When John Madden finally announced that he was retiring from the broadcast booth you could hear a groundswell of cheering across the nation. Oh sure, there are people who inexplicably find John Madden useful for whatever football knowledge he may still possess, but considering the fact that on average it takes John Madden about 30 seconds to catch on to the penalty that even a casual football viewer spotted as it was taking place, the only possible way to really enjoy John Madden is as camp or performance art. Madden’s goodbye to the NFL announcing booth is perhaps twenty-five years too late, but welcome all the same. That Madden made any football game he provided commentary over an absolute case of sheer torture goes without saying to a multitude of people. Equally so, again inexplicably, there are people who seem to actually believe themselves when they say that watching a football game without Madden’s so-called wit and wisdom is the real torture.
John Madden made watching NFL football, which has increasingly become the single most boring sport I can think of besides soccer, into something even more atrociously horrifying. Aside from the fact that Madden seems incapable of identifying any action on the field before the youngest kid in the stands, there is also Madden’s incalculable ability to state the obvious. These flaws and failings of John Madden are known to everybody and apparently overlooked by quite a few. I’m certainly not the first to point them out. But nobody has managed to do justice to the mystery of why John Madden had such a long career and acquitted himself with so many fans as comedian Frank Caliendo.
Frank Caliendo does dead-on impressions of George W. Bush and Al Pacino. Such is Caliendo’s mastery of Bush and Pacino that it would be hard to distinguish the real from the fake if presented both with your eyes closed while listening. Nevertheless, I posit that Frank Caliendo’s masterpiece of impressionism is his astonishing riff on John Madden. It isn’t just that Caliendo sounds exactly like John Madden, which he does, so much as it is that he gets the pointlessness and almost surreal lack of insight that is associated with John Madden. To listen to the meandering monologues of Caliendo’s John Madden is to be presented with insight into why listening to Madden provide commentary of an NFL game is somewhat akin to watching Luis Bunuel remake Gone with the Wind. Caliendo is especially good at pointing out Madden’s unique ability to say something with supreme authority that is more obvious than the assertion that Dick Cheney is a just a tad paranoid.
The best thing about John Madden’s retirement is that he won’t be around to make what has turned into the least exciting professional sport in America even less enthralling to watch. The second best thing is that it opens the door for making NFL football somewhat less than excruciating to watch. If only Fox or whichever network recently employed John Madden would hire Frank Caliendo to do commentary in the guise of John Madden, I might just occasionally pop in to watch an NFL game; something I haven’t done in over a decade. Frank Caliendo doing NFL commentary on Fox would also almost make me not scream in agony when 7:00 Central Time is nearing and I flip it over there in preparation for watching the Simpsons and see that it’s a tie ballgame that may go into sudden death. (Sudden death; that’s what we used to call overtime back when NFL football was actually kind of exciting to watch.) Of course, I’d still rather watch the entire Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy back to back than have Fox continue to screw up my Simpsons with another boring football game, but Caliendo would be a welcome addition.
Watch Caliendo’s dead-on impersonation of John Madden.