On Being Iconic

January 8, 2022

John Madden reportedly watched the Christmas Day documentary on his life, at home with family.  Enjoyed it, and appreciated that so many people thought so highly of him.  The Hall of Fame football coach, color commentator and video game headliner died three days later.  Epilogs came fast, furious and universally glowing about the life and impact of this man.

Fox broadcasters Pat Summerall, left, and John Madden stand in the broadcast booth at the Superdome before Super Bowl 36 on Feb. 3, 2002, in New Orleans. Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died Tuesday morning, Dec. 28, 2021, the league said. He was 85. The NFL said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause. (photo by Ric Feld, Associated Press file)


While John Madden was well past being ‘that guy,’ he was a great example of people who don’t come along very often.  Multifaceted cultural icons who, for our purposes, had their roots in sports, one of life’s great character builders.  Individuals almost beyond reproach.  Whose lives are not defined by their number of followers.

Bust of John Madden on display at the National Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio

So, who else do we have?


I took the question to my PYP, Panel of Younger People – which includes everyone, by the way.  It made for a great little debate.  Reasonable cases were presented for Terry Bradshaw, Derek Jeter, Charles Barkley, LeBron James, and Michael Strahan, who lost points for working with Kelly Ripa.

The winner by proclamation, was Peyton Manning.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning after receiving the USO-Metro Merit Award at the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s 33rd Annual Awards Dinner: “Above & Beyond: A Special Salute to Medal of Honor Recipients,” Arlington, Va., March 24, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill) (Released)

Hall of Fame quarterback, cultural icon.  Who remains relevant through the ESPN Monday Night Football “Manning Cast”.  A guy who has somehow managed to be something to everyone.  Peyton and the Manning family are said to be on the path to ownership of an NFL team.  Put that on the resume and you really have something.
The point is, as we continue our journey through time, there’s always a line of succession.  They say you don’t replace a guy like John Madden.  The fact is, we already have.

Watch Bill Pucko on The Press Box, every weekend on 13-WHAM ABC in Rochester, NY

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