IRVING, Texas – The way Brad Sham sees it, Pat Summerall has few peers when it comes to the history of sports broadcasting.
“He’s at the top,” said Sham, the longtime voice of the Dallas Cowboys and one of Summerall’s friends. “Vince Scully is there. Red Barber. Some of this is now chocolate and vanilla, but whatever short list there is, he’s on it and he’s out front.”
Sumerall died Tuesday. He was 82.
Through the years Sham became friends with Summerall and was part of an old-timers media group that would meet for lunch every so often. Sham would have Summerall re-tell stories he had heard dozens of times, just to hear them again. The last time the group met came March 5.
“You have to separate it personally and professionally,” Sham said. “Professionally, he should have been the model for every television play-by-play person. He was living proof that less could be more. He knew exactly how to make the event the star of the show and still partly because of the voice God gave him but partly because he knew what to do with it, everybody knew it was a Summerall event and that made it a big deal. As the head coach of the Cowboys might say, that was his genius. He knew how to make the event the star of the show.
"Personally, he was such a nice man. He was so gentle … He could talk about what things were like when he played. He could talk about what things were like in television as he worked and saw things unfold. And he could talk about the arts, about pop culture. The fact that his Christian faith was so important to him in the last decade of his life, it kept him grounded and delighted.”
Summerall’s presence could be felt whenever he walked into a press box, according to Sham, not because of domineering personality, but because of the reverence people had for him.
“The era we live in is not an era of eloquent gentility,” Sham said. “The era we live in is an era of look-at-me noise. Media helps shape that and also reflects it so that fact that people don’t (emulate Summerall) and do what he did or try to doesn’t surprise me, but it’s a damn shame.
“We say a lot that someone was one of a kind. He was. And they stopped making them a long time ago.”