- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

Watching football just won’t be as fun this fall. John Madden, the emphatic NFL analyst who served as the football instructor to couch potatoes for 30 years, announced Thursday he is retiring from broadcasting.

No more Madden Cruiser. No more “Boom!” No more turducken.

For football fans between the ages of 25 and 45, Madden was the instructor every Sunday afternoon. His broadcasts with Pat Summerall were a staple of the NFL for more than two decades, and it will be strange not to hear his voice emanating from the television. But it was, in his words, time to get off the road and spend more time with his family.

NBC will replace Madden on its “Sunday Night Football” telecast with the seemingly ubiquitous Cris Collinsworth, who has worked with the network as a studio analyst and as a game analyst for NFL Network. Collinsworth is widely viewed as one of the best booth mates in the business, with some opining that it was he, not Madden, who deserved last year’s Emmy Award for best game analyst. But despite his talents, Collinsworth will not be able to replicate Madden’s ability to connect with average fans through his down-to-earth delivery and humor. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said Thursday that Madden was the only analyst he knew who influenced television ratings for games.

“In being that everyman, he spoke so succinctly and to the point that you never got any sense of artifice,” Ebersol said.

Madden and NBC rejected any notion that he was retiring for health reasons, claiming that he had just received positive results of a recent physical. But it’s worth noting that he is 73, the same age as the late Philadelphia Phillies play-by-play man Harry Kalas, who collapsed and died before the team’s game against the Nationals on Monday. Madden determined his time would be better spent playing with his grandkids than riding cross country in a bus and hanging out with Al Michaels.

“I have two great sons and their families, and my five grandchildren are at an age now when they know when I’m home and, more importantly, when I’m not,” the former Oakland Raiders coach said.

His refusal to fly surely contributed to the decision. With his hometown Raiders and 49ers rarely appearing on the Sunday night broadcast, Madden was rarely home during the season.

What’s intriguing is that Madden was evidently not interested in staying with NBC in a part-time role. Surely, the network would have been open to Madden working a reduced schedule or even appearing as a pregame analyst via satellite from his home. But none of that appears to be in the works, according to Ebersol and Madden’s agent, Sandy Montag.

Though he’s leaving in the middle of a six-year contract with NBC, Madden doesn’t need the money. He’s made a killing off the “Madden NFL” video game franchise from EA Sports and has been a longtime spokesman for Ace Hardware and Tinactin. In addition, he has a radio gig with KCBS in the Bay Area. He will get along fine, and so will football fans. But there’s no question it just won’t be the same.

• Chat with sports business reporter Tim Lemke at 11 a.m. Friday on washingtontimes.com. To submit a question or read the transcript, visit washingtontimes.com/media/chats.

• Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com.

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