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Busman's Holiday
Peter King
November 26, 1990
Coast-to-coast commuter John Madden likes what he sees as he rolls across America in his suite on wheels
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November 26, 1990

Busman's Holiday

Coast-to-coast commuter John Madden likes what he sees as he rolls across America in his suite on wheels

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"If the claustrophobia thing didn't happen, I wouldn't know what this country is, or what these people are like. I would have been like everybody else: run, run, run. Airport, airport, airport. Hotel, hotel, hotel. City, city, city. I wouldn't have found time to see things like I see them now."

The bus was climbing into the Sierras, and the temperature outside had dropped to 66�. " John Robinson and I were coaching together [with the Raiders in 1975] before he went to USC, and we used to ride to work together," said Madden. "He once said to me, 'You've changed. It's like you live in a tunnel. You don't have any idea what's going on in the world.' It was true. He thought I'd lost my sense of humor, my inquisitiveness. It got so I knew nothing other than football and the Raiders. I'm not criticizing that in myself; it's part of the job. You focus in so much, and you miss life."

In Nevada the bus sliced through mountains that were a mile and a half high. Yucca plants and paintbrush shrubs were the only things growing here, and Madden saw a solitary ranch about 500 yards off to the right. It consisted of a small house, two trailers, some farm machinery and about 600 head of cattle.

"What do they do at night?" he said, nodding toward the ranch. "No malls. No movies. No TV, it looks like. No neighbors. Where do they get groceries? If there's anything I'd really like to do, I'd like to pull into a place like that, knock on the door and say to the guy, 'What do you do? How do you live? God, I go to movies, restaurants, ball games, plays, the gas station, the market. You don't do any of those things. What do you do?' "

At about 5:30 p.m., he adjourned to his bedroom for a nap. When he returned an hour later, the sun was setting and the bus was passing through low clouds on a mountain pass. A voice on the CB piped up. "Breaker, breaker one-nine," a trucker said. "Is that the John Madden bus?"

"Affirmative," said Hahn.

"What game's he doing this weekend?"

"Giants-Cowboys in New York."

"Holy cow! That's a long way! Well, I enjoy listening to him."

We stopped for dinner in Elko, Nev., at a Red Lion Inn with a mini casino and sports book in the lobby. Madden walked through the casino, stopping at the sports book. The guy behind the counter was thrilled to see him. He started grilling Madden about who was going to win Sunday's games, and Madden, who doesn't gamble, kept telling the guy that he didn't know, that whatever he said would be only a guess—and he meant it.

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