Regarding future, Madden declines to commentate

RADIO-TV

January 21, 1994|By RAY FRAGER

John Madden, it turns out, has a philosophy. And it can be summed up neatly, as most things in life can, in the words of a pop song:

Sha la la la la la, live for today.

Sha la la la la la, live for today.

And don't worry 'bout tomorrow, hey.

As Madden approaches his last NFL game with CBS for the foreseeable future, he says he hasn't been looking much past doing Sunday's NFC championship between the Cowboys and 49ers with his partner of 13 years, Pat Summerall. After that, there is the matter of where football's best analyst will be employed next season, but Madden said he really hasn't been thinking about it.

"I know that once it's over, I'm going to look back and say, 'Now we have to do something,' " Madden said in a news conference this week. "This is the most fun part of the season, and I'm not going to ruin it. You look so much at what's going to happen that you don't enjoy it while it's happening. . . .

"Everybody wants to jump ahead instead of enjoying the now."

Nobody seems to enjoy the now of an NFL game like Madden, and that is clearly a large part of his popularity. He appears such a genuine fan of the sport, someone who so revels in the elemental nature of blocking and tackling, that he can't get caught up in the complexities and jargon of doctoral level football. Madden's jargon is bam, pow, zip, the stuff that drew you to the vacant lot across the street for pickup games with the neighborhood guys. (And I really didn't mean to push Benny Preston into the tree that time. I was just trying to keep him from breaking a long run.)

So excuse Madden if he doesn't have his valedictory speech written yet.

"I haven't even thought about that," he said of his farewell remarks. "Pat and I have been together all these years, and we're kind of football guys and we do the game. It's not a show. It's a game.

"Don't forget, there will be champions, and that's what fans want to see, not, 'Wow, this is our last game.' "

But the fans also want to see and hear Madden. They want him to scribble on the telestrator. They want him to be up in the booth waving his arms. Even if you can't see it, you know he's doing it.

"There's going to be something coming in this game," Madden said, "and the most exciting thing is you don't know what it is."

And after the game, Madden can turn his attention to his next employer. He has been rumored to be headed for Fox, ABC and NBC. It has been speculated that ABC's Monday night games make the most sense because, though Fox may throw more money at him, Madden could head into the season knowing what his schedule would be. For somebody whose dislike of flying has led him to command America's most famous bus since the Partridge Family's, the ability to plan trips far ahead must hold some appeal.

Whether Summerall can join Madden at his new address is another matter. CBS has not shown an inclination to release Summerall for NFL work elsewhere. Certainly, Madden can adapt to a new partner, but he and Summerall are not just football's best announcing combo, they are the best pairing working any televised sports.

Summerall's phlegmatic, reticent style partially masks a dry wit brought out by Madden. If you've heard Summerall do tennis or golf, you may have noticed just that he doesn't say much. With Madden, Summerall takes care of the play-by-play basics, sets up his analyst perfectly and inserts the occasional deadpan zinger.

"Pat is so professional," Madden said. "He has everything under control. He never lets on, no matter what is said. He doesn't laugh or anything.

"I'm a guy who kind of overkills things, and Pat just sits and listens. And then he tells a story, and it's so good, I forget what I'm talking about."

Their relationship, and that with producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman and other members of the CBS crew, is beyond professional. And Madden clearly sounds as if he'll miss the camaraderie -- the Friday night poker games, the pre- and post-game "hangs" at the Maddencruiser.

"I hope we have one last poker game for old-times' sake," he said. "Should I hold them or fold them? I'm going to hold those suckers."

What other off-field memories will he cherish? Madden's choice of anecdote probably says a lot about his unpretentious appeal. Well, he said, there was the time he and the guys piled into Summerall's pickup and went out for Mexican food, with Summerall at the wheel and everybody else -- including Madden -- riding out back on the bed.

"Maybe this is what it's all about," Madden said, "sitting in the back of Pat Summerall's pickup truck going to a Mexican restaurant."

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