The stories that people relish most about John Madden, I think, are those that capture the humor he brought to his broadcasting work, as well as all the things he focused on away from the field -- from tailgating to bocce -- that made him the ultimate representative of the everyday fan.
But I want to devote this post to the memory of how his career spanned very different eras. In many ways, Madden is a symbol of a changed America. If I had to pick just one thing to point to, it would be how his peak analyst years coincided with a period of ostentatious power and wealth for network TV. I remember a Super Bowl at which the premier event -- at least to me -- was a ritzy CBS dinner that featured Madden discussing the state of the NFL. Getting an invitation to that insider's evening felt more privileged than being at the game. Oh, how the glitz and prominence of network broadcasting has faded since those days.
One other strong recollection: Before the existence of the Madden Cruiser super bus, our hero made many trips through a historic railroad hub -- Meridian, Miss. Check out the Wikipedia entry. That was before the time of the ubiquitous cell phone, so catching up to Madden for an interview meant waiting for him to call from Meridian in between making connections. Eventually, he might have been one of America's great authorities on trains. But the bus took him off the tracks and put him on the highways. I'm a little wistful about it.