Former NFL head coach and popular NFL TV analyst John Madden had a well-known fear of flying, one that led him to travel the country in his famous “Madden Cruiser.”
Madden’s fear of flying came to a head on Nov. 25, 1979, when he had a panic attack while he was waiting to take off from Tampa International Airport. When he landed in Houston, he skipped his connecting flight, choosing to travel by ground to San Francisco, and vowed to never fly again.
The ticket from Madden’s final flight is now up for bid at Heritage Auctions. Accompanied by the ticket envelope and Madden’s baggage tags, the ticket has an estimated value of $20,000 and a current bid of $5,250.
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Madden’s fear of flying is traced back to the Oct. 29, 1960 plane crash that killed more than 20 members of the California Polytechnic State University football team. He also suffered from claustrophobia.
Al Michaels, Madden’s former broadcast partner for multiple networks, once recounted his friend’s fear of flying and final flight.
"One of the great Madden stories is that he's doing a game in Tampa for CBS, and he hates to fly, obviously. So now he's going to fly home after the game on Monday. His flight is from Tampa to San Francisco with the change of planes in Houston,” Michaels recalled. “So they take off and in the middle of the flight, John says, 'That's it, that's it,' and he vowed to himself, if the plane lands safely, that's it. He's off the plane in Houston, will figure out some way to get back to San Francisco.
“Somewhere out there,” Michaels said, “is the back end of that ticket, which should actually be in the Smithsonian."
The ticket wound up in the hands of Madden’s longtime CBS and FOX producer Michael Frank, who consigned it to Heritage to be auctioned off.