Behind the Scenes with FOX’s NFL crew: Honoring John Madden

By Richie Zyontz
FOX NFL Lead Producer

Editor’s Observe: Richie Zyontz has been an NFL producer for FOX since 1994 and the lead producer for the final 20 seasons. He has greater than 40 years of expertise masking the league and has produced six Tremendous Bowls. All through the 2022 NFL season, he’ll present an inside look as FOX’s new No. 1 NFL crew makes its journey towards Tremendous Bowl LVII.

John Madden did not personal Thanksgiving. Nevertheless it was rattling shut. 

The Pilgrims and Native People might have began the custom, however Madden embraced it along with his joyful love of meals, household and soccer. 

This was the primary Thanksgiving with out John, who handed away in December. The NFL very appropriately selected his favourite vacation to honor him, commemorating his influence on soccer throughout all three Thursday video games. Followers had been reminded of the particular relationship they’d with the best analyst to ever put on a headset. 

For me, it is a bit of extra private. 

UNITED STATES – AUGUST 05:  John Madden, former Raiders coach and NFL broadcaster, poses with a bust of himself throughout his induction into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. (Picture by Jay Laprete/Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures.)

An important buddy 

In 1982, I used to be in my second season touring the nation as a really younger broadcast affiliate with CBS Sports activities. 

The Thanksgiving recreation that yr featured a second-year phenom named Lawrence Taylor, whose New York Giants matched up in opposition to the Detroit Lions within the Pontiac Silverdome. 

Whereas Pat Summerall and John Madden had referred to as Tremendous Bowl XVI the earlier January in that very stadium, this was their first full season collectively as CBS’ lead crew. 

Producer Bob Stenner and director Sandy Grossman rounded out what would turn into the Mount Rushmore of manufacturing groups. I really walked amongst giants. 

Little did I do know that 39 years of shut friendship with Madden was in my future. By no means may I think about taking walks with him in cities throughout America, introducing him to kosher delis and pizza on New York’s Higher West Aspect, taking part in poker in his residence on the Dakota (see Lennon, John for historic reference) and using his Maddencruiser bus from one finish of the nation to the opposite, telling tales and laughing the entire time. 

To not point out that he launched me to my future spouse June, that we acquired married in 1990 at his house in Danville, Ca. and that he served as my finest man. 

It was an excellent friendship and one I take into consideration on daily basis. 

John Madden Thanksgiving Tribute

Thanksgiving was John Madden’s favourite vacation. This yr, the NFL honored the legendary coach and broadcaster.

Close to the tip of John’s life, I requested him what he missed most about broadcasting. With out lacking a beat, his reply was Thanksgiving. 

He beloved Thanksgiving soccer. He loves the gamers, the coaches, the meals, the large vacation meal along with his crew. 

Throughout Thursday’s telecast, as we paid tribute to John, I glanced at my cellphone greater than as soon as anticipating a take a look at from him: 

“Enough about me, get back to covering the game.” 

A really big day 

I obtained a textual content throughout our broadcast from Mike Madden, John’s oldest son. He stated the day had been “amazing, humbling.” I used to be proud we had been in a position to have fun his dad with variety ideas and phrases in addition to some memorable video clips. Director Wealthy Russo and I donned All-Madden jerseys as our personal private tributes to a person we knew and beloved. At the moment, a brand new custom was born —honoring John Madden for the enjoyment he introduced us each Thanksgiving. 

Richie Zyontz carrying a classic All-Madden sweatshirt in 1991

Move the BBQ sauce 

Usually, we’d have celebrated Thanksgiving with a crew meal and social gathering on Tuesday evening. Sadly, our vehicles had fairly a haul from New York to Arlington, the place we broadcasted the Cowboys’ win over the Giants, and Tuesday turned an extended work day at AT&T Stadium. Wednesday did not work as a result of the halftime rehearsal with the Jonas Brothers saved the crew occupied till the early night. 

We referred to as an audible and moved our celebration to Friday evening in Kansas Metropolis, the place we go subsequent for a recreation Sunday between the Rams and Chiefs. It might not be conventional vacation fare, however you’ll be able to’t beat the ribs, burnt ends and pulled pork at Jack Stack Barbecue.

John Madden would have authorised — the person knew his approach round a rack of ribs. 

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