No Fuss, No Muss: Madden Is Off The Bus


April 17, 2009|By RAY FRAGER | RAY FRAGER,

Unloading more sports media notes while checking eBay to see whether someone is selling a large bus that has cruised from one NFL city to another:

* Nobody does an impression of Cris Collinsworth. Nor do you hear anyone imitating Phil Simms or Troy Aikman.

That doesn't mean they aren't good NFL analysts, but it does mean none of them is John Madden.

With Thursday's announcement that Madden is retiring from broadcasting, sports television loses one of its few truly outsized personalities.

Still, the fact is that if all Madden ever brought to an NFL telecast were a few "bam" and "boom" calls and squiggles on a Telestrator, he wouldn't have become the lead commentator on four networks. Madden's style combined a visceral love of football and an everyman delivery - if that everyman had been a Hall of Fame coach.

Yes, he would stammer, sometimes offer the most elementary of points and become almost tongue-tied in praising Brett Favre, but he also explained the game in a digestible way that enhanced your enjoyment of NFL telecasts. Madden's last telecast turns out to be the Super Bowl in February, during which he was sharp throughout. It's a good way to go out.

* Madden told NBC Sports head Dick Ebersol last week that he was going to retire, and Ebersol traveled to California on Wednesday and spent 11 hours trying to make Madden reconsider, the Associated Press reported. Part of Ebersol's pitch was an offer to let Madden work only during September and November.

"I knew right away there was no way of talking him out of it," Ebersol said. "I knew in his voice he really thought about this."

Madden's Sunday Night Football (and before that, Monday Night Football) partner, Al Michaels, said in a statement: "No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more enjoyable to watch and listen to than John. There's never been anyone like him, and he's been the gold standard for analysts for almost three decades."

* NBC's decision to shift Collinsworth into Madden's spot is a natural move and - given Collinsworth's performance as an analyst - one that's hard to argue with. Collinsworth is glib and has a snarky edge that's polar opposite from Madden, but why not let a change in personnel feel like a true change?

* The return of ESPN's E:60 was a welcome sight because, at some point, we need a break from unending game highlights and guys arguing the merits of first-round quarterbacks in favor of a program that commits acts of sports journalism. However, the supposed in-depth look at Vince McMahon and pro wrestling was fairly shallow. On the other hand, the report about how poorly maintained Zambonis are poisoning the air of rinks and making hockey players sick was well done, right down to the oily rink owner telling reporter Rachel Nichols her device that measured his foul air was broken.

But, really, ESPN, must we have the show opening that makes your reporting staffers look like they are the stars of some "edgy" prime-time drama set in Manhattan? Look, Jeremy Schaap is bounding up subway steps. Michael Smith is buying papers at a newsstand. Lisa Salters is standing on a sidewalk while New York swirls about her.

And Ray is on his couch rolling his eyes.

* Scott Garceau and Anita Marks finally have settled into roles on their 105.7 The Fan talk show. Garceau is the indulgent uncle and Marks the impetuous niece. Garceau lets Marks prattle on until it's time to correct her or tweak her for something outrageous she has said.

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