Several years after his playing career was cut short by injury before it had a chance to really begin, John Madden was hired as an assistant coach by the Oakland Raiders, one of professional football's most iconoclastic franchises. Two years later he was named the team's head coach and proceeded to lead the Raiders to five championship games in his first seven seasons. Following years of heartbreaking losses in some of history's most memorable games including the Immaculate Reception against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972 Madden and the Raiders finally reached the mountaintop, winning Super Bowl XI and giving Oakland its first title. One year later, Madden abruptly left the game he loved, retiring with the second-best winning percentage in NFL history. Had John Madden's football career ended there, his life would still be remarkable. The fact that it was only just beginning has made him an American icon and a beloved legend to millions of fans across the globe.
In Madden, longtime sports columnist Bryan Burwell has written the first comprehensive biography of this living legend. From his days as a star athlete in Daly City, California, Madden was driven to succeed, a trait that helped him persevere during his tumultuous years with the Raiders under Al Davis and compelled him to try his hand at broadcasting after his coaching career was over. Madden's incredible football knowledge, down-home sensibilities, and tireless work ethic made him arguably the most popular sports analyst in any sport and led to a long and storied career as a TV pitchman. In the third stage of his public life, the Hall of Fame coach became known to new generations of fans through his eponymous line of groundbreaking video games, which are among the best-selling titles of all time.
Madden is an entertaining, enlightening, and often poignant look back at the life of one of the greatest coaches, broadcasters, and beloved ambassadors the game has ever known.
I'm not going to lie, this book is pretty flawed in many ways. It doesn't seem to be that well researched. In particular the coaching years don't seem to be covered that well, and I was pretty disappointed with the coverage. Also the narrative structure is deeply flawed. When talking about particular, notable football games in Madden's life, the writer first starts with the outcome (why?) and then describes the game (ugh). And the writing, in general, leaves a lot to be desired.
That said... there is still a lot of really great stuff in there, that Madden and Raider fans really can't afford to pass this up. There's a little bit about him and John Robinson growing up together, there's some stuff about Madden and his college years as a student and football player, and then of course his years as a coach, and finally as a broadcaster. The broadcaster years are actually pretty in-depth and insightful and probably the highlight of the book.
I'm still hoping that someone will come out with a better biography of John Madden, but until they do, this book is worthy of a listen. I'm very glad that I got it.
I couldn't stop listening, it put me right in the middle of Raider history from my youth.