DALLAS (AP) - The voice of football. The NFL’s narrator for generations. A master of restraint.
Pat Summerall soothed American television audiences over four decades _ his deep, resonant voice and simple, understated style served as the perfect complement to the boisterous enthusiasm of John Madden, his partner in a celebrated pairing that lasted half of the NFL player-turned-announcer’s career.
Summerall called 16 Super Bowls and became such a large part of the NFL that it was easy to forget he was the leading voice of the Masters and the U.S. Open tennis tournament, as well.
His final play-by-play words beside Madden were succinct, of course, as he called the game-ending field goal of the Super Bowl for Fox on Feb. 3, 2002, when New England beat St. Louis 20-17.
“It’s right down the pipe. Adam Vinatieri. No time on the clock. And the Patriots have won Super Bowl XXXVI. Unbelievable,” Summerall said.
Sparse, exciting, perfect. A flawless summation without distracting from the reaction viewers could see on the screen.
At the end of their final broadcast together, Madden described Summerall as “a treasure” and the “spirit of the National Football League” in a tribute to the partner that the former Oakland Raiders coach badly wanted to keep _ and did _ when he had to switch networks 20 years ago.
“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 Tuesday. “Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.”
Summerall played 10 NFL seasons from 1952 to 1961 with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants, but it was in his second career that he became a voice familiar to generations of sports fans, not only those of the NFL.
“Pat was a friend of nearly 40 years,” CBS Sports broadcaster Verne Lundquist said. “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.”
Summerall started doing NFL games for CBS in 1964, and became a play-by-play guy 10 years later. He was also part of coverage of the PGA Tour, including the Masters from 1968-94, and U.S. Open tennis.
When CBS lost its NFL deal after the 1993 season, Summerall switched to Fox to keep calling NFL games with Madden. Summerall had hoped to keep working with CBS for other events like the Masters, but network executives saw it otherwise. At the time, CBS Sports anchor Jim Nantz said he was “very saddened” that Summerall didn’t get to leave CBS under his own terms.
“Pat Summerall was a hero to me,” Nantz said Tuesday. “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.”