John Madden, the ex-coach and broadcaster who became synonymous with Thanksgiving thanks to his turkey leg awards to star players, will be honored by the NFL this year with several commemorative features.
With his telestrator and his penchant for yelling “Boom!” after a big play, Madden was as much a part of the Thanksgiving holiday as a family gathering.
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Madden died at age 85 last year, and the National Football League is going to reflect on his lasting contributions with the “John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration.” The league hopes for the event to mark the start of another holiday tradition, offering special Madden segments on the day’s broadcasts by CBS, Fox, and NBC.
Madden was more than a broadcaster. He was also a Pro Football Hall of Fame member as the former coach of the Oakland Raiders. From there, he moved to broadcasting, where his exuberant style made every game interesting. He soon became a popular pitchman in various ads, and lent his name to the hugely successful Madden NFL video game franchise.
“No one cared more or contributed more to our game than John Madden,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Honoring his memory and impact on the NFL is important and Thanksgiving Day brings all of the elements significant to John to life — family, football, food and fun.”
Madden will be featured in a video discussing Thanksgiving and the holiday’s relationship to football as the lead-in to the three games that day: Buffalo at Detroit on CBS, the Giants at Dallas on Fox, and New England at Minnesota on NBC. Madden worked for all three networks, including 20 games on Thanksgiving.
The tradition of a turkey leg given to the big game’s stars began in 1989 with a lone leg awarded. The next year, Madden gave legs to Dallas Cowboys stars Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman, and said that he wished he had more for the offensive linemen. A barbecue owner in Texas heard that and created an artificial six-legged turkey.
For this year’s games, the “Madden Player of the Game” will have a $10,000 donation made in their name by the NFL Foundation to the youth or high school football program of their choice.
There will also be “John Madden Thanksgiving” logos on the 25-yard lines and a sticker on the back of each helmet featuring an image of Madden with his fist up in the air.
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