One of the NFL’s signature voices has fallen silent. Pat Summerall’s succinct Southern drawl was excellent contrast to John Madden’s stream of consciousness style. Summerall died Tuesday at 82, suffering a cardiac arrest at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
“He was so easy to work with. He knew how to use words,” Madden said after Summerall’s 2004 liver transplant. “For a guy like myself who rambles on and on and doesn’t always make sense, he was sent from heaven.”
They worked together for 21 years. When Madden left CBS for Fox, he insisted this tandem should stay together. The network agreed. He was best known for his NFL work, but worked on several sports. Summerall called 16 Super Bowls, 27 Masters golf tournaments and 20 of tennis’ U.S. Opens.
He retired from NFL work in 2004. But the Dallas area based Summerall would return to call the Cotton Bowl from 2007-11. It didn’t require taxing travel and allowed Fox to benefit from his years of wisdom.
An athlete in several sports before beginning his broadcasting career, Summerall enjoyed the life and all the parties. By his own admission, he became an alcoholic and a 1992 intervention saved his life. A traditional day at the Betty Ford clinic is 28 days. Summerall stayed for 33 days. He said he was so angry at his friends for the intervention he made no progress for the first five days. He never drank again.
The long term damage from years of drinking took its toll and in 2004 he received a liver transplant. The legendary broadcaster was forthcoming with the details of his struggle. In recent years he was a fixture on Dallas area TV and radio shows. Summerall had been sober for several years when he started working with ESPN radio host Randy Galloway. The broadcaster joked he would like to have known Summerall back in his party days. He still remembers the response he got.
“No, no you wouldn’t have,” Summerall said. CBS broke up the NFL team of Summerall and Tom Brookshier because the parties were interfering with work.
Alcohol destroyed his liver but left his quick wit intact. Quarterback turned commentator Troy Aikman credits Summerall with helping him make the transition to the booth.
Read [Dallas Morning News]