John Madden passed away unexpectedly on December 28, three days after FOX Sports aired their All Madden documentary honoring the man who sold American pro football to the masses. The legendary commentator, coach, pitchman and unforeseen video game icon was 85.
With him possessing so many distinctions in American pop culture, there’s plenty of fruit today’s modern pro wrestling can pick from the learning tree of John Madden.
Madden authentically lived and breathed pro football, but some of his most memorable moments came from when the pigskin wasn’t his topic at hand. John would pontificate about the tubs of Gatorade on the sideline or the vital volume of a lineman’s belly while the late Pat Summerall would direct the course of on-field action with his distinctive drawl. This kind of dynamic made the game of pro football palpable not just to the ardent fan of the sport, but their spouse, their mother and their 10-year old kid. He kept things simple and not so serious, but John’s genuine passion for the NFL was always there.
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) December 29, 2021
That was made no clearer when Madden boasted about the likes of Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Steve Young, propping their talents up to other-worldly heights and further solidifying the NFL product as something that’s “must watch.” John, however, would never shy from putting the unsung offensive line over for their efforts and their real estate. Even in today’s world, that type of promotion by John made those stars’ legacies almost unattainable to the Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herberts of today.
It’s vital to have luminaries of whatever entertainment profession at least be part of the process in narrating your genre’s story to your ever-changing audience. John Madden was that for the NFL. That capability to market made him the face of ACE Hardware, “Tough actin’ Tinactin” and the video game with his namesake, therefore making his name and likeness a mainstream brand. Gamers today may have never heard Madden utter a down of NFL action, but they know no other football video game with a different title.
Thanks, Coach pic.twitter.com/jGx8aVdRPj
— Madden NFL 23 (@EAMaddenNFL) December 29, 2021
Joel Santos, one of the directors of All Madden, poignantly noted that John getting to sit and watch the doc with his family before passing as “poetic.” One can’t help but think of the many legendary wrestlers who didn’t receive such an opportunity. Imagine if the late Bobby Eaton received his flowers with a “Beautiful” night honoring the work he did for tag team wrestling and several top stars. Sadly, like many others, he didn’t, but was honored posthumously like a Vader, a Tracy Smothers or a Danny Hodge that he followed. AEW has done a wonderful job at paying their respects to legends of yesteryear (Baron Von Raschke and David Crockett are the immediate ones that come to mind) and there’s still time to do the same for a Terry Funk, a Ricky Steamboat, a Les Thatcher, a Tom Pritchard and countless others.
A combination of charisma, authenticity and passion is what made John Madden the legend that he is to America’s biggest sport and entertainment property. Those traits apply to anything in life, but it’s imperative in getting a smoke and mirrors genre like pro wrestling over. You want to potentially give the sport another “boom?” Follow the blueprint of the man who was synonymous with the word – as unattainable as it may be. Rest in peace.
Read More: Bobby Eaton Exemplified All That’s ‘Beautiful’ In Pro Wrestling