I recorded it and enjoyed watching it Christmas night after the family festivities were over and I was relaxing at home. I cut my teeth in journalism writing local sports starting part-time in my senior year in high school. I advanced to the Herald sports editor and with that promotion came working press passes to both the Raiders and the 49ers. So, I had the opportunity to see many of the great Raider games during Madden’s 10 years as head coach as well as write the local players.
I also have a bit of history with his home on Foothill Road. It sits just outside Golden Eagle development of custom homes, named for the Golden Eagle Ranch owned by millionaire Walter S. Johnson. I raised steers as a 4-H member and my leader was the foreman of Johnson’s ranch so we spent some time there. I also visited Johnson, as an 11-year-old, in the original adobe home to invite him to buy my steer at the Jr. Livestock Auction at the Alameda County Fair (he did not).
Back in Madden’s coaching era, the big money hadn’t flowed into the league yet and several players lived locally, including the coach. Hall of Fame offensive tackle Art Shell lived on Raven in Pleasanton Valley, while his Hall of Fame running mate, guard Gene Upshaw, lived in a custom home on Foothill Road south of Foothill High. Defensive end Ben Davidson lived in Pleasanton Heights and linebacker Dan Conners also lived in town.
This was pre-Black Hole and a family atmosphere characterized the games at the Coliseum.
The 90-minute television show featured John, his wife of 63 years, Virginia, and his sons, Mike and Joe in addition to many coaches, broadcasters and former players such as Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Bill Belichick, Howie Long, Bill Parcells, Peyton Manning, Bob Costas, Tom Brady, Joe Buck, Al Michaels and Troy Aikman. Madden’s 10-year winning record is the best in NFL history, but it was his 29 years as the color commentator for all four networks that introduced him to America. His unique style, punctuated by “boom” helped millions understand more about the game and enjoy watching it.
He also partnered with Electronic Arts on the Madden Video game in 1988 that remains the standard today, 30-plus years after it was introduced. Toss in his many commercials and you understand why he built a film studio in Hacienda Business Park.
That facility is one of many real estate investments in Pleasanton and Livermore. The Maddens transformed the corner of Main St. and St. Johns St. whey they razed a thrift store and replaced it with the upscale Rose Hotel. They also own other downtown buildings that they invested in to reenforce the masonry so facades would not have to be replaced.
Bottom line: if you missed the show and want to know more about Madden and his impact on the NFL and broadcasting, find it when it becomes available to stream or on YouTube.
Late Tuesday I was surprised to learn that Madden had died unexpectedly this morning. May he rest in peace. His legacy in the NFL will live on as long as the league does.