Jon Gruden 50th Birthday Cake

This guy Jon Gruden, he turns 50 years old this weekend. Five full decades of grit.

We have a lot of fun with Jon Gruden around here at KSK. Gruden Talk. Gruden drinking games. When he reveals something personal about himself, like wanting to go an ’80s hair metal concert if his wife would allow it, the weekly Monday Night Football live blog shifts into high gear joking about (and relating to) his plight of the middle-aged married man. Gruden’s mannerisms in the booth make for an easy target; how he describes every player as a potential Pro Bowler, his half-smile, half-scowl that shows up at least once during every broadcast, the way he picks on Ron Jaworski, how by end of the second quarter you hope he doesn’t blow out the center channel of your receiver with overmodulation.

Truth of the matter is, I absolutely adore Jon Gruden. The man is 50 years of pure football id. Running up and down the field and being part of football —  either playing, coaching or broadcasting — is all Jon Gruden was meant to be in this world. It seems only fitting that during one of the most infamous games in football history, Gruden would be coaching on the sidelines when the tuck rule stole a possible Super Bowl berth from his Oakland Raiders. (And it only seems natural that he would sign a copy of the rule, declare Tom Brady’s throwing motion a fumble, then give it to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.) It’s not surprising he’s one of the few coaches ever to be traded between teams, a footnote to a footnote in a long career around the league. Even during this week’s episode of “Hard Knocks” we learned something new about Jon’s relationship to football after he described in detail losing a footrace to his younger brother Jay and how finishing second deeply upset him. Losing meant Jon did not have the natural athleticism needed to succeed playing the sport he loved. After the race he stood in his family’s driveway and he cried.

Certainly Gruden’s level of enthusiasm in the broadcast booth is not for everyone, but when faced with the dreary Joe Bucks, condescending Tony Kornheisers and ill-informed Mike & Mikes we’ve endured calling our nation’s favorite sport, he is without a doubt a bright ray of football fun to be cherished. Of course he loves every player in every game, he’s watched endless hours of tape on the third-string running back and thus sealed his bond with them. That guy plays football and Jon loves football and therefore he is excited for them. Gruden is the closest thing we have to an actual football fan in the booth but instead of having a favorite team, he has a favorite everybody.

On a lark, I reached out to Jon Gruden’s representatives hoping to get a 50th birthday quote for the fans, but was told not to get my hopes up for a response because we are so deep into the 2013 season and Jon was already consumed with game prep. Unsurprising, even his own wife Cindy said in a 2001 interview being married to Jon meant, “birthdays come a few days late sometimes.” But we’ll make time for this guy Jon Gruden today. 50 years deserves it.

Happy birthday, Jon. Everything else we post for you today is out of love.