I think the death of Harry Kalas has scared the holy hell out of John Madden.
Madden, who called it a career on Thursday, had been in the broadcast booth for more than 30 years and I’m speculating that he did not want to go out as Kalas had — face down in his place of work.
Kalas, who died on Monday of what coroners said was heart disease, was the voice of NFL Films. He and Madden, an NFL Hall-of-Famer, were probably acquaintances and at the very least contemporaries. Kalas’ death likely hurt Madden deeply and has fueled his decision to retire.
Personally, I admire Madden but I’m not his biggest fan. His insistance on stating the obvious and slathering over Brett Favre grated my nerves at times but his enthusiasm for the sport was undeniable. I’ll never forget his “BOOM!” or how he would stutter over himself when he’d get really excited. Or that idiotic Tur-ducken.
He’s arguably the sport’s greatest personality and without a doubt its greatest voice. He’s covered football for CBS, FOX and NBC and would probably be welcome at ESPN in a second. And it’s not because Madden is an analyst; it’s because he oozes football in the way Abe Vigoda oozes funny.
Perhaps the greatest thing about Madden is that he’s been able to franchise himself more successfully than anyone in National Football League history. His name alone has made him a millionaire several times over and barely keeps gasoline in his Madden Cruiser.
Despite his quirks (he refuses to fly or eat a salad), Madden has made seemingly zero enemies in his rise to football immortality. He’s so likable, in fact, that his name continues to adorn the longest-running video game series in history and kids two generations removed from his greatest achievement, winning Super Bowl XI as coach of the Oakland Raiders, continue to learn about football in association with his name.