Getting Madden

A McKinney family sues Fox for sacking a young quarterback's dream

"[Morrison] goes, 'Madden thinks that he saw an up-and-coming Troy Aikman. Said the guy throws like Aikman, moves like Aikman, you know, thinks he's an outstanding quarterback and thinks he's an up-and-coming Troy Aikman,'" Robert Sr. recounts. "I said, 'You're kidding!' I mean, for someone to say that really shocked me and impressed me and made me feel proud, and I said, 'Man, that's great!'"

In court documents, Morrison admits that he did contact "one or more members of the McKinney High School team and sought permission and consent to film footage of plaintiff Robert Richardson II playing football."

The next week, on October 31, Fox sent a local crew out to film McKinney playing at home against Southlake-Carroll. News of the video shoot ended up in the Courier-Gazette, along with a picture of a cameraman standing on the sidelines, aiming his lens right at Rob. The Richardsons even have the raw videotape made by the local production company, and it's of stellar quality--like being on the field, in the huddle, on the sidelines, with Rob at the center of every frame.

Rob says he was unaffected by the attention; a good leader is never distracted. He just went out on the field and played his game, ignoring the camera in his face. His friends were more impressed than he was, trying to get into the picture every time the camera was rolling.

"I played a good game," Rob recalls, shrugging. "I didn't get to do as much as I planned to as far as throwing the football, but it's not my fault, because we were running the ball." A few times, Rob says with a grin, he asked the coach to let him throw the ball a little more.

Robert Sr. says that the following day, a Friday, he received a call from Morrison, who instructed him to bring his wife and son to Texas Stadium early on Sunday for the Cowboys-Eagles game. According to Richardson, Morrison offered him tickets to the game--which the family didn't need, as they already hold season tickets--and told them to arrive at 9:30 a.m. for the noon kickoff, since Morrison wanted to introduce Rob to Madden and Aikman. The boy was thrilled. It was "the second coming of Christmas," his father says, proof that all his hard work was paying off.

"Oh, Jesus, I was so proud," Robert Sr. says. "It's still unbelievable that a Hall of Fame coach recognized my son...You can call it naive on my part, but I told [Rob], 'If John Madden goes on television and split-screens you on TV like he says he's going to do and compares you to Troy Aikman, and that he thinks in his mind that you're the next up-and-coming Troy Aikman, you're locked, bud.' I said, 'You're going to have recruiters all over America wanting to see who this kid is and what John Madden saw in him.'"

Between his Friday conversation with Morrison and Sunday morning, Richardson and his wife called everyone they knew, telling them to watch the game so they could see their son being compared to Aikman. Everyone at high school heard the news, and those who hadn't seen the article in the paper or heard about it on the radio didn't believe Rob, but he told them: Just watch. Which they did, unfortunately.

Robert Sr. says he brought Rob and Jan to the November 3 game three hours before kickoff and waited for Morrison to take them into the locker room, where the 14-year-old boy could shake hands with his idol and the man who was going to make him famous, if only for a moment.

And they waited...
And waited...
Until suddenly it occurred to Robert Sr. that Morrison was not coming and that there would be no meeting with Madden or Aikman. He recalls that his stomach began to churn.

At the end of the second quarter, the family went to find a television so they could watch the halftime broadcast.

There was nothing about Rob, no film comparing him to Troy Aikman, no mention of his name.

Rob was bewildered and angry. His father felt "horrible" for his son, who had been humiliated with silence. "I was confused and upset," Rob says, "and wondering what all my friends and family would say: 'Why didn't they do it?' Getting all these questions I didn't know the answers to. I had all my friends saying, 'That's cool; I'll be watching.' Then when I come back to school, [they would be] saying, 'You liar.'"

Which, the family says, is exactly what happened.

Dejected and ashamed, Rob returned to his seat and watched the rest of the Cowboys-Eagles game, which the Eagles somehow managed to win. Rob doesn't remember much of what happened. He was too stunned. His father says Rob remained quiet through the rest of the game, hung tough like a trouper, until the two-minute warning. Then, his father remembers, an enormous tear--"the size of a dime"--rolled down Rob's cheek. He clenched his jaw and said nothing.

"At that point," says Robert Sr., "if I could have gotten my hands on those guys [at Fox], it wouldn't have been pretty."

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