N.Y. Times Columnist Blasts John Madden for Not Mounting a Soapbox for 'Social Good'

As John Madden retires as one of the most popular "color men" the sportscasting world has even seen, New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton launched a familiar liberal assault: he wasn't political enough, he "punted" controversy, he failed to "use a platform for social good" and played it safe so he could make a buck with commercials and video games.

This is typical for Araton, last noticed for insisting that Bruce Springsteen "go rogue" and make the "corporate fat cats" squirm by uncorking a socialist jeremiad during the Super Bowl halftime show. He compared Madden unfavorably to liberal Bob Costas:

He was a revolutionary in the booth, especially as a master of shtick. Unfortunately, as the national voice of his sport, he was more the mouse who didn’t roar but played it safe, by punting most controversy, like other champion American pitchmen, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

...Across three decades, as the N.F.L. became the unparalleled success story and financial model in American sports, there were many subjects worthy (labor, steroids, concussions, etc.) of someone with a vast weekly audience and a daily pass into television reporters’ newspaper columns. Madden, for the most part, kept his eye on the football.

He was all about the game and the corporate benefits his celebrity attachment to it could bring. His brand of video games, hardly among the most odious antisocial garbage flooding that market, celebrated the violent football hit and glorified the tasteless preening that tends to go along with it.

Admittedly, no laws are broken by the failure to use a platform for social good, but Jordan and Woods over the years have been called out for never speaking out, risking their corporate appeal. Why only athletes? Why not men like Madden?

For comparison’s sake, can you imagine Bob Costas — who at the national level is as much the voice of baseball as Madden has been football’s — achieving his level of deserved respect by commenting almost exclusively about what happens between the white lines?

Araton sees no danger in doing it the Costas way -- alienating fans by mounting a soapbox for liberalism or kissing the ring of Hillary Clinton.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis