by Dale Reeves
This year began with the news of several public figures who passed away at the end of 2021. Two different arenas. Two different views on life. But two celebrities who both had a huge impact on American culture. Buzz in when you know who I’m talking about.
An animal rights activist.
Once called herself, “The luckiest old broad alive.”
Never had any biological children of her own, but seen as a grandmother figure whom people loved to watch on game shows.
The oldest person to ever host Saturday Night Live, at the age of 88.
Holds the record for the longest TV career a female has ever had.
Originally auditioned for the role of Blanche in The Golden Girls.
Died on December 31, 2021 at the age of 99.
Played on both the offensive and defensive line for Cal Poly State University, as well as a catcher on the school’s baseball team.
Won sixteen Emmy Awards for his colorful analysis of professional football.
Called eight Super Bowls from the broadcasting booth with his partner Pat Summerall, whom he called “a cross between John Wayne and Walter Cronkite.”
On January 9, 1977, this coach was hoisted up by his players after the Oakland Raiders won their first Super Bowl, Super Bowl XI.
An aversion to flying resulted in him traveling to NFL games in his converted Greyhound bus for most of his broadcasting career.
The name behind the most iconic football video game of all time.
Died on December 28, 2021 at the age of 85, just two days before celebrating his 62nd wedding anniversary with his wife Virginia.
Of course we’re talking about actress Betty White and NFL legend John Madden.
Passing Knowledge Along
John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach-turned-broadcaster educated football fans for three decades with his use of the telestrator, and he entertained millions with his interjections like “Boom!” and “Doink!” But, had he not been a “glass-half-full guy,” his broadcasting career might have never happened. After playing football in college at Cal Poly State University, Madden was the 244th overall pick in the 1958 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, but his NFL career was extremely short-lived, as he suffered a knee injury during his rookie training camp. While rehabbing, he spent his free time watching game film with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, and Madden credited Van Brocklin with giving him “the greatest education” he ever had. Madden could have chosen to be depressed, and do nothing with that knowledge after his playing career was over, but two years later he broke into the coaching ranks at the young age of twenty-four.
In his ten years of coaching the Oakland Raiders, he guided the team to seven Western Division titles, eight playoff appearances, and one Super Bowl victory. Burly and a little unkempt, Madden earned the respect of his players because they knew he was authentic, and always wanted the best for his team and players. He was the ideal coach for a “collection of castoffs and misfits” that Raiders teams were known for. Hall of Fame offensive lineman, Art Shell, remarked, “Players loved playing for him.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “John Madden is to the NFL what Elvis Presley was to rock ’n’ roll. He’s the king!”
When John was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, he said, “People always ask, ‘Are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?’ I’m a coach, always been a coach. . . . My knowledge of football has come from coaching. And on TV, all I’m trying to do is pass on some of that knowledge to viewers.”
Renowned play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels summed Madden up in one word: “Connectivity. He knew how to connect with people.” I recently read a story of how years ago when the CBS NFL crew was staying at the Westin, they all went out to eat at Cincinnati’s fancy five-star restaurant at the time, The Maisonette, but John chose another option. Madden decided not to go with the group, choosing rather to eat at Skyline Chili by himself—later he had the chili stains on his shirt to prove it.
Living and Dying in LA
Iconic Golden Girl Betty White died just three weeks before reaching her 100th birthday. Betty got her first taste of acting when she wrote and played the lead in her high school graduation play. After some modeling, radio work, co-founding a production company, and hosting her own talk show, she became well-known due to her role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Twelve years later (and three Emmy awards later), White was cast in what would be her next signature role in her career, Rose Nylund, on The Golden Girls, a show that followed the lives of four widowed or divorced women in their golden years as they shared a home in Miami. This role earned Betty her fourth Emmy award. All told, she won eight Emmys.
Looking back on a career that spanned over eight decades, Betty once remarked, “Being remembered for Rose and Sue Ann and the others would be wonderful, but I also want to be remembered as a lady who helped the animals.” The Los Angeles Zoo named her “ambassador to the animals.” Betty was married three times, but she believed that when she died she would be with her husband of eighteen years, the love of her life, Allen Ludden, whom she met on the set of the game show Password. To what did Betty attribute her long life? In 2018 she told Parade magazine it was primarily due to three things: “Hot dogs, vodka, and enjoying life—accentuate the positive, not the negative.”
In this clip from television and radio host Larry King’s 2014 interview with Betty, she talks about the afterlife, and not “knowing what happens that moment after we die.” Click Here to watch Video
Upon hearing the news of her death, Bob Saget, best known for his role as Danny Tanner in the sitcom Full House, wrote a tribute to her on Instagram. Just days before his own recent death at the age of 65, he contemplated what happens in the afterlife: “I don’t know what happens when we die, but if Betty says you get to be with the love of your life, then I happily defer to Betty on this.”
Jesus did have something to say about that in Matthew 22:30, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (NIV).
We Can Know
John Madden once remarked, “Coaching is more than a job. It’s a way of life. No one should go into coaching unless he couldn’t live without it. Football is what I am. I am totally consumed by football.”
Betty White said, “Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”
Within the past several weeks our church leadership and body has been impacted by the deaths of several servants of Christ who spent a lot of their time loving God and loving others in Jesus’ name. The good news today is that we do know what’s on the other side for those who have followed after Christ. God’s Word assures us of some facts that we can know about the afterlife.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24, ESV).
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:27, 28, NLT).
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, NLT).
“God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:3, 4, NLT).
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. Are you prepared for what is to come? If so, what are you consumed with in your life today?