In Memorium: Pat Summerall (1930-2013)
By Matt Petrero
Feb 1, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pat Summerall gives interviews on Radio row prior to Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Many who read this piece may only know of Pat Summerall as the play-by-play voice of NFC football on CBS with Tom Brookshire from 1974-1980 and on CBS and Fox with John Madden from 1981 until Summerall’s retirement after Super Bowl XXXVI in early 2002. What many may not be aware of is that he was a veteran player of 10 NFL seasons. Drafted out of the University of Arkansas, where he played DE, TE, and K, in 1952 by the Detroit Lions, Summerall never played a game for the Lions as he broke his arm in the preseason game. Before the 1953 season, he was traded to the Chicago Cardinals. After 5 years there and his final 4 years with the New York Football Giants, primarily as a kicker, Summerall was hired in 1962 by CBS as a color commentator for its NFL Coverage. He was paired with the iconic pro bowling voice of Chris Schenkel to call Giants’ games. He called Giants’s games for 3 years. After which he called Washington Redskins’ games for 3 more with Jim Gibbons. When CBS did away with specific crews calling only one specific team, Summerall was promoted to the lead crew along with legendary broadcaster, Jack Buck (as a wanna-be broadcaster, I would love to have heard even one game called by these two titans of broadcasting).
From 1962-1966 Summerall hosted the morning drive show on WCBS Radio and called games in the early days of the American Basketball Association. His versatility did not end there. He called PGA Tour events for CBS; including The Masters, the NBA Finals in 1974, and US Open of Tennis. However most of us do, indeed, remember the golden pipes of Pat Summerall for our Sunday obsession, the NFL.
For us Broncos’ fans old enough to remember, it was Summerall and Brookshire who called Super Bowl XII (one of a record sixteen for Summerall) between our beloved Broncos and Dallas on January 15th, 1978. Though the game did not end the way we would have hoped, it was Mr. Summerall who broadcasted Denver’s arrival to the NFL’s big stage. Ironically, it was Summerall along side Madden who called the action for John Elway‘s last game in Super Bowl XXXIII, where the Broncos handled Atlanta, 34-19. In fact, one of the sounders used on the most recent installment of Vaughn Carter’s Predominantly Orange podcast was that of Pat Summerall calling Elway’s 80-yard bomb to Rod Smith in the 2nd quarter of that very game. I had listened to the podcast (and that sounder) today about 30 minutes before I heard the news about his passing. Talk about your omens…
Without question, the most prolific and entertaining broadcast team in NFL history was Pat Summerall and John Madden. When reached for comment, Madden had this to say today about his partner of 22 seasons:
"“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that, he was my friend for all of these years”, Madden said in a statement.“We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat. He was a great broadcaster and a great man”, Madden reminisced."
Whether it was book-ending the first golden era of Broncos football with those golden pipes, calling the action between NFC behemoths, quietly bringing you the tradition unlike any other at The Masters, or the back-and-forth of the US Open, the one constant was the dulcet tones of Pat Summeral. Sundays have not nor will they ever sound as good. Rest in peace Mr. Summerall!
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