Tag Archives: authenticity

All Madden

With MaddenI flew to Oakland and back last Tuesday to facilitate a half-day session on conflict resolution for a group of pastors. The Uber driver from the airport to the conference did not stop talking for the entire trip, and on the flip side the driver that took me back said exactly two words–Which terminal?–in the full forty-five minutes. In between all that was an unexpected and cool experience.

The meeting was held at a quiet hotel in Pleasanton. Pleasanton, as you might expect, appeared to be a pleasant little town, and I was told that the lovely hotel was one of several owned by hall-of-fame football coach/broadcaster and video game legend, John Madden. That was cool enough, but what soon became way cooler was that John Madden himself was sitting in the lobby and someone, somehow, had arranged for our group to have our picture made with him! I nearly ran down the stairs to get there.

My first television football memory is Coach Madden on the shoulders of his victorious team after the Raiders defeated the Vikings in Super Bowl XI, and I can’t even guess how many games that followed where I enjoyed having Madden explain and entertain. Like, “There’s a lot of letters in Ladanian Tomlinson.” And, “If your hair covers your name, I guarantee you you’re going to get clipped.” Classic Madden.  “Boom!”

He is 82 years young now and as nice a guy as I had always imagined. Same wide smile. Same great voice. Same wit and sense of humor.

Through the magic of television the voice of John Madden is one of the narrators of my life journey, and honestly, one of my favorites. Likable, funny, non-pretentious, honest, and approachable. He was always just himself — and one of us. The best part of his famous fear of flying that had him criss-crossing the nation on a bus was that he didn’t fly over anyone. He was down to earth quite literally.

On meeting him, I was surprised that I was surprised that all this was true in person. More specifically, I suppose that I was more relieved not to be disappointed. I admire real, down-to-earth people. Thanks for that, Coach.

A False Sense of Security

Rolling Stone did a great piece on why the NFL sacked Roman numerals for Super Bowl 50, and if your team ended up with the L yesterday, you can just think of it as a big old Roman numeral instead. (Too soon?)

Super Bowl 50 mostly made me feel old since I remember most of them. I was a football fan and a churchgoing kid in the 1970s-1980s, which was a terrible combination on Super Bowl Sunday.¹ Our church had Bible classes at 5:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, followed by a 6:00 p.m. worship assembly, and it was clear that we would go straight to hell for missing either. I lived in a house directly across the street from the church building, so my friend Jamey and I would run across the street² in between class/worship to get a Super Bowl update from my non-churchgoing dad. It was torture at the time, but it makes me smile to remember me/Jamey/Dad and the breathless fun of being a kid.

My dad played football in the 1930s when players wore leather helmets with no facemask. Crazy, right? Recently, I heard some lawyers discussing football’s concussion scandal and someone suggested returning to those days. Super crazy, right? This deranged lawyer tossed in some actual facts (sneaky!) that contact sports like rugby (sans helmets) have a much lower incidence of brain injuries, which if not concussed, takes about half a second to understand: A false sense of security is a dangerous thing.

Well, going helmet-less should never happen to American football, but that’s not where my brain is at today.³ I’m thinking about the other equipment we wear to protect our minds and our hearts that unconsciously liberates us to act in ways that damage us even more.

Like, I won’t let anyone know my weaknesses, so I drive myself harder and harder (you can’t hurt me!) until, well, my weaknesses are pretty undeniable.

And, I won’t let anyone know my failures, so I set out to prove how successful I can be at everything (you can’t beat me!) until, well, I fail in spectacular fashion.

And, I won’t let anyone know my loneliness, so I endear myself to so many people (you can’t ignore me!) that I end up not connecting to anyone.

Among others.

Maybe I should take off the old football helmet. That may force me to consider how my daily actions truly impact my tender mind and heart.

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¹ Arguably a terrible combination period, although I have stubbornly held on to both.

² I never was clear on the state of our eternal souls if we were hit by a car while crossing the street running away from the church on Super Bowl Sunday. Post-law school, I think our mens rea would have protected us, but then again, who would have been out driving on Super Bowl Sunday anyway?

³ Pun? Irony? Terrible writing? All three?