by Sega Sports' NFL2K3 series, Madden's nuggets of wisdom are more than worth the price of the game.

Most people I know don't like Madden because they think he's stupid. I have to disagree. True, the guy has the communication skills of a sock, but his sideline accomplishments speak for themselves. He won the Raiders a Super Bowl, he has the highest winning percentage of any coach in NFL history, and he's an accomplished author, having co-written four books. Granted, it really doesn't speak well when one of them is titled "Hey, Wait A Minute, I Wrote A Book!", but they're books all the same.


Luckily, the documentary crew had the cameras rolling in time to catch Madden come to the realization that he had, in fact, written a book.

All things considered, I am glad to be able to count John Madden as a friend. I can't decide whether to thank John, the major television networks' low standards of intellect, or the sport of football for allowing a linguistically impaired oaf to master it. I suppose it doesn't matter. Madden is a worthy ambassador for the great game of football, and my buddy through thick and thin.
...
Wow. I made it through the entire article and forgot to crack a pun at his name. That sure makes me angry!
...I mean, that sure is maddening! JOHN maddening, that is!
-Jon
jon@whatever-dude.com
AOL IM: Boiskov


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