Pat Summerall: Voice of sports childhood
April, 16, 2013
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
I didn't know Pat Summerall very well. But I sure felt like I did. He was, in many ways, the voice of my sports childhood. And for a kid who dreamed at an early age of writing and broadcasting sporting events, Summerall was a big deal.
Summerall was there with John Madden for so many of the big NFL games in the 1980s and early '90s. He was there when the Dallas Cowboys beat the San Francisco 49ers in the 1993 NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium, his last broadcast for CBS before shifting over to Fox in 1994. He was a fixture at the Super Bowl, calling a total of 16 for CBS and Fox during his tenure (though none of the three Cowboys titles in the 1990s). He spent many a Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium, with the Cowboys a regularly featured game for CBS' top broadcasting crew.
He was in the tower on the 18th hole at Augusta National when Jack Nicklaus turned back time and won his sixth green jacket at the age of 46 in 1986. Summerall -- along with Ken Venturi -- was as stunned as the rest of us during that memorable final round. He ended up working 27 Masters, his voice still part of the broadcasts years after he left the air.
Summerall's voice was immediately recognizable. He had a way of making you feel welcome, earning your respect and making you want to watch and listen. Summerall was never bigger than the event, stepping back and letting the pictures tell the story when necessary. He made sure others in the booth got their say and understood that, often, less was more.
I didn't know anything of Summerall's battle with alcohol until I read about it later. His friends intervened and he went through the Betty Ford Center in the early 1990s and quit drinking.
I was fortunate to meet Summerall several times, and he was extremely kind. It was a thrill for me to get to work with him on camera a few years ago as part of ESPNDallas.com's Hall of Fame. Summerall was one of our panelists, sharing his memories of some of the legendary sports figures in our area. It offered me the chance to talk with the man I grew up watching and listening to on television. It was something I'll never forget and one of those days I was glad that I was in the sports reporting business.
Rest in peace, Pat. And thanks. I don't know what Sunday afternoons growing up would have been like without you.