BackTalk: John Madden

Football season's over, but you'd never know it from the legions of gamers who've made EA's Madden NFL a year-round obsession. [A shorter version of this interview was printed in the May issue.]

You've said that the fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break. But what were your rules?One, they had to be on time. Two, they had to pay attention. Three, they had to play like hell when I told them to.

What about your house rules - like you don't wait for anyone, and if somebody starts a bottle of water he has to finish it?Yeah, those are rules I had on the team bus. I don't like half-filled bottles of water left around, and there's a saying that you don't hold a bus for anyone. I made exceptions for great players, but usually when I got on, I was ready to go. I believe in being on time.

Do videogames and TV broadcasts do a good job of capturing the reality of a football game?We're still in the dark ages when it comes to the sounds of football. I remember what it sounded like on the sideline from when I was coaching.

You mean all the crunches, snaps, and pops on the field?Everything - catching the ball, the running, the contact. After I was up in the broadcast booth for six or seven years, I forgot what the game sounded like. As a player and a coach, I'd always been on the field, and the biggest adjustment I had to make when I went into broadcasting was being detached from the game. When I got to spend some time back on the field, I said, "Holy Moley! We're missing the whole deal here."

Which means gamers and TV viewers are missing out, too.Oh yeah, of course. If you go stand on the sidelines, you'll be amazed by how it feels and sounds. You'll be shocked. On TV, we can get any picture we want - we can look at the hair in a guy's nose - but for whatever reason, we just can't capture the sounds.

Will interactive TV - letting the viewer choose what he wants to see - heighten the experience of watching a football game?Yeah, yeah, yeah! If we want to get younger people really involved in watching football, it has to be interactive because that's the way everything is for them now. Their thumbs just keep going all the time, whether it's at a game controller or typing up e-mails or using an iPod. We can't tell these kids to put all their stuff away and just sit down and watch TV. The day is definitely coming when you're going to be able to watch the game the way you want to. See, TV broadcasts always assume that everyone's a fan of the offense.

It's well known that you're afraid to fly, so you have the 45-foot Madden Cruiser to travel the country. How is it set up for entertainment?Well, I have three plasma screens - one in the bedroom and two in the living/dining-room area.