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Graney: John Madden was what Raiders want to be now

An editor of mine put it best upon learning of John Madden’s death: That the Hall of Fame coach represented what the Raiders want to be now.

Winners. Super Bowl champions.

If they had half the success Madden engineered over 10 seasons with the franchise, things would seem a whole lot brighter. But that clearly is easier said than done.

Madden — who led the Raiders to eight playoff appearances and seven division titles and a Super Bowl victory following the 1976 season — died Tuesday morning at age 85.

“We lost an icon in the world of football,” Raiders interim coach Rich Bisaccia said Wednesday. “It’s hard to say you could find a person who went through all the genres he did and been ultra-successful. I had a chance to shake his hand when I was with Tampa Bay and my hand disappeared. He lit up the room.”

Bisaccia makes a terrific point regarding Madden’s immeasurable reach: I wonder if anyone in history taught the game to more people in such a variety of ways than him. Can’t be.

Folks of all ages and football knowledge, however vast or not at all, learned from his wit and expert guidance. He did so in a simple and often humorous manner. You wanted to watch him, hear him, absorb all he offered. He was the common man with an uncommon brilliance.

Madden touched generations this way. Through his coaching, his broadcasting career, the video game that bears his name. He created a country of football fans, people that might have looked elsewhere for their sporting enjoyment had it not been for him.

Muddy Madden

Derek Carr doesn’t have many personal stories about Madden, other than the Raiders quarterback insists (jokes?) he is the greatest player all-time of the video game. Join the crowd. Millions would also lay claim.

Carr offered one account Wednesday from his family tree. While in training camp for the Raiders in the mid-1970s, Carr’s uncle (Lon Boyett) once got into a fight. While running over to stop it, Madden slipped in the mud and emerged a downright mess.

“My uncle thinks that’s the reason he got cut,” Carr said, laughing.

Ours wasn’t a video game family. Still, my son and daughter only knew of Madden growing up because of his EA Sports fame and “Madden NFL.” Talk about spanning lifetimes in such an incredible way.

Most clutching a controller over the years likely had no idea of Madden as a coach or broadcaster. Talk about making an indelible mark across so many platforms.

You can make an argument — a very sound one — that his fame is defined by the video game more than anything. How much it introduced young people to football. How much of an impact it made on bringing them closer to the game.

A perfect ending

Want ironic? His legacy was just portrayed in a 90-minute Fox Sports documentary entitled “All Madden” that aired on Christmas Day. In it, those who knew him best among nearly 40 people interviewed offered their thoughts on the man and his lasting career.

Three days later, Madden was dead.

I’m not sure you could script a better ending, watching the Hall of Fame life you built played out through the words of others. Your loved ones. Your former players. Your closet friends.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Madden once said. “I never really had a job. I was a football player, then a football coach, then a football broadcaster. It’s been my life. Pro football has been my life since 1967. I’ve enjoyed every part of it. Never once did it ever feel like work.”

What a legacy.

What a life.

He was what the Raiders want to be yet again.

A winner. A champion.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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