Hey, They Love This Guy!

January 19, 1998

Hose down the sports TV critics and hide the letter openers in
the Fox offices. John Madden may be bolting to ABC's Monday
Night Football next season, and some people believe Fox chairman
Rupert Murdoch is crazy if he doesn't throw himself in front of
the Madden Cruiser. Murdoch will surely retire the Oops Award if
he lets the nation's highest-paid sportscaster jump to another
network.

With Sunday's NFC title game, Madden closed out a four-year, $32
million deal with Fox, leading to speculation that he would soon
bump Dan Dierdorf (who deserves better) and Frank Gifford (who
doesn't) out of the MNF booth. One report claimed that Madden's
desire to work Mondays would result in his taking a pay cut to
"about $5 million" a year, a blow that would be softened by the
$7 million to $8 million he hauls in through commercial
endorsements.

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine a man who hawks
everything from athlete's-foot spray to monkey wrenches leaving
$3 million on the table. At a time when a retired David Brinkley
is under fire for appearing in a TV commercial for a friend,
Madden continues to appear in more cheesy ads than George
Kennedy. And somewhere along the way, as the line between
pitchman and color man became blurred, he grew stale. It's
impossible to sit through five minutes of Madden without
thinking you have heard it all before. About 7,000 times. How
many times are we supposed to laugh at the six-legged
Thanksgiving turkey? As Bill Murray's girlfriend tells him at
the beginning of Stripes, the routine just isn't that cute
anymore.

Madden's efforts to come across as the plain-spoken regular guy
make him sound like he is playing himself, rather than being
himself. Too often he seems to be selling that big, lovable John
Madden character as if it were just another cure for athlete's
foot. But we can't take this away from the big guy: He sure can
sell. The critics still love him, companies still hire him, and
soon one network or another will heap further riches upon him.
The Madden Cruiser rolls on, and it is truly amazing how much
mileage the man has gotten out of it.

--GERRY CALLAHAN

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)