Thursday, April 16, 2009

John Madden, part 1

All other pop culture news takes a back seat to John Madden's announcement of his retirement from broadcasting. Madden is special, and he has permeated the national culture.

Sure, everything he influenced stemmed from his work as a TV football analyst. But I think people -- millions of people, including lots of non-football fans -- are going to remember him most vividly for commercials (I think first of Ace Hardware), or for the long-running video game series built on his name, or for his fear of flying and what he told us about America as he traveled by train and bus, or for his opinions about food (and how it applied to tailgating) or for the way he described the fascinating people he encountered, be they celebrities or folks he met at restaurants along the road.

I suspect he's going to remain in the public eye fairly prominently. But his broadcasting retirement sparked a ton of memories from the many years when I covered him regularly as a TV or video-game columnist. I'm going to spread out these recollections over a series of posts; the one I want to start with makes me laugh as hard as when Madden originally got me going:

He had an apartment in New York City at the famous Dakota building, where there were plenty of famous residents. Madden told me there was a unique downside for him: close neighbors included conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein and singer Roberta Flack. He was hearing a little too much of their musical genius. I can't instantly put my hands of the story I wrote back then, but I don't think I've messed up the details. Madden -- whose signature style features words like "boom" and "bam" -- appreciated the elegance of their talent. But he had to laugh at himself for finding it, well, noisy.

More on Madden soon.

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