OAKLAND, Calif. >> When John Madden died in December, his widow Virginia knew exactly where she wanted to honor her late husband’s life.
The place where Madden first came to fame, prowling the sideline at the Oakland Coliseum as the Super Bowl-winning coach of the Raiders.
“John believed in the town of Oakland, he believed in the Coliseum, most of all he believed in the Raiders,” Virginia Madden said today. “I believe in the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders.”
That drew a loud ovation from the few thousand fans who showed up for the event and have stuck with the Raiders during their 13 seasons in Los Angeles and after their move in 2020 to Las Vegas.
The event featured video tributes to Madden’s Hall of Fame career as a coach and broadcaster, and video messages from Hall of Famers like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
“I feel like my career was supposed to be narrated by John Madden,” Favre said. “I loved John. I sensed the great relationship we had. … He was a larger-than-life figure if you didn’t know him and even larger than life if you did know him. I’m just thankful for my relationship with him.”
There were also live speeches from several luminaries close to Madden over the years such as coaches Andy Reid, Ron Rivera and Steve Mariucci.
“He taught me never to lose my childish love for life,” Reid said.
Madden died unexpectedly at his home in the Bay Area on Dec. 28 at age 85, leading to an outpouring of love following a remarkable career that included a 10-year stint as Raiders coach, three decades as the top television analyst in football and his role in creating the popular video game that carries his name.
The event was held at the Oakland Coliseum where Madden first came to fame roaming the sidelines for the Raiders. He made it to seven AFC title games in his 10 seasons as coach, with a 103-32-7 regular-season record. His .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.
Tickets were sold for $32.14 in a nod to the score from the Raiders’ 32-14 Super Bowl win over Minnesota with Madden as coach in the 1976 season. The proceeds benefited the John Madden Foundation to provide education opportunities for the youth of Oakland.
Virginia Madden said she would match up to $1 million of what was raised for the event.