The Pittsburgh Steelers and the late John Madden’s Oakland Raiders had plenty of tussles but none quite like the playoff game on December 23, 1972.
The greatest play in NFL history transpired that day and, still, nearly 50 years later, Madden, Franco Harris and football fans worldwide talk about it.
Naturally, the Immaculate Reception got a little airtime in the Fox Sports documentary, “All Madden,” which aired on Christmas day, just three days before John Madden’s death.
“When a guy crosses a goal line, it’s either a touchdown or it’s not,” Madden recalled in a 1980s interview that was part of the documentary. “They didn’t call it a touchdown. They didn’t know if it was a touchdown.”
All Madden spliced the 80s interview with (then) present-day Madden talking about how everything went down — he was almost just as passionate about it, too.
“I know you don’t know, I’ll tell ya. It was a double touch.”
“Now, the referee is on the phone, and he makes a call to someone. And then he comes back out of the dugout and signals touchdown.”
“Not that I carry old grudges,” said Madden. “It bothers me then, it bothers me now, and it’ll bother me until the day I die.”
30 Years Later
Madden and fellow analyst Al Michaels were calling the 2002 Steelers-Bucs game on the 30th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception on a Monday Night Football broadcast.
“You talk about stuff that you get in your stocking for Christmas,” Madden started. “That was the night before Christmas Eve, and [the Immaculate Reception] was a big ol’ lump of coal, and that big ol’ lump of coal has been sitting down there for 30 years.”
“Once the guy says touchdown, it’s all over. The game’s over, your season’s over, everything’s over. You just go home. You don’t get another chance.”
As deeply as the Immaculate Reception ate away at him over the years, Madden said he had nothing but love for the 1970s Steelers organization.
“As tough as that was, I have great respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers of that era, and for their coach Chuck Noll, and most of all for their owner, Art Rooney,” Madden shared during the 2002 broadcast. “You talk about guys that built the league, and who is really the guy, Art Rooney was the real deal. Art Rooney was just a great, great man. As down as I was in that game, if there was anything to be happy for, it was for (Rooney).”
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) December 7, 2018