The news of John Madden retiring bums me out for two reasons: no more Madden (duh) and not many people to "confide" in how enjoyable a broadcaster he was. Confide is in quotes because that's really the best word I can think of -- to most people, you had to admit you liked Madden, like he was some sort of guilty pleasure. No conscious and sentient being would ever choose to like listening to Madden incoherently blather on, right?
That was part of the fun though. I loved the telestrator gags. One of my favorites: during a game in Arizona where coming back from commercial they showed a shot of the horizon. You could see the desert and what looked to be one car driving someplace -- "You got the desert here [circles desert] and you got this guy here [circles the car] and I don't know where he's going because you got nothing but desert out here [draws arrow from car out to desert]."
I loved the statements that sounded like a baritone version of Conan O'Brien's Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. "Zebuh yehyeh... bngffs yeh this guy over here... bhanf hefn lgg uh mesgrr's a great player." I loved how he always predictably talked about special teams in his opening monologues. I loved how he loathed the replay system. I loved how linemen were never just linemen, but "big ole linemen". I loved how he loves fat guys.
I guess some people didn't know where to find the humor in Madden. Or maybe some people didn't like his kind of irreverent humor, whether it be inadvertent or on purpose. Regardless, I think those people are completely missing the point. As I've written about in the past, if you're looking for an analyst for actual analysis, good luck. That's not what they're there for anymore. They speak to the lowest common denominator to try and bring in the casual fan. Madden transcended that and spoke to everyone: the casual fan, the hardcore fan, the housewife, the drunks... everyone. The great ones do that.
People will fixate on his unabashed manlove for Brett Favre, but even as a Vikings fan that never bothered me a bit. That came with the territory. You weren't getting unbiased analysis, you were getting John Madden. That was more than okay with me.
What I'll miss most about Madden though is the "big game" feel he brings to every game he calls. He leaves a huge void in the football world that won't be coming close to being filled for a long time. Going as far back as to when he was with Pat Summerall on CBS, I was giddy when I would find out that the "A" commentary team was going to do a Vikings game, because I knew then the Vikings were a big deal, at least for that week. That feeling sustained past Summerall's retirement, towards his partnership with Al Michaels at ABC and then NBC. It's fitting that the last game he covered was a Super Bowl.
I think the best compliment is this: there are many, many broadcasters across all sports that earn the dreaded "mute" button one time or another. Some even have "permanent mute" status. Madden never ever earned a mute. C'mon, he's John Madden.