There are many things people think about when they hear the name “John Madden.” His iconic broadcasting voice, his Super Bowl championship, the video game series named after him. Then there is that bus he was always arriving to games in.
The “Madden Cruiser” as it was called was more than just a fun way to road trip from stadium to stadium, it made it possible for Madden to his job with his fear of flying. The vehicle was regularly featured on Madden’s broadcasts and became a sensation in its time.
Madden was able to fly during his coaching career, but as a broadcaster he decided to abandon the attempt to travel through the air. The football legend said his fear of flying stemmed from claustrophobia, though many believed it was from the California Polytechnic State University football team plane crash that took place on Oct. 29, 1960. Madden graduated Cal Poly in 1958 and had friends that died on the flight.
He said (per NBC Sports) that his fear originated well before the crash: “I didn’t like getting on planes before that. I got claustrophobic, and it got worse over the years.”
As a result, Madden preferred to travel by bus, which lead to the creation of the cruiser. Greyhound then agreed to an endorsement deal with Madden in 1987 that included a personal driver and all expenses for the bus.
The bus also provided Madden with the opportunity to see the country and interact with football fans. There are countless stories of Madden stopping in random towns along his route, attending minor league baseball games and taking in the sights of different states.
Madden did not just travel in the vehicle, he also held interviews in it, cementing the bus’ legacy in the NFL community. The original Madden Cruiser was brought to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.