I learned the secret of John Madden’s success in a little diner — more like a Big Boy-type restaurant — in Elko, Nev., just off Interstate 80 in the fall of 1990. Understand that Elko, like all of the middling towns in Nevada, I suppose, has a gambling operation. And in the back of this little place where the locals and just-passin’-through travelers were having dinner one Tuesday night in November, in walked Madden, the larger-than-life television voice of the National Football League.
Madden was taking his bus cross-country from the Bay Area to New York for a Giants game that weekend, and this restaurant was the dinner stop seven hours into the trip. Well, there was a bit of a hubbub, and a few knowing nods Madden’s way, and when he’d finished eating, a fellow came up to him and introduced himself.