John and Virginia have been a team so long that they can, when they choose, communicate efficiently with glances—not "meaningful" glances, but glances that say common everyday things like, "A small crisis may be approaching. Shall I head it off, or would you rather?" Both are compassionate people with a rare understanding of each other's needs. John was head coach of the Raiders when Virginia, who had always been a schoolteacher, bought The Village Saloon, which happened to be located in the oldest building in the nearby town of Dublin. The venture, which she ran by herself with occasional help before school from Mike and Joe, was an experiment, and after two years she sold it without regret, although it occasionally had made a little money. "It was fun," she says, "but the trouble is, you get so involved in people's lives. People who spend a lot of time in bars are basically lonely people. If you own a bar, your best customers drink too much. That's why they're there. If you know them and you care about them, you wish they wouldn't drink so much. But on the other hand, they're your bread and butter."
Although John doesn't say so outright, one gathers he wasn't a wholehearted proponent of the saloon project. "But," he says, "if you have the kind of life I've had, you have to have an independent wife, so if your independent wife behaves independently, you have to support her."
Because Virginia was the consistent presence in the raising of the two boys, she was also the voice of authority in matters of their discipline. But Madden feels he instilled a few basic ideas that have helped mold his sons' outlooks. "I wanted them to be treated just like any other kids," he says. "That was very important to me. I told them at a very young age, 'You don't have anything to do with what I do. If we win and do well, you shouldn't take any credit for it, and conversely, if we lose, you shouldn't worry about it or take any blame. Just have your own life.' "
When Mike was 12 and entering junior high, a teacher taking roll the first day stopped at his name and said, "Is your dad John Madden, the football coach?" Mike, who's a friendly and unassuming young man with a smile quite like his father's, said, "Nope. My dad's a computer engineer for IBM."
"It just came out. I don't know why," he told his father. Later, when Mike was being interviewed by a local sportswriter before a high school all-star game and the writer asked if being John Madden's son made him different from his teammates, Mike replied with notable insight for one so young, "If I weren't his son, you wouldn't be interviewing me."
"Joe is the same type," says Madden. "Neither is as outgoing as me, but both are better students than I was. They're just good kids."
Beginning this fall, the Maddens will have a second home, where they will stay when John has work in New York. Both boys will be in school in the East, Mike as a freshman at Harvard, Joe as a junior at Choate, a prep school in Connecticut. After much looking around at Westchester County suburbs and Lower Manhattan lofts, John and Virginia settled on an apartment in the Dakota, a celebrated Victorian Gothic pile on the Upper West Side and home of, among others, Yoko Ono, Lauren Bacall and Leonard Bernstein. Virginia likes the Dakota's authentic antiquity; Madden likes its outsize proportions. The ceilings are 16 feet high and the rooms are scaled accordingly.
"At one time the apartments were gigantic places, with servants' rooms and everything," Madden says. "But then they broke up many of them into smaller places. We bought what was maybe a living room and a dining room and a hall, but there were no bedrooms. That was the beauty of it—it didn't make any sense." Sensibly, they have now purchased space below to make a duplex.
The Maddens' bid for the first apartment was nearly rejected, according to John, over the chair Madden was sitting on during the requisite interview with the board of directors of the Dakota, which is a cooperative. The chair, a rather fragile antique, belonged to the board chairman and chief interviewer.
"He kept saying to me, 'Why don't you sit here,' meaning the chair that he was sitting in," says Madden. "And I kept saying back, 'Oh no, that's all right. I'll just stay here.' Finally he stood up and said, 'Will you please sit here.' "