In November 1978, the Oakland Raiders had a victorious 34-21 Monday Night Football outing in Cincinnati. Now recently deceased, coach John Madden was concluding his tenth campaign at the helm. I had a press pass and there was no doubt where I was heading after the contest, namely the Raiders locker room.

When I got inside, the 42-year-old coach was sitting on top of an equipment trunk and slouched against a wall. Despite the win, the future broadcaster and video game guru looked defeated and totally “out of gas,” completely contrary to his customary demeanor. He gave a brief opening statement that centered on Riverfront Stadium’s poor artificial turf, then fielded a few quick questions. It was after midnight and almost time to fly home, a journey he despised due to a fervent dislike of flying.

Once outside the locker room I told my media companion that I was sure we’d witnessed John Madden’s final coaching appearance in Cincinnati. “He’s done,” I opined.

Uncharacteristic of both the coach and team, the Raiders would finish 9-7-0 and not make the NFL playoffs. Just two seasons removed from a Super Bowl title, he retired from coaching and it was permanent. Madden eventually landed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Big Ben

Steelers QB and Findlay native Ben Roethlisberger is about to retire. I got a full dose of Big Ben’s influence and image in a local eatery on a recent basketball trek to Findlay. Tony’s Restaurant is just off I-75 and I found it to be an amazing experience, especially their legendary ribs. Ben loves Tony’s as revealed in the signed photos and memorabilia on display.

To top that off, he installed a helicopter landing pad behind Tony’s to aid commutes from Pittsburgh that have included his offensive line. Big Ben is “all in” when it comes to Tony’s.

By the way, the basketball game I referenced involved the men of the University of Findlay. coached by Minster’s Charlie Ernst who succeeded St. Henry’s Ron Niekamp. Dr. Jim Houdeshell was the head man for 30 seasons followed by Niekamp with 26 and now Ernst with 11. Just three head coaches in 67 seasons and all three were at the game I attended. I’m told this happens regularly.

Ernst had a pair of area products in the starting lineup I witnessed including 6-foot-6 Jackson Center senior Brady Wildermuth and 6-7 junior Nathan Bruns of Marion Local. Bruns is the “go to guy” in the Oilers’ balanced rotation.

County connection

Fort Loramie product Kyler Ludlow has worked in communications for multiple university athletic departments and is on the move again. He recently checked in and revealed a Shelby County connection in his new assignment.

“I am leaving Michigan for Perfect Game Baseball (where I can essentially work from home).”

“Perfect Game runs the highest quality travel team tournaments and individual showcases for amateur baseball in the country. They boast alumni like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, Francisco Lindor and, of course, (my 2007 Loramie classmate) Jared Hoying.”

“PG not only provides opportunities for high school athletes to be scouted, but also works directly with Major League Baseball to provide scouting reports on the top prospects for the draft, as well as provide college coaches reports on potential student-athletes.”

“Perfect Game also recently launched its softball division, providing many of the same products and services for amateurs and college coaches alike. This side of the company is still in its infancy.”

“I’ll be running the 30+ social media accounts for the brand, focusing on growing our national reputation. My direct boss is T.J. Ansley of Anna, who has previously worked as the Director of Digital Media for the Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL) and the Director of Digital Experience and Innovation for the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA).”

Sports Extra

With Dave Ross

Sports Extra appears each Friday. Later this year, Dave Ross will complete 47 years in the sports media business.