Last night I was saddened to hear of the passing of Pat Summerall. The former NFL player turned broadcaster passed away at the age of 82 from a heart attack.
Growing up in Connecticut, I am a New York Yankees and New York Giants fan. There are two broadcasters I associate with watching sports – Phil Rizzuto calling Yankees games on WPIX-11 out of New York and Pat Summerall (with John Madden) calling Giants games for CBS. Rizzuto was the type of broadcaster that Yankees fans loved – he was just as likely to wish someone a Happy Birthday as he was to describe the play that just happened and he always let his emotions in the moment come through. That emotion is what made Rizzuto great in big or exciting moments; hearing him yell “Holy Cow” was fantastic.
Summerall was different. A game winning touchdown pass would sound the same as a first down run for six yards. However, that was what made the way Summerall call a game a thing of beauty; especially when he was paired up with the bombastic John Madden. Madden and Summerall, in my opinion, are the greatest announcing tandem in history. They complemented each other well – the laid-back Summerall and the overly excited Madden.
I know Summerall and Madden didn’t just call Giants games in the 1980s – working for CBS they called NFC games and they always got the best game of the week (which normally involved an NFC East team), but in my memory, every Giants game I can remember had Summerall and Madden doing the announcing even if they didn’t actually call a particular game.
Throughout the history of sports, there are some broadcasters who you remember, not necessarily for any catch phrase, but simply because of the sound of their voice. This was really true during radio’s heyday and somewhate so on television. Summerall was one of the few examples of a “radio announcer” working on television. Summerall is up there with the likes of Vin Scully and Mel Allen – some of the best to ever work in the business.
Pat Summerall had his demons and his health issues but over the last decade he seemed to be winning that battle. The sports world lost one of its greatest and iconic voices yesterday. Rest in peace Pat – your voice is the voice of the announcer in NFL replays in the minds of NFL fans and will remain that way forever.