Monday, December 23, 2013

The All Madden Teams

Most sports casters or announcers have some sort of awards presentation or post-season trophies or something like that.  Phil Simms has some All Iron thing now.  In College Football, on ESPN Kirk Herbstreit has the Herbies.  From 1984-2001, John Madden created the All Madden team, made up of the players he felt best exemplified football and for the former Raider coach, would be players that he would like on his team.  While there were other awards before it, and certainly since, in my mind, the All Madden Team was the best of these selection teams, across any sport.

The All Madden Team didn't really have any roster rules.  Madden would essentially stack the roster as he saw fit.  He could have as many QBs, defensive linemen, linebackers, etc as he wanted.  There was only one stipulation, to make the team, John (and by extension his partner Pat Summerall) would have to have announced the game they were playing in.  The show started as a small segment and soon enough turned into an hour long feature, in prime time, usually the Saturday Night before the Super Bowl.

As a Giants fan, and without internet at the time, I was starved for any Giants related content I could find.  And since the Madden/Summerall partnership, and the All Madden Team, happened to coincide with the Giants run as one of the NFL powerhouses, particularly in the 1980s, this show became appointment viewing.  So the expectation was that Madden would have several Giants on the team, and he would not disappoint.  

Luckily, in digging through my old tapes, I was able to recover 2 episodes, the 1989 and 1990 All Madden Teams.  

1989 All Madden Team

This was shot down in New Orleans, ahead of  Super Bowl XXIV, when the 49ers would repeat as World Champs, in destroying the Denver Broncos 55-10.  It would prove to be the final Super Bowl in the Reeves/Elway run, as the blowouts got progressively worse against the Giants in 1986 and the Redskins in 1987.  Needless to say, the team had lots of 49ers on it.  But it also featured the following Giants:

  1. Lawrence Taylor
  2. Leonard Marshall
  3. OJ Anderson
  4. Dave Meggett (returner)
  5. Reyna Thompson (special teams)
  6. Pat Summerall  (kicker) **
More on Summerall later, but since I was too lazy to really edit this clip, there is some of the 1989 NFL Films All Pro Team tacked on there for good measure.  So Happy Holiday and enjoy that as well.

1990 All Madden Team

This episode was shot in the All Madden "Headquarters", basically probably some CBS studio since before Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida, there actually was not 2 weeks before that Super Bowl.  The Giants, fresh off knocking off the 49ers on Matt Bahr's 5th field goal, had to fly right from San Francisco down to Tampa and get ready to play the following week.  Since John Madden did not fly, and went everywhere on his Madden Cruiser, they had to basically shoot the show before hand as he wouldn't have time to create the show, edit it, and find his way down for the Super Bowl (though it was broadcast on ABC back in 1990). In an announcing scheduling glitch, Madden and Summerall never called a Buffalo Bill game in 1990 for CBS.  As a result, no Bills were on the All Madden Team.  Needless to say, because the Giants were Super Bowl bound, there were plenty of Big Blue reps on the roster.

  1. Lawrence Taylor
  2. Erik Howard
  3. Pepper Johnson
  4. Jumbo Elliott
  5. OJ Anderson
  6. Reyna Thompson (special teams)
  7. Dave Meggett (returner)
  8. Sean Landeta (punter)
  9. Matt Bahr (kicker)
  10. Bill Parcells (coach)
In looking at this list, you see that Madden actually rounded out his entire Special Teams roster with Giants.  In seeing how far the Giants special teams have fallen, particularly in 2013 when they have been among the worst I have seen the Giants field in the time I've watched the team, it makes you long for these days of not only special teams competence, but actual excellence.  One could argue that Reyna Thompson was the best Plan B Free Agent signing of the entire existence of that era, for any team in the NFL.  He was a monster as a cover man.

Now, recall the ** from earlier about Summerall.  The gag, or whatever, you want to call it on the All Madden Team, was he never chose a kicker.  Partly because kickers were not big fat guys (Sebastian Janikowski was only about 11 years old at the time), they were more or less discounted.  So, by default, he gave the spot to Summerall, who kicked for the Giants from 1958-1961.  However, Matt Bahr first caught Madden's attention in the NFC Divisional round against the Bears, when he made 2 tackles on kick off returns.  On one tackle, he actually ended up suffering a concussion and was helped off the field by the trainers.  He actually was suffering post-concussion symptoms all week leading up to the NFC Championship Game and nearly didn't fly out there as the Giants had to rush to try out kickers.  But Bahr sucked it up (remember, in 1990 there were no concussion protocols) and ended up beating the Niners on the last second FG, which would result in as Summerall called in the game "there will be no Threepeat".  That was enough for Madden to give the kicking nod to Bahr over Summerall.

Friday, December 6, 2013

1986 Giants Among Men Championship Video

"The best of the 4 Giants Championship Videos"
- Me

That sounds like a rave review, why such high praise.  Well, as I had said when I first started this blog, during much of my formative years as a football fan, and a Giants fan in particular, there was no internet available to the masses.  So when the Giants would play, I would tape their games and go back and watch them, and I was starved for more information.  Yes, ESPN did have highlights, but back then, ESPN wasn't the 24 hour Sportscenter world it is today.  So I bought books, magazines, etc.  But the most influential was the NFL Films videos.

The Sabol family and NFL Films were, and continue to be a God send.  I would watch the highlights made available on the This is the NFL series, the team yearbooks, the Game of the Week highlights.  The best, in my opinion, was the HBO Inside the NFL weekly show hosted by Len Dawson and Nick Bouniconti.  It was perfection.  From the football centric conversation, the interviews, the picks, etc.  Of course, the best of all were the highlights.  The NFL Films music, the camera work, the tight angles and slow motion, and Harry Kalas' voice over work.   I had several episodes taped between 1986-1991, and sadly lost most of my 1987 and 1988 collection, as well as a good chunk of 1986.  I used to watch those tapes to the point where I would nearly break the tape by getting it chewed up in the VCR from rewinding over and over my favorite parts.

And of course, that would lead us to the offshoots from NFL Films, the Giants Championship videos.  Fortunately, as a Giants fan, we have 4 to choose from.  The 1986 one, Giants Among Men, as the quote above shows, I think was the finest of them all.  It not only showed the highlights, it told the story of the team, the franchise and history.  It focused on individual players that were well edited and interspliced into the video.  And this one had the benefit of not only the music, but former Giant, and late/great broadcaster Pat Summerall doing the narration.  So while the 2007 and 2011 versions had much better quality video and sound, those videos really were just game highlight compilations.  And while I do love the America's Game videos, still the top of all of it was the first of them, the 1986 Giants Among Men.