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BB first saw the “push” on her phone. “NFL coaching and broadcasting legend John Madden dies at 85.” She told me, quietly.

The first word that flashed across my brain was “football.”  I’m pretty sure that would have made Coach Madden happy.

John Madden was football. The game never had a better friend, advocate or ambassador. He was Johnny Football Seed, whose happy quest was to spread his pigskin passion to all. The seeds he planted and nurtured have grown into mighty sequoias that frame our entire sporting and popular culture.

And he did it all with a smile and with genuine humility. He just wanted us—you, me, everyone—to love it as much as he did. But he never bludgeoned us. “Boom!” was not mindless machismo. It was more of a velvet mitten. “Look at this, willya, friend!”

And like a great and instinctive jazz musician, Coach Madden could play it in any key, at any tempo, and for any audience.  And like a master chef, he could cook up just the right “ear food” for blue-blooded football gastronomes and “snackers” alike.

That’s a gift.

We owe John Madden for all the rounds of joy. But it was always Coach Madden who “picked up the tab,” and with a smile.

We have at least one full generation of Americans who know John Madden only as a broadcaster and video game guru. And that’s absolutely fine and appropriate. Madden essentially invented the modern role of tv football analyst, and, yes, elevated even legendary play-by-play giants like Summerall and Michaels.  And, yeah, who doesn’t love to play Madden?  It’s FUN! The only reason I don’t play much is that I know myself. I could become an addict in a heartbeat.

But I ask Americans, particularly young Americans, to consider what he did as an NFL coach. He never had a losing season. He posted the highest winning percentage of any coach in NFL history with at least 100 games under his belt.

His coaching presence was central to countless unforgettable moments. Some of them, like The Immaculate Reception, cut him to the quick.

But for every tear, there were countless memorable triumphs, all now part of NFL Mythology.

Ghost to the Post.

The Holy Roller

The Sea of Hands

These moments, and others, have rightly been elevated to not only football mythology, but American mythology.

The NFL is king because it embraced and harnessed mythology. We Americans love our myths, and the bigger the better.

Pete Rozelle got that. Tex Schramm got that. Ed and Steve Sabol got that, and turned it into high art.

But who was ever a bigger or better storyteller or Myth Maker than John Madden?

I just remembered the first picture that flashed into my brain last night when BB told me John Madden was dead.

Super Bowl XI. January, 1977. The Rose Bowl.  The Raiduhs against the Vikings.

There is that shot. You know the shot. Slo-mo. (What else? Myths must ALWAYS be depicted in slo-mo!)

We see Old Man Willie Brown bait Tarkenton into the interception. Then we cut to a reverse angle of Willie running toward us. The camera almost seems to be perched on Brown’s facemask, looking him straight in the mug. We see his eyes start to flash. We see his mouth start to snort and his cheeks start to billow as he realizes what is happening.

“I’m a Raider. And I’m taking this to The House. And Super Bowl XI is OVER. And we are world champions.”

And that meant that John Madden was, too, finally.

Not that there was ever a doubt.

If you really love something, you want to leave it in better shape than you found it.

Rest easy, Coach Madden. Mission accomplished.

You’re invited to move over to today’s sports blog, “The Games People Play,” for more.

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Paul's Bio

I clearly have the attention span of your median fruit fly.Look! Airplane!

Sorry. I’m back.

It’s both a curse and a blessing. I’ve never bought this stuff about, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But I do think that a wide range of life experiences helps us grow as people, and helps us better relate to other people. I’ve been fortunate. And I am beyond grateful.

I show up on time. I go like hell. I’m a good listener. I hold myself accountable. I own my mistakes. And I have a natural and an insatiable curiosity. I’m never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t. But then I try to find out.

The flip side is I’m a lousy ballroom dancer and my clothes sometimes fit me funny.

Stuff matters to me. I care. But while I take that stuff seriously, I try hard to never take myself seriously. As a result, I have sometimes been told, “Paul, it’s hard to tell when you’re serious and when you’re just having some fun. Which is it? Serious or fun?”

My answer is “yes.” But I think that is a legitimate criticism. I promise I’m going to work on that.

This has been the quickest and strangest half-century I’ve ever experienced. During that period, I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities in news and sports journalism across all platforms. I have taught wonderful students at the high school and collegiate level. Always, I learned more from them than they did from me. I’ve been a high school administrator. I spent ten seasons as a high school varsity football coach. I’ve been an advertising executive. I’ve hosted nationally syndicated television entertainment shows. In maybe the biggest honor I ever received, I was selected by NASA to be “Chet The Astronaut” for the “Land The Shuttle” simulator at Space Center Houston. (All I can say there, is “Do as I say, not as I do.” I put that thing in the Everglades more often than not.) Most recently, I just wrapped up a decade as a television news director, during which time our teams distinguished themselves in holding the powerful accountable, achieving both critical and ratings success.

What does all that mean? It means I am profoundly grateful. It also means I’m ready for “next.” So here we are. Radically Rational. It’s an idea I woke up with in 2017. I scribbled “Radically Rational” on a piece of notebook paper and used a magnet to stick it on our refrigerator. I saw it every day, and it just would not leave me alone.

I am second in charge at Radically Rational, LLC. My wife, Jo (also known as BB), is the president. Clearly, I have failed in my attempt to sleep my way to the top of this organization.

I hope you will learn that I’m loyal as a Labrador. But I will admit that this doggie can bite every now and then. My promise to you? I will show up on time. I will go like hell. I will listen to you earnestly and attentively. I will hold myself accountable. I will never be the least bit hesitant to say, “I don’t know,” when I don’t.

But then I’ll try to find out. Let’s do it.