I have three subjects today, and I couldn’t choose between the three, so I chose them all.

Since the last time I wrote, the great John Madden passed away.

Madden coached the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl championship, but he stopped coaching at age 42. The sports world thought he was crazy. Truth is, he couldn’t have made a better choice.

Madden teamed up with Pat Summerall fresh out of coaching to form an incredible broadcast team for CBS.

Opposites do attract, so Summerall’s dry, matter-of-fact, monotone description of the action mixed with Madden’s manic, sound-infused explanation of the “how and why” of football became three hours of can’t-miss TV—no matter who was playing.

He took the most complex actions and movements of a football team and the 11 players within that team and made them a lot easier to understand.

His ability to draw with the telestrator were only overshadowed by his use of guttural sounds like “BOOM” and “WHAP”.

He talked to us like he was one of us, but he knew how something worked and he wanted us to understand how it worked like he did.

He was a gift, and we have missed him because there has not been, nor will there ever be, another like him.

Notre Dame fans were launching themselves through the air into moving traffic after their Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State Saturday.

Immediately, the blame shifted to coaching.

Former Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman took the heat after the Irish surrendered 30 straight points and lost 37-35.

Lost in that second half meltdown was the fact that Notre Dame had a lead in a New Year’s Day bowl game—a big lead at that.

They came out and looked like a real football team. They played with confidence, passion and heart, and they were fun to watch.

I know, the second half was a mess. But let me point out that if the Irish would have just scored one more time—a field goal or a touchdown—they win that game.

Let me also point out that three starters, due to injury and draft preparation (which is a column unto itself), didn’t play Saturday. Three guys that could have made two points difference in the end.

My position has not wavered on our new coach. I will not judge his whole career on this one game.

And this weekend is the start of the most exciting month of the basketball season.

The month of January is where girls’ basketball teams crown their conference champions and the path is drawn for their sectionals.

It’s also when the boys’ conference races are defined, even though the champions aren’t determined until February. By the end of the month, we will know who is in the conference hunt, who is out, and, generally, who really is good for the stretch drive to March.

I know the weather is generally worse in January and February than December, which keeps some people from attending games. I also understand that COVID is still keeping some people in the confines of their own dwellings.

I completely get that.

But I also hope that you will engage, in some form or fashion, the local teams in your community. There is no better value in entertainment than high school sports. And for that matter, middle school sports are a pretty good value too.

Oh, one last thing—the holiday basketball tournaments at Warsaw.

The boys tournaments on Tuesday and Wednesday were really good and I enjoyed participating in that (in the way that I do) very much.

Having most of the living Indiana All-Stars from Warsaw back for a night was very special, and the presentation of their framed jerseys was a terrific touch.

Then the 1992 Final Four team was back Wednesday for their 30th anniversary, and was that ever fun. Those guys had a blast, and we had a blast honoring and remembering them.

The girls’ championship game went right down to the wire, with several dramatic twists and turns along the way.

In the end, Warsaw didn’t win either tournament.

I’ve always liked that those tournaments are not meant to be two easy wins and an anticlimactic trophy presentation.

Drama makes the storytelling better.