Another great voice has left us — Pat Summerall, who for so many years handled play-by-play for NFC football games along side John Madden on CBS and then FOX. Prior to my time, it was Tom Brookshier working with Summerall. It seemed every autumn Sunday, Summerall and Madden would be in some NFC East city or maybe Chicago or San Francisco doing the 4 p.m. game which we watched by a roaring fire. As television memories go, they were some of the best.
Summerall was a rather restrained in his play-by-play, mostly letting the picture tell the story. His smooth voice added excitement and gravitas that somebody like Joe Buck could only dream of having. Summerall also knew that he was the straight man, setting up John Madden‘s excitable and thorough analysis. In their prime, they were the best and it wasn’t close. The pairing was the measuring stick for how important the game was — when the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had a Sunday game without Summerall and Madden, it was a story in D.C.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can still hear Summerall winding down a broadcast with “Stay tuned for “60 Minutes” followed by “Murder She Wrote” and the CBS Sunday Night Movie… (EXCEPT ON THE WEST COAST)” He was a natural. In addition to football, Summerall also did golf and tennis for CBS.
When FOX shocked everybody by taking over the NFC rights, Summerall and Madden moved over to the fourth network, lending more credibility to its coverage than it deserved. As much as I may have liked the Simpsons, it was still a bit grating to hear Summerall promote “Married…with Children, the Simpsons, etc.” It wasn’t long after the switch to FOX that Summerall began a decline, mostly due to age.
Before becoming a sportscaster, Summerall was a kicker in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Cardinals, but most famously with the New York Football Giants. In fact, one of the surprising things about long-time Yankee Stadium p.a. announcer Bob Sheppard was that when asked about his favorite moment it wasn’t about the Yankees:
Mara recalled how Phil Rizzuto once asked Sheppard on TV during a rain delay for his fondest Yankee Stadium moment.
“Much to The Scooter’s dismay, Bob replied, ‘The day Summerall kicked the field goal in the snow to beat Cleveland in 1958,'” Mara said.
Darrell Green’s punt return touchdown against the Chicago Bears in 1987-88 playoffs
Green again, one week later. Maybe not the best example, but I don’t think many Washingtonians will complain…
Week 15 of the 1983 season opener between the Redskins vs. Cowboys
The beginning of the last CBS broadcast, the 1993 NFC Championship Game. The pool halls scene is nothing special , but what follows is perfect Summerall narration and a subtle, but appropriate sendoff.