Legendary NFLer, Announcer Pat Summerall Dead At 82, Remembered For Simple Style
Former CBS and Fox announcer PAT SUMMERALL died yesterday at the age of 82 at Zale Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas, where he "was recovering from surgery for a broken hip," according to Barry Horn of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Summerall's "minimalist staccato style coupled with a deep, authoritative voice was his trademark as the pre-eminent NFL voice for a generation of television viewers." Summerall worked 16 Super Bowls in a "network career that began at CBS in 1962 and ended at Fox in 2002." In addition to calling the NFL, Summerall called NBA games for CBS and was the net's "lead voice on golf and tennis broadcasts." He "worked 27 Masters and 20 tennis U.S. Opens." In the 21 seasons in which Summerall "worked alongside" analyst JOHN MADDEN, they "grew into America’s most popular sports broadcast team." Madden was the "first broadcaster Fox hired when it outbid CBS for NFL rights beginning in 1994," and he "insisted that Summerall be the second." He played football, basketball and baseball at the Univ. of Arkansas and played pro ball in the MLB Cardinals organization "before moving on to a career in the NFL." Later in life, he was "part of an investment group that in the late 1970s owned a piece" of the Celtics. Summerall "drank heavily in his early years at CBS," and the net in '81 "broke up its No. 1 NFL team" consisting of Summerall and TOM BROOKSHIER "in part because their long nights of partying bled into their broadcasts." In April '04, Summerall received a liver transplant due to his alcoholism (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/17). FOXSPORTSSOUTHWEST.com's Keith Whitmire noted Summerall was the "television voice of the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Fox" from '07-10. One of his "last assignments for Fox was serving as a special contributor" for the '11 Cotton Bowl during the game's 75th anniversary celebration" (FOXSPORTSSOUTHWEST.com, 4/16).
LEAVING A LEGACY: FOXSPORTS.com's Peter Schrager wrote along with Madden and late NFL Films’ narrator JOHN FACENDA, Summerall will be "remembered as one of the three voices most associated with professional football" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/17). NBC’s Brian Williams said Summerall “helped set the modern-day standard for play-by-play as an art form” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 4/16). On Long Island, Neil Best writes Summerall "became a fixture in American living rooms and bars, known as a minimalist and voice of calm in a TV world full of yellers" (NEWSDAY, 4/17). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, “His style was spare, his voice was as smooth as velvet.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said when you heard Summerall, it said “big, big game.” Wilbon: “Summerall was so classic. Just his voice was so rich and full and you just wish you could hear more of it” (“PTI,” ESPN, 4/16). NFL Network's Eric Davis said, "He was so smooth and he told the story so well that he was a part of the game. He didn’t try to stand out. He didn’t need to stand out” (“NFL AM,” NFLN, 4/17). ESPN’s Steve Young said when Summerall “spoke, you listened." Young: "He was the most authoritative voice. When you heard it, you knew it was a big game" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 4/16). In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes "no matter how unimportant the game, the sound of Summerall's voice gave it big-game importance." Summerall's voice, "tinged with a Southern lilt, brought a certain credibility to NFL football." This was "class," as he was "no screaming huckster selling the game with catch phrases and gimmicks." There is "no doubt without his partner's skills and temperament, Madden never would have reached the heights he achieved" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/17). ESPN DALLAS' Richard Durrett wrote Summerall "had a way of making you feel welcome, earning your respect and making you want to watch and listen." Summerall was "never bigger than the event, stepping back and letting the pictures tell the story when necessary" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/16). ESPN.com's Steve Wulf wrote Summerall "always gave the impression that he not only knew what he was talking about, but that he loved talking about it, too" (ESPN.com, 4/17).
THE PERFECT COMPLEMENT: In L.A., Scott Collins writes Summerall provided the "perfect play-by-play foil" to Madden's color commentary. Collins: "Precise and circumspect, with an avuncular demeanor and an authorative voice whose provenance was impossible to pin down, Summerall indulged his partner's many appetites and asides, even when that meant being elbowed aside at the mike and in the limelight" (L.A. TIMES, 4/17). The AP's Stephen Hawkins wrote Summerall had a "simple, understated style that was the perfect complement for the 'booms!' and 'bangs!' of Madden" (AP, 4/16). In N.Y., Don Burke writes few play-by-play men "in the history of sports broadcasting had such an impact or enjoyed such popularity employing such an economy of words." Summerall was the "perfect complement to the bombastic, stream of consciousness" style of Madden (N.Y. POST, 4/17). NFL Network's Mark Kriegel said Summerall was the “guy who made Madden possible” because he had the “gravitas that Madden could play off." Kriegel: "In many respects, I’m not sure that Madden would have been Madden if not for Pat Summerall" ("NFL AM," NFLN, 4/17). ESPN's Mike Tirico said Summerall “played straight man to the partner he had by his side and he made every moment just as big as it was supposed to be" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 4/16). GRANTLAND's Chuck Klosterman wrote, "I can't imagine an analyst Summerall would not have flourished alongside." How could you "clash with a man who only did exactly what he was supposed to do?" (GRANTLAND.com, 4/16). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes Summerall had "one of the best voices," and he was the "best partner and best friend any color analyst ever had" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/17).
A MAN OF FEW WORDS: In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote no play-by-play announcer "understood the concept of his medium better than Pat, who was able to say so much by saying so very little." While "most of today's sports TV play by play men can't stop talking, Pat always understood that the picture didn't require much" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/16). In N.Y., Richard Goldstein writes Summerall "shunned the dramatic turn, preferring an understated and spare style in doing the play-by-play." He "largely let the action on the screen speak for itself." The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences "gave him a lifetime achievement award" in '94, while the Pro Football HOF "honored him with its Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano wrote Summerall had a "voice that worked for anything and a brilliantly subtle touch for narrating the action without making himself a part of it" (ESPN.com, 4/16). Cowboys radio play-by-play voice BRAD SHAM said, "Professionally he should have been the model for every television play-by-play person. He was living proof that less could be more" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 4/16).
ROLE IN GROWING THE NFL: YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote Summerall was "one of the NFL's distinctive voices as the league grew by leaps and bounds," which "might not be coincidental" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/16). ESPN's Adam Schefter said one of the reasons "so many people developed a passion for this sport is because of the games he broadcasted and the style in which he did it” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 4/16). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote Summerall was "someone who helped make the NFL what it is today -- which is enormously popular -- not only by what he said on the air but by what he did on the field." Judge: "It was the voices of Summerall and RAY SCOTT and Madden, not to mention the 'Monday Night Football' crew, that I associated with the growth of the NFL through television" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/16).
SHOWING VERSATILITY: USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes Summerall, "like most ex-athletes," began his broadcast career as a color analyst. But CBS in '74 "thought his voice sounded confusingly similar to on-air partner JACK BUCK, so he was switched to play-by-play" (USA TODAY, 4/17). NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal wrote Summerall showed "incredible versatility." He transitioned to play-by-play duties with his "classic, understated style." Madden in a statement said, "Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be" (NFL.com, 4/16). Sham said, "He was what TV play-by-play men should all emulate. He was the personification of style, wit, grace and humor." Cowboys Owner JERRY JONES: "His presence at an NFL game elevated that event. He was royalty in the broadcast booth" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/17).