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But Madden's approach to his players also had a lot to do with holding the Raiders together through hard times. "I believed that communication was very important, that you had to keep the lines open," he says. "Whether they were used or not, they had to be open. You couldn't not talk, and then have something important come up and say, 'Why didn't you tell me?' "
Typically it was Madden who initiated the communication. He made it a rule to talk to everyone on the team at least once a day. "Even if it was only so much as 'How're you doin'? What's goin' on?' Something like that," he says. "Every player-every day. I'd go sit and talk to them, have a cup of coffee. I think you catch a lot of things right off the bat that way. You don't get those things that fester."
Madden loved coaching. He once said, "I coached for 20 years and I never felt it was work." So why did he quit? It wasn't only the ulcer. "Everybody has those," he says. It wasn't the boys. They, as it turned out, were thriving. But something else happened in 1978, Madden's last year. On August 12, during a preseason game against New England, Darryl Stingley, a Patriots' receiver, took a legal but crippling blow from Raider Defensive Back Jack Tatum that put Stingley, paralyzed, into a California hospital for two months and into a wheelchair for life. During the first weeks after Stingley suffered his injury, the Raiders were at their training camp in Santa Rosa, an hour and a half north of Oakland, and Stingley was in Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, south of the city. Still, Madden and his wife were daily visitors to Stingley's bedside. They offered their home and the use of a car to Stingley's family. They brought clothes to the hospital for Stingley's girl friend, who had not had time to pack before flying West. On the opening day of the season in September, when the Raiders lost to the Broncos in Denver, Madden returned to Oakland at night on the team plane and went straight to the hospital to see Stingley. Hank Bullough, then the Patriots' assistant head coach, said at the time, "All of us feel we'll never be able to repay John for what he has done for Darryl." Stingley himself thinks that what happened to him may have been the cause of Madden's retirement, and in his autobiography, which will be published this fall, he writes, "I love that man." Madden says only, "I just got to a point where I couldn't see myself going through another training camp, another draft. That was when I quit."
At the press conference at which Madden made his announcement, he said, with tears in his eyes, "I'm not resigning, quitting for doing anything else. I'm retiring. I'll never coach another game of football. I gave it everything I had for 10 years, and I don't have any more."
Gene Upshaw, then a Raider guard, said that day, "When Stingley was hurt, when Warren Wells had problems [the Raider wide receiver went to prison in 1971 for violating the terms of the probation given him after he pleaded guilty to attempted rape], John stepped in. Over the last 12 years our players would sometimes get into scrapes. John would be there night and day, fighting to help them. I'm going to miss the man, I'll tell you. I'm just glad he touched my life."
These days Madden is touching the lives of millions in a different way. The same qualities that made him appealing on the Oakland sideline have carried over into the TV booth, where his spirited approach to his work perfectly complements the cool professionalism of Summerall, the play-by-play man. Both are tall, both wear headsets and both stand throughout a game, but there the resemblance ends.
In front of them as they face the field is a long table, and at the center of the table, midway between the two men, is the monitor. In front of each is a spotting board showing the matchups in the game.
Summerall stands with his hands in his pockets, occasionally rocking ever so slightly forward onto the toes of his shiny loafers, as he looks down at the monitor, then out toward the field and then back at the monitor. His head hardly moves, only his eyes. His expression rarely changes.
Madden begins the show in a collected state, feet together, standing well within his allotted territory behind the right-hand half of the table. But as the game warms up, his arms begin to move in wider and wider arcs, and as his arms move, his feet get farther and farther apart and the horizontal movement of his whole body picks up. By the end of the first half, through a process of gradual encroachment, he has expanded his territory to include a sizable portion of Summerall's half of the room. At the half they regroup, but in the second half this inexorable march begins again.
Madden directs his remarks at Summerall, both orally and physically. His shoulders twist in the direction of Summerall's tall, straight figure, and his head inclines forward and to the left as he peers at Summerall's face, a posture that suggests an appeal for a human response in this atmosphere of electronic isolation. The appeal, if that's what it is, goes unheeded. Summerall's eyes continue to move from the monitor to the field and back to the monitor. You almost feel sorry for Madden, as you would for a little kid whose big brother won't pay him any mind.