Legendary football announcer John Madden was ahead of his game when it came to the Pro Bowl.
Madden, the iconic Oakland Raiders head coach, had a long and successful broadcasting career. Whether he worked with Pat Summerall at Fox or Al Michaels on ABC and NBC, Madden was around for the league’s best games each week.
For years, the NFL used a network’s top broadcast team to work the Pro Bowl when it took place in Hawaii. However, Madden refused to call the game, and not because he found it to be boring.
John Madden is a legendary coach and broadcaster
John Madden is as instrumental to the history of football as any announcer who has ever called a game on the gridiron.
Madden coached the Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, going 103-32-7 in the process. Oakland defeated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl 11 on Jan. 9, 1977.
Madden began his broadcasting career in 1979 and worked for each of the main four networks: CBS, Fox, ABC, and NBC. He worked 476 NFL games in a row until he took a break during the 2008 season to avoid making three consecutive cross country trips.
Madden was in the broadcast booth for 10 Super Bowls across four networks. He worked an 11th (Super Bowl 14 in January 1981) as a pregame analyst for CBS.
Madden refused to call the Pro Bowl in Hawaii
Regardless of where his game was during his broadcast days, John Madden refused to fly there.
Madden had an aversion to flying in large part because of claustrophobia. Instead of traveling by plane, Madden took a bus — the aptly-named Madden Cruiser — to wherever his broadcast duties needed him that week.
As a result, Madden never left the mainland and worked the Pro Bowl when it took place in Hawaii. When the NFL started having the Pro Bowl in the United States every year during the 2010s, Madden had been retired for a long time.
Luckily for Madden, he only missed two Pro Bowls in a time where the game still had a level of significance to it.
Who called the Pro Bowl in John Madden’s absence?
The show had to go on for the Pro Bowl, even with John Madden refusing to call the game and fly to Hawaii.
There were only two occasions where a network had to call an audible and have someone replace Madden. ABC faced that problem in 2003 and replaced Madden with Chargers legend and Monday Night Football commentator Dan Fouts.
Madden retired after the 2008 NFL season and called his final game at Super Bowl 43 on Feb. 1, 2009. NBC promoted Cris Collinsworth to call the Pro Bowl alongside Al Michaels a week after the Super Bowl.
Collinsworth replaced Madden on the Sunday Night Football booth starting with the 2009 season. Michaels and Collinsworth have worked together since then.