Do you know who is the world’s most famous coach? That would be Phil Jackson of course. He has been coaching basketball for over 30 years and during his time, he won 11 NBA championships with Chicago Bulls in six seasons. What does this mean for esports? It means that when it comes to sports management, there are a number of different paths one can take; all which have their own unique rewards.

The “john madden documentary” is a film about John Madden, an American football coach, broadcaster and esports icon. The film tells the story of how he became one of the most successful coaches in NFL history.

Coach, broadcaster, esports icon

This article was first published in April. We’re republishing this story from people who knew John Madden best in honor of his death on Dec. 28 at the age of 85. It talks about how Madden revolutionized the sports we watch, how we watch them, and how our kids — and their kids — will learn football.


1. During Super Bowl weekend in 2006, Madden was waiting to find out whether he had been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’d always insisted on being referred to as a coach rather than a groundbreaking broadcaster, endorsement pioneer, or esports legend. He was a coach first and foremost, and his induction would be determined by the quality of his 1976 Super Bowl victory, his 75.9% win rate (still the greatest of any coach with at least 100 wins), and the 12 Hall of Fame players he coached.

But since all Hall of Fame members get a heads-up phone call before the news becomes public, Madden started watching that year’s formal announcement by telling those in the room, “Maybe next year.”

The gathering gasped as the names and images of the six new recruits flashed across the screen, and there it was: John Madden. The room erupted in joyous surprise. Madden had never been a big fan of physical contact, so he limited himself to handshakes.

However, a fuzzy snapshot of that incident hangs in Madden’s agent’s office, and you can just make out the former Raiders coach smiling and enduring the rarest of Madden sights: a hug or two.


When the Raiders hired John Madden at the age of 32, he was the NFL’s youngest head coach. Getty Images/Digital First Media Group/Oakland Tribune

2. In 1968, the Raiders’ 32-year-old linebackers coach was contacted by Frank Cooney, a writer from the San Francisco Examiner. Other members of the staff had been raving about how the former Cal Poly lineman had been forced to retire from the game in his early 20s but was on his way to become an excellent coach. One coach told Cooney, “He’s incredibly excellent at explaining stuff.”

Cooney, always on the lookout for a good quote, asked Madden, who was about to start his second season in Oakland, if they could chat. Madden said, “Only off the record.” He didn’t want to detract from the message delivered by John Rauch, the head coach. Cooney agreed and was taken aback by the subsequent dialogue. Madden was every bit as smart as he claimed. He noted little details about players as well as major aspects of the game. The most of what he stated went outside his particular coaching responsibilities — the eight or so linebackers on the Oakland roster — and was more about roster building, playcalling, and motivating players to improve. Cooney now recalls, “He had halogens — there were lights on within his skull.”

Cooney recalls believing Madden had the potential to be a head coach. Someday, most likely several years from now. Who in their right mind would appoint a head coach in his early thirties?

Madden, 32, was hired the Raiders’ head coach six months later.


3. In 1977, Madden approached All-American safety Lester Hayes, his fifth-round selection choice, and informed him that he would be playing cornerback in the NFL. Hayes had transitioned from linebacker to safety at Texas A&M with reluctance. He didn’t want to go any farther away from striking people. Madden was now requesting — no, commanding — him to play corner. Hayes adds, “I began weeping like a newborn baby.”

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Hayes cried and pleaded with Madden to reconsider right there on the practice field. He skipped lunch and supper that day, then returned to practice in the evening, still pleading with his instructor.

Madden was stern yet kind. He informed Hayes he was a former Texas prep sprint champion, which he thought would help him play wideouts one-on-one. He told Hayes that despite his new position, he’d still have plenty of chances to decleat ball carriers.

Hayes recalls, “There was something in his eyes that made me trust him.” “John has an uncanny capacity to perceive things in individuals that they are unaware of. Thank God he recognized it in me.”

Hayes was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1980s after winning Defensive Player of the Year in 1980. As a cornerback, for example.


Madden’s Raiders broke through in 1976, after four AFC championship defeats in six years, and went on to win Oakland’s first Super Bowl. Getty Images/Dennis Desprois

4. By 1976, Madden was under a lot of pressure after losing three consecutive AFC championship games. Madden’s 6-foot-4, 250-pound physique had started to gain weight, and players had noted how many bottles of Maalox he was downing each week.

But suddenly he made it: the Raiders had defeated the Steelers and were on their way to the Super Bowl. His teammates adored him, but they teased him behind his back for his pregame pep speeches, which were word salads that didn’t make sense when probed. So there was a lot of interest in hearing what Madden had to say before this crucial game. He spoke for around two minutes. “Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the carts,” he stated at one point, eliciting puzzled side-eyes from his former Raiders.

His last comment, though, was unmistakable: “As long as you win, gentlemen, this will be the single most important event in your life. Let’s go grab ’em.”

The Vikings had no chance in the tunnel because there was a rush. Minnesota 14, Oakland 32.


5. At a production meeting just before his debut broadcast, Madden was bewildered when the team lay out the timetable leading up to the game. He said, “When are we going to see the teams practice?”

TV broadcast teams, according to the producers, don’t truly rehearse.

“Why not?” you could ask. Madden enquired. “This weekend, I’ll be chatting about these men for three hours. I’d want to have a closer look at them.”

That wasn’t how things worked in the relationship between NFL clubs and production crews, they stated again. They promised him they could send him footage from the clubs’ prior season TV games. That, Madden said, was not good enough.

We normally get down with PR representatives from both teams to get a download of both teams, Madden was informed. Isn’t that supposed to work?

“No,” Madden said. “I’ll speak to the coaches,” says the player.

Madden’s broadcast crews attended to practice from that day on, met with players and coaches directly, and were given the same video that the coaching staffs utilized. It had become routine procedure for TV crews within six months.


When John Madden became a broadcaster, he used his coaching background to chat with players and examine footage before calling a game. Getty Images/James V. Biever

6. Fox was in the midst of a pre-production meeting in the mid-1990s. Before kickoff, Madden was on the telestrator, telling the crew how he intended to break down a certain play. He sketched all across the field, laying down what each player needed to accomplish on the play, and he drew a line where the first down was.

He wondered aloud, “Why can’t we simply maintain a first-down line on the screen the whole game?”

Every single one shrugged their shoulders. It was suggested that it would be excessively distracting. Someone other said that the technology would not permit it. With a shake of his head, Madden said, “You’re mistaken — we should do it.”

Producers in the room began to question whether Madden was correct as he let it linger in the air. “The yellow line is a direct descendent of that moment,” says Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks, who was in the room that day as a veteran Madden crew producer.


Trip Hawkins had a concept for a football video game back in 1984. The creator of EA Sports sought an audience with John Madden, and received an odd response: Yes, you may meet with John from December 16-18, but it will take three days on an Amtrak train. You’ll meet him in Denver and then journey west with him.

Madden was taking the train to his next job due to his known aversion to fly. Longtime producer Bob Stenner adds, “It was never the aircraft that was the difficulty for John.” “It was his claustrophobia,” says the narrator.

Hawkins had arrived. He boarded the train with a group of developers and met Madden in the dining compartment. Madden had a massive cigar in his mouth for the next three days as they convened what would turn out to be the most significant video gaming meeting ever. Madden never lighted the cigar — he liked cigars but didn’t smoke them — so the wet cigar started to crumble, one sloppy chunk at a time, as the hours passed. Hawkins now describes it as “his own little pacifier.”

Hawkins advised him that the technology for 11-on-11 football simply wasn’t there yet. “We’re probably only going to be able to fit 7-on-7 on screen,” Hawkins said.

Madden like the concept of a football game, but he despised 7-on-7. “That’s not genuine football,” he muttered, dismissively waving a contemptuous mitt in the air as a piece of cigar fluttered away.

Hawkins cautioned that creating a game with 22 players on one screen may take years.

“After that, it’ll take years,” Madden said.

It took two years to complete.

7.2. To put together their first basketball game, EA Sports paid Dr. J and Larry Bird $25,000 each, plus 2.5 percent of sales, in 1983. Madden requested $100,000 and 5% of revenues a year later. He figured it out. “Without Madden, there was no game,” Hawkins explains today.

Since its debut in 1988, Madden Football has sold over 130 million units.


Trip Hawkins, who met with Madden on an Amtrak train to sell him on his new football video game, says, “No Madden, no game.” Hawkins, Trip

8.1. After meeting Madden for the first time, the EA crew returned to their train carriages in surprise at Madden’s frequent use of foul words. “I’m not kidding when I say I believe every third thing he says is an F-bomb,” Hawkins adds. “He uses a lot of profanity. That’s one of the signs of John’s intelligence. It takes a lot of self-control to never do anything like that on the radio. He understands how to transition from one vocabulary to another.”

8.2. During a game, the Fox production crew was having trouble. Graphics were not completed in time. The camera angles were incorrect. In his ear, he could hear perplexity. “You f—-ers are missing a terrific game out here,” Madden remarked as he coughed.


9. Madden had his first pregame cosmetic session with a makeup artist before a game in the mid-1980s. It was explained to him that it would assist decrease glare for the camera and that it was required. Madden said while the cosmetic artist worked on him, “Do you honestly believe that would improve my appearance? It’s like putting icing on an s—- cake.”


10. Madden had a habit of inquiring about his teammates’ sports achievements. He bombarded Stenner with questions about his baseball career one day. Stenner had been rather excellent, and he was particularly pleased of his ability to read fly balls off the bat and react quickly. “Like DiMaggio used to get back,” Stenner said. He recognized his error and attempted to continue on his way.

“Wait, did you just make a comparison to Joe DiMaggio?” Madden enquired.

“Of course not,” Stenner responded, “it would be ludicrous.”

“Hey, look everyone, it’s DiMaggio,” Madden still exclaims when Stenner enters into a room after more than three decades.


11. Producer Michael Frank was in charge of acquiring footage of both teams just before Super Bowl XXI in 1987 between the Broncos and Giants, therefore he received the broadcasts of both conference championship games. That was a huge blunder. Madden was enraged; he just wanted the coaches’ footage.

They already had the NFC championship game footage, so all they needed was the AFC title game tape. Frank was given the difficult duty of travelling to the Giants’ team hotel to get a copy of the Broncos scouting video used by the New York coaches. He was brought into a conference room when he arrived. He heard footsteps after a few minutes, and in came… Giants coach Bill Parcells. “Wow, you really messed up, didn’t you?” According to Parcells.

Frank replied okay, but only if he could get a copy of the Broncos’ coaches’ film. Parcells let out a sigh. He merely gazed at Frank for a very uncomfortable five seconds after saying, “We only have one copy.”

“What do you think?” Finally, Parcells said something. “I’d go to great lengths for John. Consider this:”

In his first two years in New York, Parcells had gone 12-19-1, and worried Giants fans had begun to demand his firing. Madden continually said that Parcells was going to be a great coach, but that he needed more time. It made a big difference in maintaining Parcells’ seat at a comfortable temperature, he believed.

As a result, he delivered the film to Frank and demanded that he swear to preserve it with his life. Frank began to think Madden had contacted Parcells and set him up on his way back to the production team’s hotel. “I believe he was simply trying to get a rise out of me,” Frank recalls.


12.1 Madden was always being assigned to NFC East games in the mid-1980s, so he decided to acquire an apartment in New York City. He chose The Dakota in Manhattan, where he purchased Gilda Radner’s former flat, which had become renowned when John Lennon was shot there years before.

Madden became the complex’s mascot without really trying after a few years. The Madden Cruiser would come up in front, and Roberta Flack, the singer, would dash out to board for a few minutes. Madden would sometimes sit in the courtyard and read over notes, and on many occasions, Fox production members would come up to speak with him when he was seated with a friend and her kid.

Yoko Ono would take Sean Lennon back to their apartment so Madden could go to work, and the lady would always say hi and excuse herself.

12.2. Madden and his agent, Sandy Montag, were eating breakfast in the Ritz-Chicago Carlton’s lobby one morning. A guy approached their table while they ate. He spoke with a heavy British accent and told Madden that in the United Kingdom, there was normally just one NFL broadcast each week, and it cycled between the networks. “I just watch your games, John,” the guy said.

Madden thanked him and waved away, as he was accustomed to people approaching him in public. After he was out of hearing, Madden said, “That man had big spectacles and a huge attitude.” Montag had a wry expression on his face.

He replied, “That was Elton John.”


13. In the mid-1980s, CBS put Madden through an absurd one-week grind that included a Sunday game in Atlanta, a presentation in Las Vegas midweek, and then a return to D.C. for a Sunday game in Washington.

However, no matter how hard the network tried, it was unable to put together a Madden rail and vehicle timetable. So it orchestrated a deal for him to borrow Dolly Parton’s tour bus for a week.

It was a hit with him. CBS loved the fact that he adored it. The Madden Cruiser concept was conceived.


Madden got enthralled with the O.J. Simpson murder trial early in the 1994 season. Every passenger on the bus was polled on their thoughts on the issue, and Madden had just put an early smartphone on the Cruiser. He’d phone L.A. buddies like Wayne Gretzky or Fred Dryer to ask how they felt about the trial.

Madden met Vincent Bugliosi, who notably prosecuted Charles Manson, at some time. Madden placed Bugliosi to his frequent caller list right once, and he began calling the brash ex-prosecutor every day and putting him on loudspeaker. “John approached the trial as though it were a football game,” adds Stenner.

Madden would question Bugliosi about Marcia Clark’s and Johnnie Cochran’s game preparations, as well as what happened in the courtroom. Madden was particularly enraged by Judge Lance Ito’s decision to let Simpson try on the glove while wearing another glove. “Of course it didn’t fit since he was wearing two gloves!” Madden remarked.

Bugliosi was always willing to go along with it. He understood his role: he was John Madden’s legal John Madden.


Peggy Fleming is a well-known author.

15. Peggy Fleming was delivering a lecture in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on September 11, 2001, when word of a terrorist attack surfaced. After speaking at a breast cancer awareness benefit, the Olympic figure skating icon returned to her hotel. She reached out to her IMG agent, who informed her that she would not be able to return to California anytime soon.

She didn’t believe she’d be able to make the cross-country journey in a rented vehicle by herself. So she remained in a Wilkes-Barre motel for five days. Then her agent phoned with a surprise: another client at the agency, John Madden, was driving his Cruiser from New York to California. He’d said he’d pick her up.

The Cruiser arrived on September 17th. Fleming arrived with her bag and joked about being a hitchhiker by sticking her thumb up. Madden threw his head out as the doors blasted open. He cried, “Get in!”

She got on and spent the next 52 hours watching footage of the terrorist attacks and talked about anything from earning a gold medal to surviving breast cancer to their families. The outward signals of a united country struck both Fleming and Madden: flags on automobiles, farmers painting their barns red, white, and blue, and the national song playing at gas stations along the road. “It was such a frightening and uncertain moment,” she recalls today. “We had no idea what the future held for us. But I had my huge new pal, John Madden, with me on the bus, and it felt so secure.”

The Madden Cruiser operation blew Fleming away with its effectiveness. Two drivers took turns driving for the duration of the journey, stopping only to eat or stretch their legs. At night, they hung a curtain and set up the fold-out sofa in the center of the bus for Fleming, and Madden would say goodbye and retire to his rear bedroom.

She told Madden, “I want to earn my way on this trip,” and she meant it. So Madden invited her to join him on his monthly radio broadcast from the Cruiser, and he told her he was heading to Nebraska to clean the large Cruiser windows, and she was welcome to participate. As a result, she did both.

When Madden and Fleming arrived in Omaha, they grabbed a bite to eat and went shopping. Fleming expressed her dissatisfaction with her existing hairstyle and expressed her want for anything to cover it up. “Peggy, let me get you a hat,” Madden offered. So she chose a black felt cowboy hat, paid for it with Madden’s money, and wore it the rest of the way.

The bus arrived in Pleasanton a few days later, and Fleming’s husband was waiting for her. They lingered for an hour or two, but it was soon time to go. Madden said goodbye to Fleming and returned to Los Gatos. She still wears the cowboy hat once and again as a memento of an odd new acquaintance. She adds, “He’ll always be my pal.”


16. Madden and his co-host Pat Summerall started a streak of 22 consecutive Thanksgiving football games in 1981. As a thank you to the production staff, the network started hosting an annual dinner a day or two before the game.

The notion was well received by everybody, and the first few were just as excellent as claimed. But one thing bothered Madden: what about the referees? Officiating crew members also sacrificed time away from their families in order to put on a football game. So early in the chase, he went to CBS and asked if they could come to the feast. From that day on, the referees ate as well.


17.1. Madden and Summerall were in town for a Saints broadcast in late 1996. Someone should expose Madden to the turducken, a Louisiana-invented meat monster of duck and fowl packed within a turkey, according to a New Orleans radio host.

When word came back to Madden, Glenn Mistich, a local restaurateur, received a call. Madden was quite interested in trying the turducken. Mistich was selling roughly 200 turduckens every year at the time, practically all of which were bought by locals around Thanksgiving. He leaped at the opportunity to introduce the turducken to one of the country’s most well-known TV food critics.

He brought a gorgeous turducken to the Superdome before the Saints game on Sunday, with all three birds deboned, sausage and cornbread dressing, and gravy cooked from the meat juices.

There was just one issue: Mistich had forgotten to bring any plates or utensils. Someone in the booth gathered a few of paper plates, but no forks or knives could be found. Madden just tore a chunk of turducken off the turducken and ate it with his hands.

It was a hit with him. Saints owner Tom Benson stepped into the booth to say hi as he was raving to Mistich about the turducken. Madden had to make a fast choice on what to do with his turducken fingers when Benson extended his hand. He licked them swiftly and shook Benson’s hand. Madden once claimed, “That was the last time Tom Benson ever talked to me.”

17.2. Over the following several years, the turducken became the official All-Madden team dish, and Madden and Summerall made it a point to serve it at every Thanksgiving. Mistich went from selling 200 turduckens a year to sending 6,000 all over the globe in only a few years. “Just to cope with turducken orders, I had to recruit staff,” Mistich says today.

Then, a few years back, boxes of chocolate started to arrive at his home every December, seemingly out of nowhere. The message is usually written as follows: “Thank you for remembering us all these years. Madden, John.”

“John Madden permanently transformed my life and the lives of my family,” Mistich adds. “And he’s giving me chocolates?” says the narrator.


For more over two decades, Madden and Pat Summerall have called games together, including 22 consecutive Thanksgiving Day games. Getty Images/Wally McNamee/Corbis

In 2013, when Summerall died, Madden delivered a eulogy for his buddy. They’d been together for 22 years, and Madden routinely tells anybody who will listen that there is no John Madden without Pat Summerall. Madden reminded the audience that one criteria for greatness is whether or not the history of what you done can be recorded without mentioning your name.

When he went through the litany of histories that couldn’t be written without including his buddy, Pat — the history of college football, the NFL, the NFL on television, and all the shows he teed up during his broadcasts — his voice broke. He said, “Even ‘Murder, She Wrote.”

Madden made a motion toward the heavens around six minutes into the eulogy. “I’m sure Pat’s up there yelling, ‘Brevity, brevity, brevity,’” says the narrator. Madden remarked. “Well, I’m going to speak over you again.”

He continued to speak for another four minutes.


Stenner’s mind was whirling as he checked into his first hotel room as a member of the Madden production crew. He went on to become one of Madden’s closest confidants, although he didn’t know how to connect with his new boss at the moment.

Madden preferred to park the Cruiser in a decent Ritz-Carlton around halfway across the nation while they awaited the next weekend’s assignment, so he understood why they were camping out in Chicago. But it wasn’t until he left his room and used the elevator for the first time that he realized why the whole staff was compelled to remain on the 12th level.

Madden was waving him over from the motel sofa. “Bob! How are things going for you?” Stenner sat down next to Madden and the two began conversing, largely about football. This continued on for another 20 minutes until another member of the team exited the elevator. Madden said hello, and it was evident that Stenner could now leave the sofa since the new person had taken his place.

Over time, Stenner saw the sofa for what it was: a pleasant place for Madden to park, a warm haven in an otherwise lonely existence of bus journeys and broadcast booths. Madden was in desperate need of the sofa. “You were enslaved,” Stenner explains. “You had no choice but to stop and chat to him for a bit, and everyone was eager to do so. He like to just hang around and B.S.”


20. During the annual NFL owners meetings, Madden reunited with an old buddy, Hall of Fame general manager Bobby Beathard, for a Mexican meal. They loved each other dearly, but they couldn’t accomplish anything without turning it into a skills competition.

Madden informed the waiter that they wanted to start with chips and salsa on this particular occasion. He said, “Make sure it’s spicy salsa.” She brought the chips out, and both Beathard and Madden devoured them. Even though the salsa was spicy, they continued saying to each other, “They call that hot?”

Beathard requested a salsa with a bit extra spice, and another bowl came shortly after. Madden and Beathard continued mowing through it, gazing at each other the whole time. Both males had watery eyes and were swiping napkins at their lips while sipping water. “That was nothing,” Madden responded, unable to get the words out. Beathard looked like he was about to puke, but he nodded nonetheless.

“Do you have anything hotter?” Madden enquired.

Except for Madden and Beathard, the lady brought out a third bowl of salsa, and everyone at the table bowed out of the foolish salsa challenge. Both red-faced and panting, the two guys completed the third bowl of salsa. It’s a stalemate.


21. Madden’s pals all agree that he has always been exceptional at reading people. “He’s like Sherlock Holmes,” says David Hill, who recruited Madden at Fox. “He could look at someone and flawlessly deconstruct everything about them.”

Madden once got in close to his producer Eric Shanks and whispered something into his ear. “That individual you were just talking to shouldn’t be doing business with you.”

Shanks, who created the RedZone channel as an executive vice president at DirecTV before becoming Fox Sports CEO in 2010, said, “Why?”

Madden observed, “His shoelaces aren’t knotted properly.” “He’s not paying attention to anything that might cause him serious trouble. He saves money by cutting corners.”

Shanks still prefers to check at the shoelaces first before making a transaction.


22. One day, Madden was on the phone at home when a Fox producer and personal friend, Richie Zyontz, stepped in. Madden had been mistakenly phoned by a friend of Madden’s wife, Virginia.

He greeted Zyontz, gave him the phone, and went to the restroom. He said, “I’ll be right back.” “June is her name. I believe you’ll get along swimmingly.” Zyontz found himself conversing with an unknown lady.

They got along well, and after the season ended, he invited her to supper.

They began dating after that.

After that, they got engaged.

After that, they married. At the home of John Madden. Is he the best man? Madden, John.


23. Zyontz spent Christmas at Madden’s place last year. Madden had recognized something in him thirty-nine years before, and had helped him achieve a spectacular career and life. Even if they don’t say it out loud to one other, Zyontz will always adore John Madden.

Zyontz and Madden sat together that day, talking football, their families, and the good old days. It was a lovely reunion, and Zyontz hopes he could do it every week. But since it’s only done once a year now days, Zyontz finds it difficult to leave. He doesn’t want their time together to come to an end.

Looking at Madden, who’s just a step slower physically but as bright as ever cognitively, as he walked out the door this past Christmas, Zyontz felt a mix of emotions. He got to his feet and bid his goodbyes. Madden got up from his seat as well, and Zyontz extended his arm.

Madden extended out his hand and gently bridged the 6 foot gap between them. They exchanged handshakes, with Madden placing his palm on Zyontz’s shoulder and Zyontz placing his on Madden’s. It wasn’t a hug, but it wasn’t a handshake either.

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John Madden is an American football coach, broadcaster, and esports icon. He is the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. Reference: john madden age.

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