The world lost two icons in the span of three days last week.

John Madden and Betty White defined legend and legacy. And as we hear the tributes pouring out, it’s clear that they lived their lives in ways that exemplified the status.

The most recent generations know the name John Madden primarily as an iconic football announcer who retired in 2009, and the name on the widely famous video game bearing his name. He was much more than that.

My first memories of Madden were watching him storming the sideline as the young, bombastic head coach of the Oakland Raiders. In fact, as a 10 year old in 1974, I vividly remember watching the Raiders defeat my favorite team at the time, the Miami Dolphins, in the conference divisional playoff game. Known as the “Sea of Hands” game, Kenny Stabler threw a wobbly touchdown pass to Clarence Davis as time expired to break my heart. I recall watch Madden celebrating the victory while running off the field.

I’d watch him go on to win a lot of games, including over my next favorite team, the Seattle Seahawks. He’d ultimately win a Super Bowl and a couple years later, shock the football world by retiring at 42 years old.

Fast forward the next three decades. Madden became a superstar as a television commercial pitchman, the voice of the National Football League’s most important games, and the founder of a video game that brought millions of young people into the sport. He even changed how we celebrate Thanksgiving by immortalizing Turducken! In 2006, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In his final years, he served on NFL committees to improve the rules around player safety. He is arguably the most important and influential figure in the game, but he was also widely known simply by name outside the sport.

Betty White is known by recent generations as the witty and charming actress who made growing old a cool thing. In recent years, she appeared in multiple television series and commercials that appealed to all ages.

My first memories of Betty White are about the same time as Madden, when I watched her marvelous portrayal of Sue Ann Nivens – the Happy Homemaker – on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I also watched her in the popular game shows at the time, especially Password with her husband Alan Ludden.  She was always the most quick-witted and humorous personality. She’d go on to play even a more historic role as Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls.

As much as I remember of her in my lifetime, Betty White was a superstar well before I was born. Her legacy spans seven decades, and she found a way to engage with people in a real and personal way. Even as she moved deep into her 90’s, she was always a visible personality, including her stint on a television commercial playing football, that made her loved by all.

Legend and Legacy.

While we may not be at the stratospheric level of worldwide renown as John Madden and Betty White, we all are human and have a legend and legacy to carve out in our own world, if we want to.

How do we accomplish it?

By doing the same thing Madden and White did: be real; be generous; be bold; and be kind. We don’t have to be stars of the big screen or create video games to be legendary. We have the option to be legendary and leave a legacy to those people who are most important to us.

How do you want to be remembered? Or maybe the more important question is, what impact will your legacy leave?

The final chapter in my book, Back 9 Walking: A Guide to Living Life Unleashed is titled, The 18th Hole: Legacy. If you’d like to learn more about creating your own legacy, email me at [email protected] and I will send you an excerpt from that chapter.

Quote of the Week:

“The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

~ John Madden

“Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”

  • Betty White

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