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The Beloved Cheers Role That Almost Went To John Madden

The world of sports is mourning the devastating death of John Madden, who passed away at the age of 85 on the morning of December 28, 2021. A Hall Of Fame coach, Madden led the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders to several winning seasons from 1969 to 1978 and one Super Bowl Championship before he retired from coaching. However, Madden's career went beyond coaching winning plays on the field as he entered into the world of sports broadcasting in 1978. Madden's name arguably became more synonymous with the sport he loved, as he achieved many more successes off the field, from authoring books to having his name attached to a famous sports video game series.

Madden was also no stranger to the world of film and television. He was seen in movies such as "The Replacements" and on TV shows like "The Simpsons." The appearances were often as himself, but, at one point, Madden did have the chance to portray a character on an iconic TV series. In fact, he could have found himself in a particular bar where everybody knows your name.

John Madden was offered the role of Coach Ernie Pantusso

Beginning with its pilot episode, fans of "Cheers" became familiar with the character of Coach Ernie Pantusso, the friendly, but somewhat dim former baseball coach of Sam Malone (Ted Danson). Played by the late actor Nicholas Colasanto, Coach had a penchant for telling rambling stories and was called Coach by everyone in the bar despite having left the sporting career behind to serve as a bartender with Sam. Colasanto played Coach on "Cheers" until his tragic death in 1985. It's impossible to think of anyone else besides Colasanto playing Coach since the actor did such a memorable job in the role. But, surprisingly, the part could have gone to John Madden.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Madden once said in an old interview for "Entertainment Tonight" that "When Cheers first started, they wrote me in as the bartender, Coach. So, I talked about it. If the thing fails, you're a failure, and I didn't want to lose. And if the thing won, which obviously 'Cheers' did, then I would have had to quit what I was doing, what I loved. So, I couldn't figure out why I should do it."

Madden choosing not to take the role of Coach makes sense, especially given that his passion for football oozed during his tenure as a sports broadcaster. Despite no longer coaching, he could still participate in the game he loved as an on-air sportscaster. Besides, the broadcasting role earned him multiple Emmy Awards (via ESPN). So clearly, Madden made a personal winning decision.