You didn't need to be a football fan to know who John Madden was. He wasn't just a broadcaster. Sure, he was that -- an originally insightful, lively guy whose insight seemed to atrophy as he got toward the end of his career, when he turned into a parody of himself. But Madden was always more than they guy that talked to you during football games. He was a larger than life pop culture figure. He was the video game guy. He was boom, tough actin' Tinactin. You didn't need to be a football fan to know who John Madden was.
Cris Collinsworth, Madden's replacement as NBC's go-to analyst for its flagship Sunday night broadcast, is not so recognizable. Sure, to football people, he's a well-known guy. He's been doing broadcasts and in-studio analysis for NBC and the NFL Network, and on Fox for many years before. But people who just casually follow the game, Collinsworth will be harder to pick out of a crowd.
That's OK! Collinsworth isn't John Madden, or at least, he isn't yet. What he is is a really capable broadcaster with a really solid read on the game and a laid-back, conversational -- but also knowing and intelligent -- style. Collinsworth uses that old sports cliche in his work; he lets the game come to him. He doesn't overpower it. He doesn't grab it by the throat. He doesn't scream at the listener, or impose some sort of weird, Brian Baldinger-esque meatball agenda. He's just ... good.
Perhaps, one day, Cris Collinsworth will be as famous as John Madden, as much of a symbol as a broadcaster. Until then, though, he can just call football games. Fine with us.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.