One Knee Equals Two Feet (and Everything Else You Need to Know About Football)
Football is more than a game to John Madden, the effervescent color commentator of television fame: It is his whole life. In his new book, he sounds just the way he does on television--bursting with enthusiasm, full of so many ideas that he cannot seem to voice them fast enough. Each chapter is devoted to a different aspect of the game, describing what it feels like to play the various offensive and defensive positions and naming the outstanding players in the major categories. In Madden’s judgment, Joe Montana of the 49ers is the best quarterback playing today. His favorite running back is Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears, while the player he personally likes the best is the Bears’ maverick quarterback Jim McMahon--which tells us something about Madden himself.
The reader gets flashes of what it must be like to understand the game the way Madden does. It is not just a matter of watching the quarterback drop into the pocket while his footloose receivers try to elude their shadows. Madden makes us understand that there are twenty-two top performers down there, each doing his job in a highly disciplined fashion. Sometimes in his enthusiasm, the former Raiders coach seems to carry us right down into the “mud ’n’ dirt ’n’ stuff,” and we imagine ourselves assigned to keep a 270-pound pass rusher like Mark Gastineau from eating our quarterback alive. It is easy, Madden tells us: All you have to do is plant your feet right and, boom, ride him to the outside!
Madden seems on his way to becoming the best-loved American personality since Will Rogers. Behind his ordinary-guy persona, the reader catches glimpses of a very keen mind as well as a sensitive and lonely soul. In one chapter, he tells wistfully of how he used to sit up watching old game films long after all the players and assistant coaches had gone to bed. (“For me, watching game films was always a form of relaxation.”)
Nobody loves football like Madden, and the American public has taken him to its heart largely because of the unabashed, little-boy love he has for his game. Anyone who likes Madden and has learned from him over the airwaves will like him and learn from him in his new book.