On Tuesday, the world of football lost a cultural icon. At the age of 82, while in Dallas’ Zale Lipshy Hospital and recovering from the surgery to repair a broken hip, former NFL kicker and longtime announcer Pat Summerall passed away.
Summerall spent nine years (from 1952-1961) kicking for the Detroit Lions, then-Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants. However, it was in the announcing booth that the man became a legend.
A smart, stoic, extremely well-versed and articulate analyst, Summerall worked a record 16 Super Bowls. He became known as the voice of reason for his eccentric and pompous colleague, the one and only John Madden.
The two worked together for 21 wonderful years, and during that time, the duo was unquestionably the voice of the NFL. Their final game worked together was the 2002 Super Bowl. At the end of the broadcast, Madden knew he was going to continue working, whereas both knew the game was Summerall’s last in the booth. Madden had this to say at the time, and he did so on national television:
“You are what the NFL is all about, what pro football is all about, and more important, what a man is all about and what a gentleman is all about,” Madden said then in a tribute to his partner to end that Super Bowl telecast.
Eleven years later, Madden loses a friend, a colleague and, for anyone who has ever played his video game, the league’s best kicker.
As one might expect, Madden was saddened, to say the least, at the news. This via USA Today:
“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that he was my friend for all of these years. We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat. He was a great broadcaster and a great man. He always had a joke. Pat never complained, and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special. Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.”
On a personal note, watching football as a boy with my father and brothers, Summerall and Madden were the two men expected to call the broadcasts.
When I think of football, I think of Madden’s comical overuse of the telestrator and Summerall’s unquestionably iconic voice and analysis.
Apparently, I am not alone. Along with Madden, both Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist paid their respects to the man, whose playcalling has gone down not only in NFL lore, but on a very different grass field as well. Along with those 16 aforementioned Super Bowls, Summerall also called 26 Masters Tournaments and 21 U.S Opens over the long and highly successful course of his career.
Jim Nantz: “Pat Summerall was a hero to me. I treasured the gift of friendship that I had with him. I was his understudy for 10 years. He could not have been more generous or kind to a young broadcaster. He was a giant and one of the iconic figures in the history of the CBS television network.”
Verne Lundquist: “Pat was a friend of nearly 40 years. He was a master of restraint in his commentary, an example for all of us. He was also one of the great storytellers who ever spoke into a microphone.”
He was a great announcer and a great man. He will be missed among the analyst community, as well as across the league and the world of sports overall.