John Madden, Innovator

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Shortly after John Madden's death last year, Christopher Jacobs of The Federalist penned a tribute to the former football coach and commentator.

Madden was excellent at both, but Jacobs is most impressed with his commentary:

Image by Unknown (for the U.S. Congress), via Wikimedia Commons, public domain (as a work of the federal government).
... Madden would spend nearly three decades as a broadcaster, working for all of the major networks: Fourteen years at CBS, followed by eight seasons at Fox, four seasons for ABC, and his last three seasons at NBC. Over those years, he offered a master class in how to understand football, so that fans could understand the game's strategy, tactics, and successful techniques for all positions and players, not just the ones with the ball.

Madden pioneered innovations that now seem commonplace today. He took the telestrator, an electronic pen that writes on-screen, to illustrate plays the way coaches would use a chalkboard -- and occasionally for more light-hearted "analysis" as well. And when Fox took over broadcasting NFL games from CBS in 1994, Madden helped suggest creation of the "Fox box," which featured the score of the game in the corner of the screen. Fans of all sports who upon turning on the television don't have to wait five minutes to know the score have John Madden to thank for this pathbreaking change. [links omitted, bold added]
I always appreciated Madden's explanations, but had no idea that the many enhancements to sports broadcasting in the second paragraph were his ideas.

I am old enough to remember having to wait to learn the score of a game in progress, but that invention has been in use for so long that lots of people take it for granted and probably regard it as common sense to have something like that on the screen of a televised game.

Madden reminds me of a poet -- William Blake, I think -- I was reading in college as a callow youth. His poems are full of cliches, I remember thinking during a reading assignment. It did gradually dawn on me that he probably came up with the what had become cliches because he had put things so well.

Very good ideas are like that: They end up all over the place, often to the point we risk not truly appreciating them.

Thank you, Mr. Madden, for making sports much easier to enjoy, and thank you, Mr. Jacobs, for giving credit where it was due.

-- CAV

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