John Madden's award-winning, 30-year career as an NFL broadcaster came to a wrap Thursday when he announced his retirement from NBC Sports.
"It was a tough decision," Madden, 73, said in a phone interview, "because sometimes when you make a decision like this, it's 'I'm getting rid of this' or 'I hate this,' like people hate to get up early in the morning or whatever.
"I didn't hate any of that. I didn't hate traveling, watching film, going to games. I just enjoyed the whole thing. I loved it so much. It was my life and passion. It's the right thing to do, but it's the hard thing to do."
Madden, who coached the Raiders in 1969-78 and led them to a Super Bowl title after the 1976 season, became an American television icon thanks to his gregarious nature, sense of humor, enthusiasm ("Boom!") and ability to break down football's nuances in simplistic fashion for the common fan.
Nothing was off topic for Madden. But now he is proverbially riding off into the sunset on his famous bus. He has called his last game — this year's Super Bowl, which was the 11th of his broadcasting career.
Madden, a Pleasanton resident, ended his self-described "great ride" so he could spend more time with his family, including his wife of nearly 50 years, Virginia, as well as their two sons and five grandchildren.
"I'll be connected (with football) somehow, but I don't know how yet," Madden said. "That's been my life. That's what I am, who I am
He'll still talk about football, and myriad other topics, on his daily radio show on KCBS radio. He'll be more involved with the top-selling EA Sports video game that bears his name and has introduced him and the sport to a new generation of fans. He'll sit as a fan at local college and high school games, including those involving the Foothill High freshman team coached by his oldest son, Mike.
Madden quickly dismissed the notion of becoming a consultant for an NFL team, including the Raiders: "No, I don't think there's any meat on that bone. I've never believed in consultants in sports. Either you're a part (of a team) or not. I know how the game is and how complicated it is and how much it takes to stay up on things on a daily basis."
Asked if he's interested in owning the Raiders — assuming Al Davis, his close friend, would be willing to sell — Madden said: "No. Uh-uh. But as a fan, I'll be able to go to more games."
NBC announced Cris Collinsworth will succeed Madden.
Might Madden have second thoughts and make a comeback?
"No, I'm sure I won't," he said. He added, "At times I thought I'd go back, maybe do a schedule that was part-time, not a full schedule, not every game. NBC did offer me that. I don't want to do that. I'm all or nothing."
Many are grateful for all he did as a broadcaster.
"John steps away as not just the most honored or respected football announcer. He's the absolute best sports broadcaster who ever lived," NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said. "It so happened his fame is probably greater than anyone else's because he did it with America's No. 1 sport."
Al Michaels, Madden's partner in the booth, said, "No one has made the sport more interesting, more relevant and more enjoyable to watch and listen to than John. There's never been anyone like him, and he's been the gold standard for analysts for almost three decades."