The brilliance of Pat Summerall was always what he didn't say. He didn't have to be the loudest or most verbose guy in the broadcast booth. But he was the best.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Summerall has died at the age of 82. The report said he died in the hospital where he was recovering from hip surgery.
Summerall was a former NFL player. He was most memorably a New York Giants kicker, playing in the legendary 1958 title game against the Colts, and before that he kicked for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Cardinals. He was a good kicker in the NFL. Then he became a great announcer. He was one of the NFL's distinctive voices as the league grew by leaps and bounds. That might not be coincidental.
Summerall and Tom Brookshier, and then later (and more famously) Summerall and John Madden were the soundtrack of every big Sunday game in the NFL for decades. Summerall and Madden in particular made calling a big NFL game an art form.
Summerall, whose playing career spanned from 1952-61, and whose broadcasting career went from 1962 to 2002, was an icon in the NFL for many decades, especially behind the microphone.
Summerall, with his economy of words and calm delivery, was the perfect compliment to Madden's theatrics. He didn't need to scream over a big play to let the audience know it was a big play. He let the pictures and sounds speak, and also allowed Madden be the star. A lot of today's announcers could learn from it.
Take a look and listen to the first quarter of the NFC championship game between the 49ers and Cowboys at the end of the 1993 season, which was also the last game for Summerall and Madden on their longtime home of CBS, before moving to Fox:
They were tremendous together. Summerall worked 16 Super Bowls, a well-deserved record. Games always felt bigger when Madden and Summerall were calling them.
Summerall also scored 563 points as a NFL kicker. His best season was 1959, when he was 20-of-29 on field goals, leading the NFL in field goals, attempts and percentage. He also played some on the defensive side of the ball in his NFL career.
"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. 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."
Later in life he was open about his well-publicized battle with alcoholism, spreading a message that may have helped someone else. After spending time at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1992, he was reportedly sober for the last 21 years of his life.
Summerall also was a familiar voice on Masters golf broadcasts, U.S. Open tennis tournaments, and occasionally basketball and boxing. But he was at his best in the broadcast booth on Sundays in the fall. With all due respect to the other NFL announcing greats like Ray Scott, Al Michaels, Curt Gowdy and Dick Enberg, nobody ever did that job better than Summerall.
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