John Madden arrived with a few tricks up his sleeve when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1982, including one especially for producer Dick Ebersol.
“With John Madden, it was really about the closest I ever came to having a heart attack before I had a real one in February of ’96,” Ebersol said for the 2015 book, Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live.
The legendary broadcaster and former coach’s appearance included a few stories about his players while with the NFL’s Raiders. Madden was just about to rehearse the monologue when he called out to Ebersol, who was tucked away under the audience bleachers.
“I stuck my head around the corner so he could see me,” Ebersol recalled. “He said, ‘Come here a minute.’ I came to about halfway to the stage area with a full house, whatever it is, 300-plus for dress [rehearsal]. And he said, ‘I just want to tell you now I’m going to finish this dress rehearsal and then I’m going to leave. I’m not happy with how things have been going, and I’m enough of a trouper to finish it for this audience, but then I’m outta here. This is just the pits.'”
Ebersol was stunned. “I’m standing there and I’m dying,” he said. “And he lets about two or three seconds go and then he gets the biggest smile on his face in the world and he said, ‘You know I’m a practical joker, don’t you?’ The place went nuts. But in the meantime, I had just about had a heart attack.”
Madden passed away Tuesday at the age of 85.
“We all know him as the Hall of Fame coach of the Oakland Raiders and broadcaster who worked for every major network, but more than anything, he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an official statement. “Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others. There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.”
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