Remembering the Great Pat Summerall's Impact on Broadcasting

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Remembering the Great Pat Summerall's Impact on Broadcasting
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The NFL lost an icon on Tuesday.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, broadcasting legend Pat Summerall, who has called more Super Bowls than any man in the history of the NFL, passed away Tuesday in Dallas while recovering from hip surgery.

He was 82.

Given that Summerall hadn't worked a game since he and long-time broadcast partner John Madden called Super Bowl XXXVi together in 2002, this news may not exactly resonate with many younger fans.

After all, that was Tom Brady's first Super Bowl.

It was Summerall's 16th, and for older fans, that makes this a very sad day, as frankly, football just hasn't been the same since he hung up his microphone.

Summerall was a football broadcaster for four decades, first at CBS, then at FOX after the latter network secured the rights to broadcast NFC games. For 21 of those seasons he was teamed with Madden, and the pair became the preeminent broadcast tandem in the game.

Summerall and Madden were the perfect pairing. The former player and the former coach. The boisterous, energetic good ol' boy and the reserved, almost stoic Summerall, who let the action on the field speak for itself rather than drown viewers in over-the-top hyperbole and idiotic catchphrases.

Madden told The Morning News that working with Summerall was a blessing, and one that played a huge part into making Madden a football icon in his own right.

I was so lucky I got to work with Pat. He was so easy to work with. He knew how to use words. For a guy like myself who rambles on and on and doesn’t always make sense, he was sent from heaven.

In the 1980s, before the advent of 24-hour sports networks and Sunday Ticket, if John Madden and Pat Summerall were calling the game, you were watching. It was an event. Your team was playing the game that week on CBS. It was can't-miss TV, and the duo rarely (if ever) disappointed.

In fact, their broadcast of Super Bowl XVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers remains the highest-rated sports program of all time, when more than 49 percent of the nation tuned in.

It wasn't always a smooth road. Shortly after arriving at CBS, Summerall developed a drinking problem, one that would dog him for over 25 years.

In 1992, Summerall checked into the Betty Ford Clinic, and after that stay, he never drank again. In fact, it was Summerall who convinced good friend Mickey Mantle to do the same in 1994.

As former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman told The Morning News, it was events such as that which showed Summerall's true impact.

Summerall has made a difference in the lives of many. Although recognized as the preeminent play-by-play broadcaster, his most notable contribution was how he impacted the lives of his friends. Pat was my friend and he will be missed.

Summerall's impact in the sports world also went far beyond broadcasting football games. Summerall was offered a basketball scholarship by Adolph Rupp at Kentucky before attending the University of Arkansas so he could play football. After college, he was signed to a baseball contract by the St. Louis Cardinals and even spent a year playing minor league ball before moving on to a 10-year NFL career with the Detroit Lions, Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants.

His broadcasting tastes were similarly diverse. While at CBS, Summerall called everything from golf to tennis to NBA games. He was the voice of 27 Masters tournaments and 20 U.S. Open tennis championships.

Add in his involvement with the earlier incarnations of the wildly popular Madden video game series, and Pat Summerall was a sporting renaissance man in the truest sense of the word.

Even retirement and a 2004 liver transplant couldn't completely keep Summerall out of the booth. Just a few months after his surgery, Summerall called some NFL games for ESPN while Mike Patrick recovered from open-heart surgery, and he worked the 2007 and 2008 Cotton Bowl broadcasts for FOX.

However, there won't be any more broadcasts by Pat Summerall now, and that makes this a very sad day.

As I said, football just isn't the same without him.

Unless they have games in Heaven, of course. If that's the case, then I'd lay odds that Summerall is behind the microphone once again, doing the thing he loved.

 

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