By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer
Many gamers will receive the latest edition of the “Madden” video game for the holidays. On Saturday, some will even find out for the first time that the name behind the popular franchise was a successful trainer and broadcaster.
Or as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put it succinctly, “John Madden is to the NFL what Elvis Presley is to rock and roll. It’s the king.
Madden’s successful career and its impact on generations of players and fans are at the center of a 90-minute documentary, aptly named “All Madden.” It airs Saturday at 2 p.m. EST on Fox.
“When you reach out to the younger generations of people who only know Madden as a game, they don’t necessarily even know it’s a person. And that this name has a life behind it, and that this life has several careers within it. Being able to share this ride was a great joy, ”said Tom Rinaldi of Fox Sports, executive producer and co-director of the project.
“He still permeates the game, which is an incredible tribute to his reach and all the different ways beyond football that he has infiltrated into American popular culture.”
Madden retired in 1979 after coaching the Oakland Raiders for 10 years and a Super Bowl title. His 0.739 winning percentage is second behind Vince Lombardi among those who have coached at least 140 regular season and playoff games.
Madden says he didn’t want to be a TV analyst at first, but developed a passion for it as he learned it. He remains the only football commentator to have worked for all four broadcast networks.
The documentary features a lengthy interview with Madden, 85, and includes his wife Virginia and sons Joe and Mike. It also includes Lawrence Taylor, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Goodell among the 38 respondents.
Rinaldi joined Fox in January, after a successful 19-year tenure at ESPN. In February, Fox Sports CEO and executive producer Eric Shanks approached him about Project Madden. Rinaldi and co-director Joe Santos then spent most of the year interviewing people and setting it up.
Shanks came to Fox when she acquired the NFL starting in the 1994 season and was part of Madden and Pat Summerall’s production team.
“All Madden” is also important as it is the first full-length documentary made by Fox Sports, while previous projects have been handed over to production companies.
“For the subject to be John, I think it’s absolutely perfect because of what he meant to Fox,” Santos said. “This scenario for me must be treated with extreme care. So to manage this water and go through the whole 10 month process, why not approach it? Why not let the executive producers see every frame of it and be updated weekly on what’s going on, instead of just waiting for something to ship to you 10 months later and hope you’re happy with it? “
In addition to the interviews, the documentary features videos of Madden going to matches on his bus and going out to production meetings. It also includes Madden hosting “Saturday Night Live” in 1982 and its various commercials over the years.
Rinaldi and Santos agree that an essential part of the documentary is hearing Madden’s family for the first time.
“Family, as Tom says, really gave us the most important common thread throughout the document. It’s a prospect from John that no one knows about, ”Santos said. “It was one of the surprises and one of the gifts we got from the interview with Virginia, Mike and Joe.”
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