Keeping Score

Remembering Pat Summerall, The Authoritative Voice of the NFL

The ex-NFL kicker, a broadcasting legend, didn't need schtick.

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Ronald Martinze / Getty Images

Pat Summerall walks the sidelines during warm ups to the NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants at Texas Stadium on Jan. 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas.

It seems impossible to call a broadcaster who worked Super Bowls, the 18th hole of the Masters, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament underrated. But Pat Summerall, who died on Tuesday, at 82, fit that bill. His NFL broadcast partner, color man John Madden, was the character, the bombastic ex-coach who boomed and bammed his way to endorsement stardom, culminating in an eponymous video game which has generated over billions in sales (though Summerall leant his voice to this wildly profitable enterprise). Summerall — a former NFL kicker — just delivered the play-by-play in his authoritative baritone, sans schtick.

He didn’t need an act. Ex-jocks like Summerall usually fill the analyst role, which in the broadcast biz, let’s face it, is far easier than play-by-play. Watch the game, give us a little insight. The nuts and bolts of play-by-play — tracking the action in real-time — is the true craft. And Summerall was the rare pro athlete who mastered it.

Check out a compilation of Summerall’s best moments. His voice is alluring, not that I — or many others of a certain age — always loved hearing it. We were raised on Summerall and Madden calling the big game of the week for CBS. But there was nothing worse than hearing Summerall thanking the producers and directors at around 7 p.m. eastern on a Sunday, and imploring viewers to stay tuned 60 Minutes, followed by Murder She Wrote, on these CBS stations. Summerall signaled the end of the weekend, and another dreary week of school.

So I don’t salute you, Pat Summerall, for delivering such dread. But thanks for making football Sundays unforgettable.

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