John Madden Hated Calling Dallas Cowboys Games Long Before He Began Traveling in a Bus

By the early 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys had cemented themselves as America’s Team and the face of professional football. Although that proved excellent for the likes of Roger Staubach and Tom Landry, John Madden couldn’t say the same thing.

By that point, Madden’s coaching days were over, and the Super Bowl 11 champion instead spent his Sundays in the broadcast booth for CBS. For as much as he enjoyed traveling and analyzing football games, the former AFL Coach of the Year utterly despised calling Cowboys games.

John Madden hated calling Dallas Cowboys games because of the hotels

NFL legend John Madden, seen in 2002, hated calling Dallas Cowboys games.
John Madden wasn’t smiling when he needed to travel to Dallas Cowboys games | Craig Sjodin/ABC/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Younger NFL fans might be surprised to know what the league’s climate looked like in the early 1980s. Consider that the New York Jets still played in New York — they shared Shea Stadium with the Mets in a perfect marriage of lovable losers and tortured fanbases — and the Seattle Seahawks were an AFC team.

Much like today, however, the Dallas Cowboys were a national draw. The franchise won two Super Bowl titles in the 1970s and consistently appeared in the postseason before ineffective drafting and stubborn management led to Jerry Jones’ arrival as the owner in 1989.

Everyone wanted a piece of the Cowboys, which created problems for Madden. In a 1982 interview with Sports Illustrated, the beloved announcer said he disliked jumping through so many hoops when he needed to work a Cowboys game.

“The thing I hate about doing one of their games is that they lead the league in lobbies. Normally, there’ll be 30 or 40 people milling around the lobby where a team’s staying. When the Cowboys are in a hotel, it’ll be more like 500. You can’t even get in the damn dining room. You have to call room service.”

John Madden

Considering that Madden called NFL games until his retirement in April 2009, it’s safe to say those packed hotels didn’t scare him away.

Madden called many notable Cowboys games over the years

Despite working as an NFL announcer for 30 years, Madden never served as the color commentator in a Super Bowl featuring the Dallas Cowboys. Whether that’s poor timing or an indictment of the Cowboys is up to you.

However, he did work plenty of memorable games involving America’s Team. His role on Fox’s No. 1 broadcast team in the 1990s allowed him to see the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving every other year. Madden and Pat Summerall watched Minnesota Vikings rookie receiver Randy Moss torch the home team for 163 yards and three touchdowns on Nov. 26, 1998.

Four years earlier, future Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, Dallas’ third-string quarterback at the time, outdueled Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre in a 42-31 victory on Nov. 24, 1994. 

While at NBC in January 2007, Madden served as the color voice for a Cowboys-Seahawks wild-card matchup. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo famously botched the hold on what would have been a game-winning 19-yard field goal with 1:19 left, and Seattle hung on for the 21-20 victory.

Packed hotels weren’t the only difficult part of Madden’s travel schedule

For most of his broadcasting career, Madden didn’t only have production meetings and packed hotels to worry about each week. He needed to make sure his bus, the infamous Madden Cruiser, made it to the game in time.

Madden, who disliked flying because of claustrophobia, began traveling the country in a Greyhound bus from 1987 through his final game in February 2009. The original Madden Cruiser moved to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

For his sake, we hope Madden at least had the space to comfortably eat and even sleep in his bus when he worked Cowboys games.

So here we have a Super Bowl-winning coach who complained about hotels and didn’t like flying. Let this serve as a reminder that celebrities are just like us, even if they’re in the broadcast booth each Sunday and not on the couch.

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