John Madden is going out on top. After calling one of the most thrilling Super Bowls of all-time, the 73-year old analyst-turned-video-game-icon is retiring from the broadcast booth, NBC announced today.
It won't feel the same without Madden calling games on any network this year (he's been employed by each of the four major broadcast channels since he began calling games in 1979), but it's the right time for Madden to hang up his microphone.
After it seemed like he was slipping in his final few years at FOX, Madden seemed reinvigorated in 2002 when he joined Al Michaels in the Monday Night Football booth (and then, eventually, on NBC's Sunday Night Football). To go out now is to go out with his legacy in tact.
Whatever you thought of him (and emotions ranged from love to hate), Madden's presence always made the game feel more important. Watching clips of him and Pat Summerall in the 1980s still gives me goosebumps. Madden loved football and that passion was always present in his broadcasts.
The news of the Madden retirement isn't entirely surprising, as there had been some recent signs to suggest it might happen. Madden NFL '09 was the first version of the game since its introduction in 1993 not to feature Madden's voice providing in-game analysis. And in October he took his first NFL weekend off since 1980. His replacement for that game, Cris Collinsworth, is Madden's most likely successor in NBC's booth.
When it's written, there will be three main chapters to the John Madden story. First, was his time spent as Oakland Raiders head coach (Madden owns the highest winning percentage in NFL history). Last will be the legacy he leaves with his video game franchise. The middle chapter is the most important. The NFL's television presence in the 1980s helped catapult the sport past baseball into becoming America's past time. And John Madden was a big part of that ride.