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‘All Madden’ an engaging, emotional tribute to a football legend

The Art of Nerding Out

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Most people are lucky to find success in one career. Football legend John Madden found massive success, not only as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders but also as a broadcaster, product pitchman and even a video game pioneer. The Fox Sports documentary “All Madden” covers all this, digging into his career, what made him so good at his multiple jobs and why he became so beloved.

“All Madden” opens with Madden’s career with the Raiders. After ten years of pouring his everything into the teams and achieving great success, including winning Super Bowl XI and compiling the highest winning percentage of any coach with at least 100 wins, Madden retired and his future was uncertain.

Originally not interested in broadcasting, Madden decided to dive in lest he miss his shot, embarking on a career that spanned nearly thirty years and all four major networks. Along the way, he became a top pitchman for products like Miller Lite beer and Tinactin athlete’s foot spray.

On top of that, Madden lent his brand and voice to John Madden Football, which became the Madden NFL series and has gone on to be wildly successful, generating over seven billion dollars in revenue and teaching millions of kids the ins and outs of football.

The narrative of Madden’s achievements is balanced by interviews with family, friends, coworkers and football players talking about the kind of person he was and how interacting with him influenced them. Everyone from announcers like Bob Costas and Troy Aikman to football stars like Joe Montana and Lawrence Taylor steps up to detail the things that made him so good at what he did.

Along the way, we get some unexpected moments. Hearing Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s talk about Madden was revealing, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get emotional about anything in his whole career. Another nice little moment is when former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol says that thanks to his trademark “BOOM” he’d often call out during games, Madden was his own sound effects machine.

While all these stories are being told, Madden is watching the footage in a set that’s kind of reminiscent of Darth Vader’s meditation chamber. The most emotional moments come from watching Madden react to everything being said about him.

There are moments you can tell he had no idea how impactful he was on those around him. He was clearly blown away when Lawrence Taylor says Madden made him a better player. That speaks to Madden’s being a down-to-earth man who loved people and loved football.

It was that love of football and people that was Madden’s secret sauce. He could draw a crowd anywhere he went like the most famous rock star but he would also hang out and talk to the people, find out what was going on in their lives, and of course, talk football with them.

“All Madden” isn’t perfect. It barely mentions his role in advocating for player safety. But for a guy who cast such a huge shadow over the American sports landscape, “All Madden” does its job, letting us get to know the man a little better and showing us how just being himself helped to turn John Madden into a football institution. With Madden passing away on Dec. 28, it also serves as a fitting tribute to a football institution.

”All Madden” is currently available to stream on Peacock with a premium membership. It’s also available on ESPN+ and Tubi.