Madden for President -- History of the Superbowl Part 7
John Madden was Michael Jordan in the 80s.
Jordan's myth-like image, like Madden's, had help.
Jordan's help came from video games, the internet, CBS, Gatorade, Nike, Come Fly With Me.
Madden's...came from the climate of the Oakland Raiders fanbase.
They loved this guy like Cubs fans loved Harry Carey.
To Raiders fans, there was no difference.
He was a staple of Oakland Alameda Colisieum every bit of the way Carey is at Wrigley.
Yet like Michael Jordan...John Madden...was even BETTER THEN HIS HYPE.
Oakland had no business being winners.
They were castaways, addicts, bullies, cocksuckers.
The NBA has lots of guys with very low stats who would be stars in the And-1 League.
The NBA breaks all its' newbies down and makes them play the way the organization needs them to.
It's an Oakland tradition today with the Athletics.
They don't get power hitters and runners...they instead set a very modest, normal exceptation for home run and RBI and stolen base numbers...and get players who can fit the mold.
The problem is that, for the purpose of getting 15 stolen bases for a year...they get guys like Rickey Henderson who can get then 140.
The Athletics in the early 80s would simply follow in the Raiders tradition and allow their nutballs to be stars in the way they always knew to be stars.
This was nosh-nosh by the time Toronto and Minnesota were doing precisely the opposite in the late 80s.
Ever since then, the A's get 100 wins and don't go anywhere, for one-on-one matchups between your pitcher and even their best hitter become elementary arithmetic.
John Madden's guys would grow under his tutelege.
John would philosophize.
Oh that "Turkey Day" routine he does today is NOTHING.
So here comes the great philosopher...conducting a sermon to poon-lord Ocho Cincos like Carl Van Eegan, Cliff Branch, Dave Casper, WIllie Brown, Jack Tatum.
Ken Stabler the quarterback was ever grateful for John Madden.
These guys would go out there and give their best, give their all, and do so in an environment where even if scolded, it would be by someone who got them.
The Raiders were a family.
And their pappa was my idol growing up, and the man who singlehandedly turned the Bill Walton/Lamar Hunt/Joe Namath hippy...into the man who will sue you if you touch him.
Meet the white Jackie Childs...the one, the only, the irrepressible Al Davis.
Al Davis runs the Raiders, and has run them out of town on many occassions.
Yet unlike Art Modell, Al Davis was simply trying to manipulate the NFL for power and prestige.
He did after all bring them back to Oakland, no?
He was Billy Martin, but the owner of a NFL team.
Think about it.
Billy Martin, in charge of the Yankees, would move that team at least a hundred times just to prove to Steinbrenner he wasn't bluffing.
And so guys like Billyball and Just Win Baby would become the new thing.
To understand this dynamic...is to understand one of the best tales one has to study in grade school...and that's RoboCop 2 (1990).
This won't take long:)
Paul Verhoeven's films are all about making fun of American stereotypes in movies.
RoboCop is filled with them. The dynamic of Morton, Johnson and Kinney...the fact that every one of Clarence's villians is of a different racial minority...the fact that they have two stable black dudes just so they can have the black villian go "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!"
In Total Recall, he says that people have to essentially pay for the air they breathe and be happy with the mere memory of a vacation because they can't actually go on one.
In Starship Troopers, he makes fun of EVERYTHING. In fact this is like Paul Verhoeven's wet dream.
He's got racial preferences, he's got the black dude the one who administers the whipping, etc.
Well in RoboCop 2, this was a method that screenwriter/comic stud Frank Miller would be onto.
And so he creates a whole bunch of things about RoboCop 2 that continue to make fun of American film.
Such as with the 12-year old kid who swears and shoots people and infects junkies and strangles the hot Nancy Allen when she comes to arrest him.
This is Frank Miller making fun of American Hollywood sequels -- it doesn't matter if it's R-rated, they want kids to see this, and they will, since it's a sequel, place someone in their target demographic as someone to identify with.
In this case, Miller's saying, Orion wants to sell to the foul-mouthed bastard grade school kid.
But the part that, at long last, relates to John Madden and the Oakland Raiders comes from this --
Later on in RoboCop 2, the time comes for them to update him since he's now in a whole bunch of pieces.
The leader of OCP has all the top heads get together to discuss the problem.
How would you like to update our RoboCop?
So they say, and this is a Frank Miller device -- well we've been getting alot of heat, and I mean ALOT of heat...from parent groups.
And they go around and offer a bunch of terrible, terrible suggestions for how to fix him.
This is Frank Miller portraying and insulting the response of parent groups against the original RoboCop film (1987).
Their idea, he's saying, is to make him a douche that nobody wants to pay money to see.
As what was happening in the AFC.
Sports were getting alot of heat...ALOT of heat...from parent groups over what appeared to be lionization of selfish, individual-performing hippies.
Well...the leagues all asked...what would these parents want to see instead?
It turned out that the parents were not against the subliminal message of "drugs are fun".
They were against what appeared to be a very chill and peaceful hippy beating their Roger Staubachs and Earl Morralls.
What did they want instead?
Not an end to the eccentric...but an eccentric who at least threw a temper tantrum, was an asshole, made business and economics seem cooler then rock and roll. Threatened to sue your ass.
For how can a child be a threat in Pop Warner football who won't play for any of the winning teams because he wants to experience a REAL victory?
That's not America.
And so Al Davis plays an integral part in keeping the Oakland Raiders -- parent groups' favorites for realz -- viable in the family entertainment that was the NFL.
Oakland by the beginning of 1977 had gone through all the pangs and losses.
First to Baltimore.
Then to Miami.
And now to the team they used to think they had under their thumb -- Pittsburgh.
It had been nine years since we saw them in the Superbowl, and for good reason.
Pittsburgh had grown up.
Pittsburgh was the Lakers and Pistons to Air Madden and the Oakland Pippens.
On opening day, the Raiders were down against the Steelers by 14 with five minutes left in Oakland and WON!!!!
It seemed that the Raiders from that point on would be fine.
But they would lose in New England 48-17.
The Patriots had Oakland's number.
But the Raiders had come too far.
And for the rest of the regular season they couldn't be stopped.
Onto the playoffs.
Versus New England at home, they would rout them.
And then Pittsburgh came to town.
It was Isiah and Magic showing up at Chicago Stadium in 1991.
Oakland was ready.
And they creamed them.
The Raiders were going back to the dance.
Their opponents were the Vikings again, something that made the NFC officially say forget it.
It was so bleak for the League that Superbowl XI marks the first ever incident of Americans shipping their crappy entertainment overseas in the hopes of making the money back.
You know who the biggest band is in Mexico? Color Me Badd. If they showed up with Mellow Man Ace, Suzanne Vega and Cathy Dennis it would like their Woodstock.
Sure enough, this was how an American football championship game slowly became an international phenomenon.
China, Ireland, Wales, the West Indies, everyone thought the Raiders were awesome.
Soon 161 countries tuned in forevemore at 2 A.M. and 5 A.M. to watch the Superbowl.
This game with it's strange rule differences and offensive proclamation of the being able to crown an American team as "world champions"...made cultural imperialism more then just stopping Russian cabs with Marlboros.
When Return of the Jedi came out, the African continent thought that the stars were the Ewoks, because they happened to be speaking a form of very understandable Swahili.
The Raiders would pound the Vikings. Willie Brown intercepted Tarkenton and ran it back for a touchdown. Dave Casper would catch a touchdown from Stabler. Tatum would cause a bunch of fumbles and bad-back days.
33-14 the final, Raiders were world champions of 1976, Minnesota was 0-4 in the game...and John Madden was carried off the field on the happiest day in the life of one of sport's most beloved figures.