Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Summerall: Legend Of The Fall

George Allen "Pat" Summerall died today at 82. He played 10 years in the NFL as a part-time End (back then they didn't differentiate between offense and defense) and an accomplished "straight-on" Placekicker.

In fact, he got the nickname "Pat" at an early age, due to his reputation as a kicker. He was automatic on Point After Touchdowns (back then that wasn't taken for granted) and the name PAT stuck.

But if he never played a down in the NFL, his legacy will be the NFL. He was the lead play-by-play on CBS, and then on Fox. When I was a child I knew enough that the game Summerall was doing with Tom Brookshier was the game of the week. Later CBS elevated John Madden to partner with Summerall, and the rest is history.

But Summerall's broadcast legend extended beyond 40+ years in the NFL booth. He was the voice of the US Open Tennis Championship (back then that was huge) for years with Tony Trabert, and countless Masters alongside Ken Venturi.

His minimalist style is something revered by broadcast hosts to this day, though not practiced very often. Many play-by-play men (and let's not forget their producers) have to justify their own existence by showing the audience (and their bosses) how much they know. Summerall just let the game breathe, getting out of the way of the game, and clearing room for Madden, who was the star of the show. He could come out of a break and just say "Giants Stadium" and the scene would be set.

I worked in the booth with Summerall and Madden once on a preseason game in Toronto of all places, in 1995. How did that come about? Well, funny you should ask. I hadn't even thought of that event in years until I learned of Mr. Summerall's death.

More on my one-and-done experience with the "A" crew, tomorrow on Backtime.

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