Behind the Broadcast: Summerall was a man of few words
“Montana . . . Rice . . . touchdown, 49ers.”
In a nutshell, that was Pat Summerall’s play-by-play call. Few words, maximum impact. It served him well during a 41-year broadcasting career.
Summerall died Tuesday at the age of 82. He was the voice of NFL Sundays on CBS Sports and FOX Sports for nearly 30 years. Summerall was an easy listen because he didn’t need to scream over an exciting play, nor did he ever draw attention to himself. He never got in the way of the images that we were seeing.
What also made Summerall a great play-by-play man is that he always let his analysts shine. He had two great partners. For most of the 1970s, Summerall was paired with Tom Brookshier. After the 1980 season, CBS made a change. It tried Hank Stram at the start of the season, but midway through the year, it brought in former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, who had been working secondary games.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Summerall and Madden were the perfect pair for a league that was gaining in popularity. Summerall gave Madden the room to develop his style of analysis. The pairing worked beautifully for over 20 years. Summerall would let Madden go on his tangents, which were great, and Summerall would come in and sum it all up in as few as words as possible. They made watching NFL games fun.
“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that, he was my friend for all of these years,” Madden said in a statement provided by FOX. “We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat. He was a great broadcaster, and a great man. He always had a joke. Pat never complained, and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special.
“Pat Summerall is the voice of football, and always will be.”
But Summerall, who played in the NFL for 10 years, was more than just a football announcer. He was the voice of golf and the U.S. Open tennis tournament on CBS. He was a fixture at the Masters. He even called NBA games when CBS acquired the NBA TV rights from ABC in the early 1970s. How many former NFL players turned announcers can do that today?
“There is no one more closely associated with the great legacy and tradition of CBS Sports than Pat Summerall,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “His voice was synonymous with big events, whether it was NFL football and the Super Bowl, the Masters or U.S. Open Tennis.”
Summerall had his demon, alcohol. In 1993, several of friends did an intervention. He was angry about that. Still, he checked into the Betty Ford Clinic.
“There, the normal stay is 28 days,” Summerall told The 700 Club in an interview several years ago. “They kept me 33 days because they said, ‘You were so angry for the first five days that they didn’t count.’ ”
Summerall turned his life around. He and Madden made the move to FOX when that network took over the NFC portion of the NFL package starting with the 1994 season. They stayed together through the 2001 season. Madden left FOX for ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” Summerall stayed for one more season, but only did regional games as Joe Buck took over as FOX’s lead announcer.
Anyone who wants to be a play-by-play announcer should study tapes of Summerall’s career. If you want to be successful, you will learn how to do it from him. Less is more. Always remember that.
Rest in peace, Pat. And thank you for a great career.
NEED TO IMPROVE
No one doubts the enthusiasm ESPN’s John Buccigross has for hockey, both at the NHL and college levels. It was Buccigross who broke the news that longtime Boston University coach Jack Parker was going to retire.
But translating that enthusiasm from reporting to calling the play-by-play can be tricky, and Buccigross didn’t do the best of jobs last weekend.
Buccigross, who has called several NCAA hockey tournament regional games, did the Frozen Four for the first time last weekend in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He was overzealous in saying how beautiful Pittsburgh was. He went completely overboard mentioning that Yale forward Jesse Root was a Pittsburgh native. That happened so often that it became a “drinking game” on Twitter any time Buccigross said “Jesse Root, the Pittsburgh native.” I fully expect Root to have “The Pittsburgh native” on his jersey next season.
During the championship game, Buccigross kept mentioning that it was Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm’s 24th birthday so often that I felt guilty that I didn’t buy Malcolm a present.
And as far as analyst Barry Melrose is concerned, it’s very obvious he knows very little about college hockey. He constantly mispronounces names, and sounds like he isn’t well prepared.
This is the problem when you don’t televise games until the biggest time of the season for college hockey teams. Since ESPN and its family of networks don’t show regular-season college hockey games. If it did show games, then maybe Buccigross and Melrose could develop some chemistry and have more knowledge of the players.
TWCS, NYSPHSAA DEAL
Time Warner Cable Sports and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association today announced a 10-year agreement for TWCS to become the official content distributor of NYSPHSAA regional and state championship sports programming throughout the state, it was announced Wednesday.
With the new partnership, TWCS has exclusive rights to telecast all boys’ and girls’ regional, semifinal and championship events in New York state on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
As part of the agreement, TWCS also has the exclusive rights to carry NYSPHSAA content on mobile, Internet and On Demand platforms.
NFL prime-time schedule
The 2013 NFL schedule was released Thursday night. The season opens Thursday, Sept. 5, when the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens face the Denver Broncos at 8:20 p.m. on NBC.
Here are the prime-time schedules:
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football”
Sept. 5 (Thursday)— Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos, 8:20 p.m.
Sept. 8 — New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m.
Sept. 15 — San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m.
Sept. 22 — Chicago Bears at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m.
Sept. 29 — New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons, 8:20 p.m.
Oct. 6 — Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Oct. 13 — Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys, 8:20 p.m.
Oct. 20 — Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts, 8:20 p.m.
Oct. 27 — Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, 8:20 p.m.
Nov. 3 — Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m.
Nov. 10 — Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m.
x-Nov. 17 — Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, 8:20 p.m.
x-Nov. 24 — Denver Broncos at New England Patriots, 8:20 p.m.
Nov. 28 (Thursday) — Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m.
x-Dec. 1 — New York Giants at Washington Redskins, 8:20 p.m.
x-Dec. 8 — Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m.
x-Dec. 15 — Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:20 p.m.
x-Dec. 22 — New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m.
x-Dec. 29 — TBA
x-Flex weeks. Games subject to change.
ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”
Sept. 9 — Philadelphia Eagles at. Washington Redskins, 7 p.m.; Houston Texans vs. San Diego Chargers, 10:15 p.m.
Sept. 16 — Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 — Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 — Miami Dolphins at New Orleans Saints, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 — New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 — Indianapolis Colts at San Diego Chargers, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 — Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 28 — Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 — Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 11 — Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 18 — New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 25 — San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 — New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 — Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 16 — Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions, 8:30 p.m.
Dec. 23 — Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers, 8:30 p.m.
NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football”
Sept. 12 — New York Jets at New England Patriots, 8:25 p.m.
Sept. 19 — Kansas City Chiefs at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:25 p.m.
Sept. 26 — San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams, 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 3 — Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns, 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 10 — New York Giants at Chicago Bears, 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 17 — Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals, 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 24 — Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 8:25 p.m.
Oct. 31 — Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins, 8;25 p.m.
Nov. 7 — Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings, 8;25 p.m.
Nov. 14 — Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans, 8:25 p.m.
Nov. 21 — New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, 8:25 p.m.
Dec. 5 — Houston Texans at Jacksonville jaguars, 8:25 p.m.
Dec. 12 — San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos, 8:25 p.m.